This Date in Pirates History: May 24

Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date and no major transactions, so we also take a look at a few games from the Pirates past. The first is from an early season pennant race before the turn of the century, as the Pirates take on one of the best pitchers in baseball history. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland takes a look at an exciting doubleheader from the 1959 season.

Jack Pfiester (1878) Pitcher for the 1903-04 Pirates. He was an unfortunate case for the Pirates, a pitcher who struggled in two brief tryouts each year with the team so they gave up on him. It turned out to be a bad move on their part, as just two years later, he was a twenty game winner for the first place Chicago Cubs. The lefty began his career in the minors in 1902, posting a 13-15 3.63 record in 225.1 innings for Spokane of the Pacific Northwest League. He moved on to San Francisco, pitching in the Pacific National League, where he first got recognized by the Pirates due to his 19 wins and 2.78 ERA in 288 innings. Jack made three September starts for the Pirates, going 0-3 6.16 in 19 innings with 15 strikeouts. He began the 1904 season with the Pirates, but after two starts and a relief appearance, he went sent to Omaha of the Western League. It was down there where he finally established himself, but it was the Cubs who signed him, not the Pirates. In two seasons for Omaha, he posted a 49-22 record. The Cubs went to the World Series three straight seasons from 1906 until 1908 and Pfiester was a big reason those first two years. He went 20-8 in 1906, then won 14 games with a league leading 1.15 ERA in 195 innings in 1907. In 1909 he went 17-6 for the second place Cubs, a team that won 104 games. Health and injury problems limited him to just two more seasons in the majors. He finished with a 71-44 record and a 2.02 career ERA, the fourth best ERA of all-time among pitchers who threw at least 1000 innings.

Sam Barkley (1858) First baseman/second baseman for the 1886-87 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. He began his pro career in 1883, playing for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League. When that team joined the American Association the next season, Barkley was their second baseman. He hit .306 in that rookie season, leading the AA with 39 doubles. Toledo was a major league team for just one season and in 1885, Sam moved to the St Louis Browns of the AA, where he hit .268 with 53 RBI’s in 103 games. The Alleghenys purchased his contract for $1,000 during that off-season. That first year in Pittsburgh, Barkley hit .266 with 69 RBI’s and 77 runs scored, helping the team to a second place finish behind the Browns. Pittsburgh moved from the AA to the National League for the 1887 season. He was the cleanup hitter in the first National League game in Pirates history back on April 30,1887. Barkley was the second baseman to begin the year but when regular first baseman Alex McKinnon became ill, then passed away, Sam took over at first base for the duration of the season. He struggled at the plate, hitting .224 in 89 games. Just prior to the 1888 season, Pittsburgh sold him to the Kansas City Cowboys, sending him back to the AA. Barkley played two seasons there, before finishing his career in the minors in 1899, back where he started in Toledo.

May 24,1894

On this date in 1894, the Pirates took on the first place Cleveland Spiders, trailing them by two games in the standings. On the mound that day for Cleveland was Cy Young, in the midst of his fifth season in the majors. The Spiders batted first in the game, despite the fact it was played in Cleveland. Back then the home team chose whether to bat first or second in the game. The Spiders put three runs on the board in the first, chasing Killen before he could get out of the inning. Another run scored off reliever Red Ehret, coming on a botched rundown by the Pirates defense. Down 4-0 against Young, Pittsburgh chipped away at the lead, but was still down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Two seventh innings runs, then two more in the eighth, gave the Pirates the lead and eventual win, moving them within a game of first place. Jake Stenzel scored three runs. Ehret pitched 8+ innings of relief, allowing just one earned run, for the win.

The Pirates lineup that day(complete with information for each player) was as follows:

Jake Stenzel-CF
Patsy Donovan-RF
Jake Beckley-1B
Jack Glasscock-SS
Elmer “Mike” Smith-LF
Denny Lyons-3B
Connie Mack-C
Louis Bierbauer-2B
Frank Killen-P
Red Ehret-RP

Jolly Roger Rewind: May 24, 1959

A pair of walk-off pinch-hit doubles by Pirate catchers—Danny Kravitz in the first game and Smokey Burgess in the nightcap—gave the Bucs a doubleheader sweep over the Reds at Forbes Field by scores of 2-1 and 5-4, extending their winning streak to five.

The Buccos, now 21-19 after starting with five consecutive losses, won both games despite trailing each after eight and a half innings. In the opener, the Bucs appeared ready to waste Ron Kline’s nine innings of zero-earned-run pitching after the Reds pushed across an unearned marker in the top of the ninth for a 1-0 lead. But the Pirates put runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the ninth against losing pitcher Brooks Lawrence, and tied the game when the Reds failed to retire Don Hoak at second on Ted Kluszewski’s ground ball to the second baseman. Danny Murtaugh then sent Kravitz up to bat for Kline, and the move paid off with the game-winning double.

The Pirates built a 2-0 lead in the second game before Cincinnati could retire a batter, but Tom Acker relieved starter Willard Schmidt, recorded the final three outs in the first, and began posting zeros on the home row of the scoreboard. Recovering from the early deficit, the Reds slowly took control of the game, leveraging timely extra-base hitting off Bob Friend, 0-7 on the season after winning 22 games in 1958, into a 4-2 advantage heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Acker recorded the first two outs in the ninth, sandwiched around a Bill Virdon single. Facing their last out, however, the Pirate offense returned: Rocky Nelson’s two-run homer to left field knotted the game at 4-4.

Cincinnati manager Mayo Smith belatedly replaced Acker with Bob Purkey, the Pittsburgh native and once and future Pirate. Purkey recorded the final out in the ninth and, after winning pitcher Ron Blackburn set down the Reds in the tenth, opened the home half of the tenth with two quick outs. But Roman Mejias singled to right, and Murtaugh, as he had done in the first game’s decisive moment, called on another pinch hitter. The strategy worked out as well as it had in the first game, as Burgess doubled to left to score Mejias and clinch the doubleheader sweep.*

* The Pirates took four straight one-run games from the Reds in this weekend series, three of them walk-off wins.

First game box score and play-by-play

Second game box score and play-by-play

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