With just one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date and no major transactions, I decided to do something different today in honor of the current Pirates team that resides in first place with a 48-37 record. The Pirates have made the playoffs 14 times in their franchise history, plus they won the NL title twice before the World Series was started. The following is each team’s record as of the end of play on July 9th, as well as their record after 85 games played each season

Year: July 9 – 85 games
1992: 46-39 – 46-39
1991: 48-31 – 54-31
1990: 49-32 – 52-33
1979: 41-38 – 45-39(one tie)
1975: 51-32 – 53-32
1974: 37-44 – 37-48
1972: 48-27 – 54-31
1971: 56-31 – 54-31
1970: 47-39 – 46-39
1960: 48-30 – 51-33(one tie)
1927: 45-27 – 51-33(one tie)
1925: 45-28 – 51-34
1909: 51-19 – 60-24(one tie)
1903: 49-21 – 57-28
1902: 48-14 – 63-20(two ties)
1901: 39-25 – 50-34(one tie)

The current Pirates team actually has a better winning percentage after 85 games than four of these teams had at the same point. The 1974 team stands out as the only team with a losing record and they were far behind the next worst team. Due to the fact the 1902 team was so dominating, there is actually a 26 game difference between the best and worst teams on the list. Three times the Pirates had a 54-31 record after 85 games and another three times they had 51 wins.

The Player

Coot Veal (1932) Pinch-hitter for the Pirates on April 17,1962. He was a light-hitting strong fielding shortstop, who spent parts of six seasons in the majors. Veal was originally signed by the Tigers in 1952, six years before he made his major league debut. He spent three seasons in Detroit, hitting .250 with one homer and 39 RBI’s in 162 games. The Tigers lost him in the 1960 expansion draft to the Washington Senators. In 1961, Coot would get 252 plate appearances, a single season career high. He hit just .202 with no homers, eight RBI’s and 21 runs scored. The Pirates purchased Veal from Washington in late November and he would make the Opening Day roster in 1962.

In the sixth game of the 1962 season, starting pitcher Tom Sturdivant allowed five first innings runs in Chicago. When his turn came up in the batting order during the top of the second inning, manager Danny Murtaugh sent up Veal to bat for the pitcher. Veal struck out looking to end the inning, but the Pirates still nailed down an impressive 10-6 come-from-behind win. After spending 19 straight days on the bench, the Pirates shipped Veal, along with Orlando McFarlane to Columbus of the International League and recalled veteran catcher Cal Neeman. Coot would never play another game for Pittsburgh. A month later, the Pirates traded him to his original team, getting veteran minor league pitcher Albert Pehanick back in return. Veal would play 15 games for the Tigers in 1963, before finishing his career in the minors the following season.

100 Years Ago Today

Behind the pitching of Marty O’Toole, the Pirates shutdown the Phillies by a 2-0 score. Marty was a 23 year old righty that the Pirates paid a heavy price($22,500) to acquire a year earlier from the minors and up to that point, he had not disappointed the home fans, who were eager to see the young phenom pitch. O’Toole had already thrown two shutouts on the year before this game and he would add another three to that total before the year was over, leading the NL with six shutouts.

This game was actually a big pitching matchup between young standout pitchers. The mound opponent for O’Toole that day was a recent college star that joined the Phillies just weeks earlier. Making his third pro start was Eppa Rixey, and he was coming off of a 10-0 shutout over the Boston Braves in his previous outing. While O’Toole outpitched his counterpart that day, it was Rixey who went on to have the better career, winning 266 games and making the Hall of Fame in 1963.

The Pirates were shutdown by Rixey for the first five innings, getting on the board in the sixth with a single from Bobby Byrne, followed by a triple from another future Hall of Famer, Max Carey. Jim Viox drove home Carey with the second run and that’s all the Pirates would need that day. For the record, Honus Wagner went hitless on the day and committed the only error of the ballgame. O’Toole finished with 15 wins in 1912, then went on to win only eight more major league games before his career was through.

Jolly Roger Rewind: July 9, 1977

Mario Mendoza’s twelfth-inning single off Gene Garber drove in Jim Fregosi with the winning run in the Pirates’ 9-8 victory over the Phillies at Three Rivers Stadium.

Approximately fifteen hours after the Bucs had opened the four-game weekend series with an 8-7 walk-off win*—a contest featuring two bench-clearing brawls and a Bucco rally from a 7-3 eighth-inning deficit**—the teams waged a second consecutive thriller. An expected Saturday afternoon pitchers’ duel between John Candelaria and Steve Carlton turned into a slugfest: the Phillies rolled to a 6-2 lead through four and a half innings against Candelaria***, only to see the Pirates respond with six runs on eight hits off Carlton between the fifth and eighth innings to seize an 8-6 advantage heading to the ninth frame.

Chuck Tanner summoned Kent Tekulve to close out the Phillies, but Tekulve was ineffective, starting the inning by allowing back-to-back pinch-hit doubles to Bake McBride and Jay Johnstone. When Davey Johnson drove in Johnstone with a sacrifice fly—the fifth RBI of the game for the future major-league manager—the visitors had deadlocked the score at 8-8.

For the next few innings, both teams’ bullpens controlled the game. Grant Jackson recorded the final out of the ninth inning to preserve the tie, and he and Terry Forster kept the Phillies off the scoreboard through the twelfth frame. Forster, a twenty-five-year-old offseason trade acquisition who had struggled to a 5.46 ERA to date, stranded Johnson in the twelfth after he reached third base with none out on a double and Dave Parker error.

Ron Reed and Tug McGraw likewise stifled the Bucco bats for several innings, but Gene Garber replaced McGraw in the twelfth and gave up a one-out walk to Fregosi and two-out double to Ott. Up came Mendoza, a light-hitting reserve who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Willie Stargell in the Pirates’ three-run eighth inning. Garber threw Mendoza a fastball away, and Mendoza punched it into center field to score Fregosi and end the game.****

* Fregosi had drawn a bases-loaded walk off Warren Brusstar in the bottom of the ninth to force in the winning run.

** The previous night’s fisticuffs included some serious star power. First, Mike Schmidt challenged Bruce Kison when the Bucco right hander hit him with a pitch in the top of the seventh. After McGraw answered by hitting Willie Stargell in the bottom of the eighth, Stargell walked slowly towards the mound with bat in hand before thinking better of the confrontation. “This was a baseball game that figured to be impossible to upstage,” wrote Bob Smizik in The Pittsburgh Press after the opener. “Here were the two most fierce antagonists in the Eastern Division engaging in a battle of skills that reeked of October. Put that baseball game in a World Series setting and people would talk of it for years. But through all the clutch hits and big plays, the baseball game couldn’t stand up to the fights, slight as they were.”

*** Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Candelaria’s outing occurred in one of his plate appearances: he received a kiss from Ms. Morganna Roberts, five days past her twenty-third birthday and popularly known as “Morganna, The Kissing Bandit.” The Press’s game story included two pictures of this encounter, including one with Phillies catcher Tim McCarver looking on the background.

**** The ending prompted further enthusiasm from Smizik: “It was baseball at peak excitement yesterday at Three Rivers and 19,144 got five times their money’s worth. It was simply great, great baseball. The wonderful and fierce rivalry between the Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies was in full bloom at Three Rivers.” The excitement did not end with this game: the Bucs swept the Sunday doubleheader by scores of 5-1 and 12-10, rallying from 6-2 and 9-6 deficits to take the nightcap.

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Press game story

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m wondering if the Pirates have ever been 48-37 at 85 games in before this year. Almost everything has happened at least once before, but maybe not this.

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