Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a first baseman for the 1925 World Series champs. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a game from the last World Series team in franchise history.
Hal Smith (1931) Catcher for the 1965 Pirates. When he played for the Pirates in 1965, it was the first time he played pro ball since 1961 with the Cardinals. After signing with the Cardinals in 1949 as an amateur free agent, Smith spent six seasons in the majors with St Louis from 1956 until 1961. He was a two-time All-Star, playing a total of 566 games, hitting .258 with 23 homers and 172 RBI’s. In both, 1959 and 1960, he threw out more runners than any other catcher in the NL and he had the highest caught stealing percentage(51.5%) during the 1960 season. After hitting .248 with 10 RBI’s in 45 games in 1961, Hal became a coach for the Cardinals. He then worked two years in their minor league system before joining the Pirates in 1965 as a coach. When injuries behind the plate struck Pittsburgh, Smith was put on the active roster. He started a game on July 1st, going 0-3 at the plate, then came in as a defensive replacement in three other games before moving back to full-time coaching. He was with the Pirates organization through the 1967 season and was playing for the team during that last Spring Training, with word that he might be activated as a player if the other catchers weren’t up to the task. He was never activated though and the following year he moved on to a coaching job with the Reds.
Lou Tost (1911) Pitcher for the Pirates on April 24,1947. He first played minor league ball in 1934, but didn’t make his major league debut until eight years later for the Boston Braves. In 1941, at age thirty, Lou went 13-10 3.85 in 47 games for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. He was traded to the Braves in late September of 1941 and saw plenty of action during his rookie season the next year. In 35 games, 22 as a starter, he went 10-10 3,53 in 147.2 innings. The next season he pitched just three games for the Braves before the military came calling. Tost missed all of 1944-45, returning to the minors during the 1946 season. While playing for Seattle of the PCL, he went 16-13 2.70 in 240 innings. Lou was in camp with the Braves in 1947 until the Pirates purchased him in late March. It came as a surprise to the people in Boston, who thought they were giving up a good pitcher for nothing more than cash. His Pirates career didn’t turn out so well though. On April 24th, he came in to pitch the 8th inning against the Cubs, with the Pirates down 5-4. Tost faced six batters, allowing one run on three hits in his only inning of work. Shortly after that game, he was sent to Indianapolis, where he finished out the year. Lou played another five seasons in the minors before retiring in 1952, ending a 16 year pro career.
Al Niehaus (1899) First baseman for the 1925 Pirates. He has a breakout season in the minors in 1924, hitting .366 with 53 extra base hits for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern League. Prior to that he had played three years in the Florida State League, a lower level of the minors. Al batted .332 for Jacksonville in 1922 and .364 for Bradenton the following season. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs after that breakout season in 1924, but Niehaus never played for them. Pittsburgh acquired him from the Cubs on October 27,1924 in a six player deal that included Wilbur Cooper, Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, Vic Aldridge, Charlie Grimm and George Grantham, all much bigger name players than Niehaus. He became the Pirates everyday first baseman just over a week into the season, then lost the job after three weeks once his batting average fell to .205 on May 12th. Pittsburgh signed star veteran first baseman Stuffy McInnis on May 29th, signaling the end with the Pirates for Al. The Pirates traded him to the Cincinnati Reds on May 30,1925 in exchange for pitcher Tom Sheehan. Niehaus hit .299 in 51 games for the Reds, then returned to the minors to play his last four years of pro ball before retiring. Barely two years after his career ended, he passed away from pneumonia at age thirty-two.
Harry Gardner (1887) Pitcher for the 1911-12 Pirates. He made his debut with the Pirates on April 17th, pitching in relief of Babe Adams, who gave up six runs in the first four innings. Gardner was said to look nervous and hesitant, at one point his slow delivery allowed a runner to steal home, but he settled down and allowed just that one run over his four innings of work. The team was impressed with how hard he threw but he wasn’t ready for a full-time major league job. He would end up being used 13 times during that season by the Pirates, three times as a starter, going 1-1 4.50 in 42 innings. In 1912, he was again a bullpen pitcher for the Pirates but he didn’t last long. After one unimpressive outing in which he came in with the Pirates up 7-5 in the 7th inning and pitched one inning, allowing three inherited runners to score, as well as three batters he faced, Gardner was sent to the minors. Including that 1912 season, he pitched another 13 years in the minors without ever making it back to the big leagues. Harry was a 206 game winner, eight times amassing 17 or more victories in a season.
Bill Eagan (1869) Second baseman for the 1898 Pirates. He spent most of his 14 year pro career in the minors, getting three different shots at the majors with three different teams over a seven year period. In 1891, he played for the St Louis Browns of the American Association. As their everyday second baseman, he played well defensively but wasn’t much of a hitter. Eagan then played six games for the 1893 Chicago Colts(Cubs) before returning to the minors for all of the next four years. Bill was the second baseman for Pittsburgh early in the 1898 season and he would hit .328 with 14 runs scored in 19 games, but on June 3rd he was replaced by newly acquired Tom O’Brien and Eagan never played in the majors again. Five days after the O’Brien trade, Eagan was sold to Louisville, a team managed by Fred Clarke, who would go on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Pirates as a player and manager. Clarke denied the deal once he found out Eagan was injured during his last game, so Bill was sent home. He ended up signing with Syracuse of the Eastern League ten days later and was back on the field by June 19th. Bill played two more years in the minors before he retired from baseball.
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 1, 1979
Lee Lacy drew a bases-loaded walk off San Diego relief ace Rollie Fingers to cap a four-run ninth-inning rally and give the Pirates a 9-8 victory over the Padres at Three Rivers Stadium.
Trailing 8-5 thanks to three unearned runs, two Dave Winfield home runs, and a controversy-tinged two-run top of the ninth, the Pirates began their comeback with one-out singles by Omar Moreno and Tim Foli. A one-sided managerial chess match between San Diego’s Roger Craig and Chuck Tanner then decided the game in the Pirates’ favor.
First, with Dave Parker batting, Craig declined to replace John D’Acquisto, who had held the Bucs scoreless through three and two-thirds innings of relief work, with Fingers or lefthander Bob Shirley. Craig’s inaction backfired when Parker drove an inside fastball over the centerfield wall for a game-tying three-run homer.
One out later, Craig did bring in Shirley to face Willie Stargell, but Stargell foiled the strategy with a single. Craig followed by calling for Fingers to pitch to Phil Garner, who drove the ball off the leftfield fence for a double. Only a great play on the carom by Kurt Bevacqua prevented Stargell from scoring.
Craig made his final move: walking Ed Ott intentionally to load the bases for Dale Berra. Tanner called back Berra, and sent up Lacy for the checkmate. Fingers got ahead 0-2, but missed the strike zone with three consecutive curveballs. The next pitch was an inside fastball, which Lacy took to force in the winning run.
The Pirates’ second walkoff triumph in two nights* extended their winning streak to six games.**
* They had pushed across a tenth-inning run the night before to beat Chicago relief ace Bruce Sutter.
** Dan Donovan’s Pittsburgh Press article described a jubilant aftermath: “It turned the Pirate clubhouse into a party atmosphere, with music blaring, Stargell blowing a whistle and singing, ‘We’re a family . . ..’” This slightly misheard lyric came from a disco hit holding the number four position on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 that week; Donovan’s report most likely represents the earliest published link between the 1979 Pirates and their theme song.
Box score and play-by-play
Pittsburgh Press game story