This Date in Pirates History: July 4

The nation’s birthday is also a popular day for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays. We have seven former players, one current player and one manager. We also have one trade to mention as well as a Jolly Roger Rewind from John Fredland that looks back 110 years ago.

The Transaction

On this date in 1905, the Pirates traded shortstop George McBride to the St Louis Cardinals in exchange for infielder Dave Brain. In McBride, the Pirates were giving up a 24 year old, light-hitting shortstop, just 30 games into his career. They had a pretty good shortstop ahead of him on the depth chart in Honus Wagner and they needed help at third base, a position the 26 year old Brain had played in the majors numerous times. Dave was the much better hitter and as it turned out, McBride was the much better fielder. Brain lasted in Pittsburgh until the end of the season, when he was then included in the trade to get Vic Willis, a move that paid off huge for the Pirates. McBride ended up playing another 14 seasons in the majors. He was strong enough defensively that he received MVP votes in four straight seasons, despite the fact he never batted higher than .235 during that time and hit a total of two homers over those four seasons.

The Players

Before we get into the former players born on this date, just want to quickly mention the current player celebrating a birthday. Relief pitcher Jared Hughes turns 27 today. He has pitched 44 games for the Pirates over the last two seasons, throwing a total of 52 innings with a 2-1 2.60 record and one save. Jared was the fourth round pick of the Pirates in the 2006 amateur draft.

Brendan Donnelly (1971) Relief pitcher for the 2010 Pirates. It took him ten years to make the majors, making the 2002 Angels Opening Day roster at the age of thirty. Brendan had a successful five year stint with Anaheim/Los Angeles, going 23-8 2.87 in 276 games. The next four years he spent with four different teams, with varying results each year. He pitched good for the 2007 Red Sox, then got bombed with the 2008 Indians, posting an 8.56 ERA in 15 games. The next year he was dominating for the Marlins after pitching half the year in the minors. Donnelly had a 1.78 ERA in 30 games for Florida. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent in January of 2010. He pitched 38 games for the team through the end of July, missing three weeks in May due to an oblique strain. Donnelly never got going with the team, posting a 5.58 ERA in 30.2 innings before he was released, a move that ended him pro career. He pitched 386 games in the majors over nine seasons without making a start.

Wayne Nordhagen (1948) Left fielder for the Pirates on June 19, 1982. He had an eight year major league career, playing a total of 502 games, which included one game for the 1982 Pirates. On June 15,1982, the Pirates traded Bill Robinson to the Phillies to get Nordhagen. Four days later, he started a game in left field against the Phillies, going 2-4 with two RBI’s in an 8-3 loss. Six days later, he was traded to the Blue Jays as the player to be named later in a deal that happened on June 22nd, in which the Pirates acquired outfielder Dick Davis. Nordhagen was a .282 hitter in the majors, with 39 homers and 205 runs driven in. He spent the first six years of his career with the Chicago White Sox. The interesting thing about the trade with Davis going to the Pirates was that Nordhagen never played for the Phillies, he was acquired earlier in the day on June 15th by Philadelphia, in a trade that saw the Phillies sent Dick Davis to the Blue Jays to acquire Wayne. Within a ten day stretch, the two players were traded for each other twice, with three teams involved in the deals.

Jim Minshall (1947) Pitcher for the 1974-75 Pirates. He was a second round pick of the Pirates in the 1966 draft. It took him nine seasons to work his way from a High School pitcher struggling in the Appalachian League, to a major league pitcher. In 1972, playing his fourth season for Salem of the Carolina League, Jim went 16-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 26 starts. He finally moved up to AA the following year and did not pitch well, mainly due to control problems that saw him walk 91 batters in 135 innings. He returned to AA the next year and pitched slightly better, earning a promotion to AAA, where he posted a 2.25 ERA in 20 relief innings. The Pirates called him up in September and he threw 4.1 innings over five appearances without allowing an earned run. Minshall returned to AAA in 1975 and pitched great. He had a 1.38 ERA in 45 appearances, striking out 64 batters in 65 innings. He was once again a September call-up, this time getting into just one game, a scoreless inning on September 11th against the Mets, in which he struck out two batters. Jim was back in AAA for the 1976 season, which ended up be his last in pro ball. He hung it up after a 5.38 ERA in 77 innings. He finished his major league career with an 0-1 record despite a career 0.00 ERA.

Jim Nelson (1947) Pitcher for the 1970-71 Pirates. He was a 31st round draft pick out of High School in 1965 by the Pirates. Nelson had troubles in the minors adjusting to new levels. The first time he played High-A ball in 1966, he went 0-5 7.24, yet dominated in low-A that season, going 9-2 1.54 in 13 games. The next season he had a 9-0 record in two levels of A-ball, before going to AA, where he went 0-5 6.00 in nine games. The first year he played AAA, he went 3-5 5.49 in 18 starts, which followed a 2.23 ERA over 97 innings in his second stint in AA. Nelson was called up by the Pirates at the end of May in 1970 and pitched twice in relief before making three straight strong starts. On June 22nd, against the Cardinals, he threw a 10 inning, 1-0 shutout. Jim made seven starts in the month of July, before moving back to the bullpen in August. He had thrown 25 innings over his three June starts, giving up just two earned runs, winning all three games. In July he had three starts in which he couldn’t get through five innings and he allowed 26 runs in 30 innings. He made the Opening Day roster in 1971, pitching 17 games(two as a starter) through the middle of July, before returning to the minors. He was a late cut during Spring Training in 1972, spending the year at AAA before retiring from baseball.

Mel Ingram (1904) Pinch Runner for the 1929 Pirates. He was a star athlete in four sports at Gonzaga before starting his pro baseball career. From July 24,1929 until August 28,1929, Ingram played his entire pro baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. On July 24th, he pinch ran for catcher Charlie Hargreaves. On August 6th, he pinch ran for first baseman Earl Sheely in the ninth inning. On August 28th, during the second game of a doubleheader, he pinch ran for pinch-hitter Erv Brame in the eighth inning and Ingram scored a run. He never played in the majors again and never played in the minors. His contract with the team was an odd one by today’s standards. The Pirates signed him on June 18th, with the guarantee that they would release him on September 1st so he could return home to begin work as an athletic director at a local high school. At the time the Pirates signed him, he was playing semi-pro ball for a team named “Price” in the Idaho-Washington League, a league he played in after 1929 as well.

Stump Edington (1891) Right fielder for the 1912 Pirates. He had a long minor league career that ended in 1927, but for Edington, his big league career lasted just 15 games for the 1912 Pirates. He was playing for Lexington of the Blue Grass League when the Pirates signed him in mid-June of 1912. Edington paid his own way just to get to the Pirates so he could get a trial with the team, traveling from Kentucky to Pittsburgh for his chance at the majors. The Pirates had two stars in right field, Mike Donlin and Chief Wilson(played CF when Donlin wasn’t injured), so it was of little surprise that Edington didn’t stick around despite hitting .302 with 12 RBI’s in his 15 games. His major league career was over by the middle of July, just after his 21st birthday. Stump batted over .300 numerous times in the minors, spending his last six seasons playing in the Texas League.

Lou Manske (1884) Pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. He pitched seven seasons in the minors, going 85-68, twice winning twenty games in a season. In 1906, he was pitching for Des Moines of the Western League for the second straight year. Manske won exactly twenty games in 1905, then went 23-10 the following season. The Pirates purchased his contract from Des Moines in August of 1906 and he made his major league debut on August 31st, as a starter against the Cardinals. He went five innings, giving up five runs on ten hits and took a no-decision in the eventual 7-5 Pirates victory. Lou would make a relief appearance seven days later, then never pitch in the majors again, finishing his career in 1910 playing for St Joseph of the Western League.

The Manager

Chuck Tanner (1928) Manager for the Pirates from 1977 until 1985. He began his pro career as a player, spending parts of eight seasons in the majors. Tanner was an outfielder, who hit .261 in 396 games. He began managing in the minors in 1963, before his first major league managerial job in 1970 with the White Sox. In six years in Chicago, he went 401-414, finishing as high as second place in the standings. In 1976, he took over in Oakland and led them to a second place finish. On November 5, 1976, the Pirates traded Manny Sanguillen to the Oakland A’s in exchange for $100,000 and Tanner. Chuck went on to manage nine seasons in Pittsburgh, leading them to the 1979 World Series victory, as well as three 2nd place finishes. He went 711-685 in Pittsburgh, before moving on to Atlanta for his last three seasons of managing. After his managerial days, he held numerous spots in baseball, working five years in the Cleveland Indians front office, before taking a senior adviser to the GM spot with the Pirates in 2007, he last job in baseball before his passing last year. Tanner ranks 28th all-time in managerial wins with 1352. His son Bruce pitched in the majors and was a pitching coach at one time in the Pirates farm system.

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 4, 1902

The first-place Pirates extended their winning streak to eight games by throwing 3-0 and 4-0 shutouts at the Brooklyn Superbas in an Independence Day doubleheader at Exposition Park.

In front of a crowd of more than 20,000, diminutive lefthander Jesse Tannehill dominated the visitors in the morning game, allowing only two hits and one walk, while striking out seven Superbas. Brooklyn’s Doc Newton matched him through six scoreless innings, but the Bucs broke through when first baseman Kitty Bransfield scored in the bottom of the seventh and Lefty Davis and Fred Clarke crossed the plate in the eighth.

Jack Chesbro continued the excellent pitching in the afternoon game by scattering five hits and walking none. He added two hits and scored a run. Davis was the Bucco hitting star with three hits and two runs scored from the leadoff spot.

The Pirates’ victories came despite a significant water hazard in the outfield: flooding of the Allegheny River caused water to rise to thigh level in center and right fields, and about head level in deep center. The Pittsburg Press praised several outfielders–Davis and Ginger Beaumont of the Pirates and Cozy Dolan and “Wee” Willie Keeler of the Superbas–for making “remarkable” catches in the standing water. The Press noted that “the way [the outfielders] played in spite of this handicap was a source of pleasure to the crowd.”

At the end of the day’s action, the Pirates had a 45-12 record and thirteen-game advantage over the second-place Superbas.*

* It was a big Independence Day overall for the city of Pittsburgh: President Theodore Roosevelt visited the city that day, with an estimated 500,000 people witnessing his parade and 25,000 attending his speech in Schenley Park.

The Pittsburg Press game story

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.

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