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Sunday, November 27, 2022

This Date in Pirates History: May 21

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date. We focus on reliever Mace Brown, who worked out of the bullpen during an era when their weren’t many pitchers that worked strictly out of the bullpen unless they were rookies or the mop-up pitchers at the bottom of the pitching depth chart. Brown was not only born on this date, but as you will find out in John Fredland’s Jolly Roger Rewind, he also got a chance to do something very few pitchers get to do.

Brown finished 9th in the 1938 NL MVP voting

Mace Brown (1909) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1935 until 1941. He spent five seasons in the minors prior to the Pirates purchasing his contract in November of 1934 from Kansas City of the American Association. Mace spent most of the 1934 season pitching for Tulsa of the Texas League, where he won 19 games. The Pirates took him to training camp in 1935 and he made the team but would be used very little that first year. He made his major league debut on his 26th birthday(see game story below), a month into the season. Brown had pitched in just seven of the first 84 games of the season, when he was given a spot start on July 20th during a doubleheader. He would throw a complete game against the Braves, winning 14-2. Over the next ten days, Brown got three more starts and the results got worse as he went along. He was moved back to the pen and saw limited time through mid-September. On the 16th of September, he threw one hit ball over 5.1 innings of relief work. Pittsburgh gave him another start to end the year and he allowed one run in a complete game win over the Reds.

Brown would have a bigger role in 1936, getting ten starts throughout the year, but he got more work during his 37 relief appearances. Eleven times that season, he pitched four or more innings in relief, including July 30th, when he threw seven shutout innings in a 5-3 win against the Braves. He threw a total of 165 innings, winning ten games, with a 3.87 ERA. In 1938, he pitched 50 games, 48 in relief. Mace won seven games and save another seven, although saves weren’t an official stat back then, he would’ve led the league. In 1938, Brown became the first reliever to ever pitch in the All-Star game. He made 49 relief appearances that season, pitching a total of 132.2 innings. Mace won 15 games that year, pitching two or more innings, an astounding 32 times. His season didn’t have a good ending though, late in the year, he gave up a game-winning homer to the Cubs’ Gabby Hartnett. Referred to as the “Homer in the Gloamin”, it helped the Cubs to the World Series over the Pirates, who were leading the NL for half of the season.

In 1939, Brown began the year in his normal relief role, but after 7.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen in early July, he was moved to a starting role. He made a career high 19 starts before the year was over, winning nine times and posting a 3.37 ERA in 200.1 innings. The 1940 season was just the opposite, he began the year as a starter, before going 4-6 and being moved back to the pen.  It was the last full season for Brown in Pittsburgh, who won ten games and saved another seven, pitching a total of 173 innings. After just one appearance in 1941, the Pirates sold Brown to the Dodgers. It was a move that surprised fans who thought the Pirates were short on pitching to begin with, especially since they didn’t receive any players back in the deal. The Dodgers made an offer that the Pirates couldn’t refuse, paying a hefty price for the 32 year old reliever.

Mace finished the 1941 season in Brooklyn, then moved on to the Boston Red Sox in 1942. He had a great season in 1943, posting a 2.12 ERA in 49 games, a total of 93.1 innings. He spent 1944-45 serving in the Navy, returning for one more season with the Red Sox before retiring. Brown pitched a total of 262 games with the Pirates, 55 as a starter. He threw 852.2 innings, winning 55 games, saving another 29 and posting a 3.67 ERA. In his four seasons after leaving the Pirates, he pitched only in relief, another 125 appearances in which he picked up 21 wins and 19 saves.

Steve Pegues (1968) Outfielder for the 1994-95 Pirates. He was originally a first round draft pick of the Tigers in 1987, taken 21st overall. Steve spent five seasons in the Tigers organization, eventually getting to AAA his last season, where he struggled at the plate. He was picked up by the Padres on waivers, playing two years at AAA until he was cut at the end of Spring Training in 1994. Less than a week later, he signed with the Reds. Pegues was called up to make his major league debut on July 6th, walking in a pinch hit appearance. It was an odd start for Steve, whose main problem in the minors was his inability to take walks. In his minor league career he took 122 walks in 3661 plate appearances. After eleven games, in which he went 3-10 at the plate, Pegues was released by the Reds and immediately picked up by the Pirates.

In his first game in Pittsburgh, he collected three hits, including a game tying, two out single in the bottom of the ninth inning, a game eventually won by the Pirates in ten innings. Steve’s rookie season was interrupted by the strike that wiped away the end of the 1994 schedule. He hit .361 in 36 AB’s between his two stops. Pegues spent the entire 1995 season on the Pirates roster, getting into 82 games. He split his time between the two corner outfield spots and pinch hitting. Steve batted .246 with six homers and 16 RBI’s in 171 AB’s. The Pirates released him after the season ended. He would end up playing three more years in the minors before retiring, spending time with seven different teams during those last three years.

Ed Fitz Gerald (1924) Catcher for the Pirates from 1948 until 1953. The start of his pro career was delayed when he went straight from college to wartime duty. He signed his first pro contract in 1946, hitting .329 in 102 games split between two teams. In 1947, he played for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League, where he hit .363 in 144 games. Pittsburgh purchased his contract at the end of 1947 and Ed made the 1948 club out of Spring Training. He would hit .267 with 35 RBI’s that rookie season, starting 66 games behind the plate and coming off the bench another 36 times. The Pirates acquired veteran catcher Clyde McCullough in the off-season, meaning less time for Fitz Gerald. He would start just 34 games at catcher in 1949, hitting .263 with 18 RBI’s in 160 AB’s. Ed began the year with the Pirates in 1950, but was sent to the minors a month into the season after hitting .067 in 15 AB’s. Shortly after Fitz Gerald was sent down, the Pirates also sent down Bob Chesnes, a high priced prospect. It was said at the time, that the Pirates had a $200,000 battery in the minors, claiming that each player cost the team $100,000 apiece.

After hitting .313 in 103 games, playing for Indianapolis of the American Association, Ed rejoined the Pirates for the 1951 season. He was the backup to McCullough to begin that year, then went to the third string role when Pittsburgh acquired Joe Garagiola in June. Early in 1953, the Pirates sold him to the Washington Senators. Fitz Gerald would go on to play in the majors until 1959, finishing his career with the Indians. He then took up a coaching role, finishing with two years(1965-66) of managing in the minors. Ed finished with a .260 average in 807 major league games. He played 275 of those games while with Pittsburgh, hitting .247 with 74 RBI’s.

Dunlap hit a league leading 13 homers in 1884

Fred Dunlap (1859) Second baseman for the 1888-1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, manager for the 1889 team. He was a strong fielding second baseman, considered to be a star during his time. As a rookie in 1880, playing for the Cleveland Blues, he led the NL in doubles and led all second basemen in assists with 290, finishing third in fielding percentage. The next year he hit .325 with 60 runs scored in 80 games(the team played 85 games that year). In 1882, he became the player/manager and hit .280 with 68 runs scored in 84 games, leading the league again in assists(297) for second basemen, while getting the most total chances. After hitting .326 with 81 runs scored in 1883, Dunlap moved to the newly-formed Union Association, one of the few star players to make that move. The UA was considered a major league but the play was not on par with either the American Association or the National League. Dunlap became the instant star of the league, once again taking the player/manager role, finishing with a league leading .412 average, while scoring 160 runs in 101 games. He also led all UA second basemen in putouts, assists and fielding percentage. His team won the UA title with a 94-19 record, going 66-16 under Dunlap.

When the league folded after one year, his St. Louis Maroons team joined the National League. Dunlap saw his numbers drop back down to normal levels. Midway through the 1886 season, he was sold to the Detroit Wolverines. He would hit .265 with 60 runs scored and 45 RBI’s in 65 games for Detroit in 1887, helping them to the World Series, then played between the winner of the American Association and the National League. Detroit won the series, which lasted 15 games, although Dunlap hit just .150 in 40 AB’s. Shortly after the series ended, Pittsburgh purchased his contract for a large sum(at least $4,000) and then paid him $7000 for the season, the highest salary of the day. He was named the team captain and the Alleghenys had high hopes for the 1888 season. Dunlap was coming off an 1887 season in which he broke his leg, missing nearly half the year. After a slow start for Pittsburgh, he again suffered an injury that put him out for awhile, a broken jaw during pre-game practice in early July. Fred hit .262 that season, playing 82 out of a possible 139 games. In 1889, he played in 121 games, leading the league with a career high .950 fielding percentage. His offense slumped though, all the way down to a .235 average at the plate. In late July, he took over the manager position when Horace Phillips was forced to leave due to his declining health. Dunlap only lasted 17 games(7-10) before handing the reins over to center fielder Ned Hanlon, in the process, starting a Hall of Fame managerial career for Hanlon.

When the Player’s League formed in 1890, Dunlap was one of the few star players not to jump to the new league. He remained with Pittsburgh but wasn’t around for too long. Early in the year, after hitting .172 through 17 games, he was released. Fred played one game in the PL that year, then signed with the Washington Statesman of the American Association for the 1891 season. Just eight games into his stay there, Dunlap broke his leg for a second time, ending his baseball career. He finished his 12 year career as a .292 hitter in 965 games with 759 runs scored. Four times he led second basemen in fielding percentage and assists, while twice he led in putouts.

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 21, 1935

The first-place Giants broke open a tight game with a seven-run sixth inning and went on to defeat the Pirates 9-4 at Forbes Field.

Bucco starter and future Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt had shut out New York on two hits through the first five innings, but the visitors rose up against Hoyt and two relievers in the sixth, sending eleven men to the plate and erasing a 1-0 Pirate lead. Two of Hoyt’s eventual Cooperstown-mates contributed pivotal hits: player-manager Bill Terry’s* two-run double gave the Giants a 2-1 lead and Mel Ott’s subsequent two-run single increased the advantage to three runs.**

Mace Brown, celebrating his 26th birthday, made his major-league debut one inning after New York’s decisive outburst. His arrival, the first of 262 games pitched for the Pirates over the next seven seasons, was not auspicious. Brown allowed two runs—one earned—in two innings.

Pirate player-manager Pie Traynor kept first baseman Gus Suhr out of the starting lineup, but pinch-hit him for Brown in the bottom of the eighth; Suhr responded with a two-run triple to rightfield to conclude the scoring (“delivered a triple in an emergency,” according to Edward F. Balinger’s perky commentary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette***). The appearance extended Suhr’s consecutive-games-played streak to 507.****

* Prior to the previous season, Terry, asked by a reporter for his views on the rival Brooklyn Dodgers, replied, “are they still in the league?” Brooklyn went on to beat New York in the final two games of the 1934 season, allowing St. Louis to win the National League pennant.

** The first paragraph in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s game story mentioned only one hit in the seven-run uprising: George “Kiddo” Davis’ pinch-hit triple that extended New York’s lead to 5-1. Apparently, the journalistic focus was on that run because it gave the Giants the run total that the Bucs never equaled.

*** Balinger’s “Pirate Notes” section included a timeless observation: “Yesterday was a good day for a ball game, yet a mere handful of about 4,000 fans took advantage of the pleasant weather to see the Buccos clash with the leaders in the race.”

**** When Suhr finally did take an entire day off, for his mother’s funeral a little more than two years later, his consecutive-games streak ended at 822, a National League record.

Box score

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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