Just two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, although one of them went on to the Hall of Fame. It has also been a big date for draft picks in team history as noted below. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps a big game for the Pirates’ Bill Robinson and a long day for the Pirates.
Ray Rohwer (1895) Outfielder for the 1921-22 Pirates. The Pirates signed him out of the University of California on March 2,1921. Rohwer was the school’s captain in 1920, hitting .351 with 17 stolen bases and 22 extra base hits during the abbreviated college season. He had attended the school prior to WWI, but returned (after graduating already) in 1920 to play baseball. Despite being just months shy of his 25th birthday, Ray had never played pro ball before, but he made the 1921 Pirates squad. He played 30 games that rookie season, getting just three starts and only 40 AB’s. Rohwer hit .250 with six RBI’s and six runs scored. He had a bigger role in the 1922 season, playing 53 games, 28 as a starter. He hit .295 with three homers and 22 RBI’s. In December of 1922, Ray was traded to Seattle of the Pacific Coast League, along with pitcher Sheriff Blake, in exchange for infielder Spencer Adams. Rohwer would end up playing nine seasons in the PCL, without ever returning to the majors, before he retired. He played over 1300 minor league games, hitting nearly 200 homers with a .299 batting average.
Jack Chesbro (1874) Pitcher for the Pirates from 1899 until 1902. He played five seasons in the minors leagues prior to having his contract purchased by the Pirates. In July of 1899, Pittsburgh bought him from the Richmond Bluebirds of the Atlantic League, where he had a 17-4 record. Chesbro, during that rookie season, was a far cry from the Hall of Fame pitcher he eventually became. He went 6-9 4.11 in 149 innings, recording just 28 strikeouts. In the off-season he was traded to the Louisville Colonels in the 16 player Honus Wagner trade, although the move was temporary. When the Louisville franchise folded, Jack was assigned back to the Pirates. The Pirates were a much stronger team in 1900 and Chesbro himself, showed improvements, but he was still the fifth best starter on the team and not even the only future Hall of Famer. Pittsburgh also had Rube Waddell, an eccentric 23 year old, who led the NL in ERA that season. Chesbro went 15-13 with a 3.67 ERA in 215.2 innings for a Pirates team that went 79-60, finishing in 2nd place.
Jack established himself as a star pitcher in 1901, helping the Pirates to their first NL title. He went 21-10 2.38 in 287.2 innings, throwing a league leading six shutouts along the way. In 1902 he was even better, as were the Pirates, who had their highest winning percentage ever that season. Chesbro went 28-6, leading the league in wins, winning percentage, and his league leading eight shutouts set a franchise record(post-1887). His 28 wins that season are still the highest total in team history since 1900. That 1902 Pirates pitching staff was loaded with talent, having Chesbro, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe, four pitchers who would be top starters on many clubs and a fifth starter named Ed Doheny, who went 16-4 with a 2.53 ERA. The Pirates lost both Chesbro and Tannehill to the American League after the 1902 season(see link for full details). Jack went on to have an incredible season for the New York Highlanders in 1904 when he went 41-12 1.82 in 454.2 innings. He would win 42 games over the next two seasons with New York, before his star faded, going 24-35 over his last three years.For a full bio on his Hall of Fame career, check out this article here
The Draft Picks
With the 2012 draft now underway, we take note of the players the Pirates have selected on this date throughout the years.
2008: Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague
2001: John Van Benschoten, Chris Duffy, Zach Duke, Rajai Davis. Pirates also took Mark Guthrie and Steven Drew, although neither signed.
2000: Sean Burnett, Chris Young, Jose Bautista, Nate McLouth, Ian Snell
1989: Willie Greene, first round pick
1979: Mike Bielecki, 8th overall pick. Jose DeLeon, 3rd round
1974: Rod Scurry, 11th overall pick. Ed Whitson, 6th round
1973: Steve Nicosia, 24th overall pick
Jolly Roger Rewind: June 5, 1976
Waging a furious uphill battle throughout the night, the Pirates rallied to tie the Padres in the ninth, eleventh and fourteenth innings before finally succumbing 11-9 in fifteen innings at Three Rivers Stadium.
Bill Robinson, playing third base for the first time in two seasons as a Pirate, stood central to this drama. On the positive side of the ledger, he posted the first three home run game by a Bucco in five years. His first two homers, a two-run shot in the sixth and solo shot in the eighth, came off San Diego ace Randy Jones—who entered the game with a 10-2 record and 2.11 ERA—and spearheaded the Bucs’ tenacious comeback from 4-0 and 7-3 deficits. Home run number three, a solo blast off Dave Freisleben in the fourteenth, answered an Enzo Hernandez RBI single in the top of the inning and deadlocked the game 9-9.
However great Robinson’s night was, though, it could have been even more legendary: Padres pitching retired him three times with two outs and potential winning or tying runs on base. The first near-miss occurred in the bottom of the ninth, after Rennie Stennett’s two-out single had scored Manny Sanguillen to cap a three-run rally and pull the Pirates even for the first time since the top of the first. With Stennett on second base after a steal, Butch Metzger induced Robinson to ground out, sending the game to extra innings.
Two innings later, a Mike Ivie RBI double put San Diego back in front, but Stennett’s two-out triple then scored Sanguillen to knot the game again and station the possible winning run 90 feet from home plate. Robinson’s second chance for a game-winning hit, however, fizzled in a strikeout.
The Padres pushed across two more runs in the top of the fifteenth against Pirates reliever Ramon Hernandez, working in his fourth inning. Unbowed, the Buccos refused to go down quietly, as singles by Frank Taveras and Stennett brought Robinson, representing the winning run, to bat with two outs. But he and the Bucs had no further heroics in store: Freisleben induced Robinson to pop up to the catcher, and the visitors escaped with the victory.*
* In the aftermath, eyewitnesses were understandably impressed: “If they had played this game in a World Series setting people would have called it one of the greatest ever,” began Bob Smizik’s article in the Pittsburgh Press.
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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.