This Date in Pirates History: September 9

On a very busy day for Pittsburgh Pirates birthdays, we have eight players and a manager to cover. Earlier today, we took a look at the career of Dots Miller, the starting second baseman for the World Series winning, 1909 Pirates.  In this article, we cover two Hall of Famers, pitcher Waite Hoyt and manager Frankie Frisch. In his Jolly Roger Rewind, John Fredland recaps an unlikely ending to a 1987 Pirates game.

Waite Hoyt (1899) Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates from 1933 until 1937. Hoyt made the Hall of Fame on the strength of the team he played for, that being the Yankees from 1921-30, when he had a 157-98 record. Over the rest of his career, posting a ERA just slightly higher than his New York days, he had a career record of 80-84, including the 35-31 mark he compiled with the Pirates. His ERA during his five years in Pittsburgh stood at 3.08, forty points below his number with the Yankees. Hoyt was released by the Giants after the 1932 season, when he went 5-7 3.42 in 12 starts and six relief outings. He was signed by the Pirates the following January and was used mostly in relief during his first season in Pittsburgh. He went 5-7 2.92 in 117 innings, making eight starts and 28 relief appearances.

In 1934, he was used in the same role, just pitching more often. That would be his best season since he went 22-7 2.63 for the powerhouse 1927 Yankees. Hoyt was 15-6 2.93 in 190.2 innings, making 17 starts and 23 relief appearances. In 1934, he had a 7-11 3.40 record in 11 starts and 28 relief outings, throwing a total of 164 innings. He began to slow down the next year but still pitched well with a 2.70 ERA in 116.2 innings. His ERA that season was the lowest among any Pirates pitchers, a staff that included some strong pitchers like Cy Blanton, Mace Brown, Bill Swift and Red Lucas. Waite started off slow in 1937, then was sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers in June. He pitched well there over the rest of the 1937 season, but after a few games the next season, he was released, ending his career. Hoyt finished with a 237-182 3.59 record in 674 games, 425 as a starter. He won three World Series titles and had six wins and a 1.83 ERA in the postseason.

Before we get into the other players, we have a manager to mention. Frankie Frisch (1898) was a Hall of Fame second baseman, who managed the Pirates from 1940 until 1946, finishing with a 539-528 record. Frisch played 19 seasons in the majors, hitting .316 with 2880 hits, 1532 runs scored, 419 stolen bases and 1244 RBI’s. He was a part of four World Series winning teams as a player and one of those as a player/manager. He went 1138-1078 overall in sixteen years managing in the big leagues. Frankie had a winning record in five of his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, finishing second once and in fourth place, four times. He led the 1944 Pirates to a 90-63 record, his best year with the team.

Dan Miceli (1970) Reliever for the Pirates from 1993 until 1996. He was originally signed by the Royals as an amateur free agent in 1990, coming over to the Pirates at the 1993 trading deadline, along with Jon Lieber, in exchange for Stan Belinda. Dan came to the majors in September and stuck around for another three seasons, despite never pitching with any success. In 1995, he was used often in the closer role, picking up 21 saves, but he also had a 4.66 ERA. The next year the Pirates tried him as a starter briefly and he wound up with a 2-10 5.78 record in nine starts and 35 relief outings. After the season ended, he was dealt to the Tigers for pitcher Clint Sodowsky. Miceli went on to pitcher 14 seasons in the majors, with some solid seasons mixed in, tops among them was 1998 for the Padres when he went 10-5 3.22 in 67 games. In 2003, he pitched for four different teams in four different divisions. Dan finished with a 43-52 4.48 record in 631 games, with 39 saves. For the Pirates, he was 8-15 5.41 in 139 games, more games than any other team he played with, a list nine teams long.

Tom Foley (1959) Infielder for the 1993-94 Pirates. He spent his entire 13 year career in the NL, eight of those seasons with the Montreal Expos. His two years in Pittsburgh were bookended by his first and second stop in Montreal. Tom split most of his time at either shortstop or second base, but he also saw plenty of work between the two corner infield spots. In 1992 for the Expos, he hit just .174 in 72 games, leading to his release as soon as the season ended. The Pirates signed Foley two months later, and he was used mainly at second base in 1993, getting exactly four starts at each of the other three infield spots. In 86 games that season, he hit .253 with 22 RBI’s and 18 runs scored in 211 plate appearances. In 1994, he again played all four infield spots, although he didn’t make any starts at first base. He hit .236 in 59 games during that strike-shortened season, driving in 15 runs and scoring 13 times. He was released in October and finished his career the next season with the Expos. In 1108 major league games, he hit .244 with 32 homers, 32 steals and 263 RBI’s. Foley was originally drafted by the Reds in 1977, spending parts of three seasons in the majors with them, followed by parts of two seasons with the Phillies, before being dealt in July of 1986 to the Expos.

Pete Naton (1931) Catcher for the 1953 Pirates. He was signed by the Pirates right out of the College of Holy Cross in June of 1953, one of 75 major leaguers that attended that school, although only six have began their major league career after he did. Naton went right to the Pirates and played two games(one as a starter) before being sent to the minors. He was recalled in September for four more games, three of them as a starter. He hit .167 with one RBI and two walks. Naton then went to the low minors in 1954, where he hit .288 with 16 homers. He split the next two seasons between the Pirates affiliates in Hollywood(PCL) and New Orleans(Southern Association), where he never approached his 1954 hitting numbers. Pete stayed in the Pirates system until 1958 before retiring, never making it back to the majors.

Dan Costello (1891) Outfielder for the Pirates from 1914 until 1916. He signed with the Yankees right out of Mount St Mary’s University in 1913, a school that hasn’t produced a major league player in eighty years. Costello spent three of his four seasons in the majors with the Pirates. Pittsburgh picked him up off waivers in January of 1914, after he played just two games for New York. Dan was called up late during the 1914 season by the Pirates, after spending the season playing for a minor league team from Poughkeepsie,NY. He played 21 games, twenty of those in right field, and he hit .297 with five RBI’s. In 1915, he was the backup outfielder, seeing time at all three positions, though most of his time came off the bench. Dan hit .216 with 11 RBI’s, 16 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 71 games. During Spring Training in 1916, he was impressing the Pirates with his play and they planned to reward his hard work with more playing time. Costello got more AB’s in 1916, but played less games. He started often in left field early in the year, but he ended up hitting just .239 with eight RBI’s in 60 games. The Pirates released him to Toronto of the International League in September and, while he initially said he would retire rather than report there, he ended up playing in Toronto during the 1917 season before calling it quits.

Doc Johnston (1887) First baseman for the 1915-16 Pirates. The Pirates purchased Johnston from the Indians in February of 1915, after he hit .244 with no homers and 23 RBI’s in 104 games the previous season. It was his second full year in the majors, he had also played briefly for the 1909 Reds and the 1912 Indians(then called Naps). Johnston replaced Ed Konetchy at first base, after he jumped to the Pittsburgh team in the Federal League. Doc(first name was Wheeler) hit .265 in 147 games for the 1915 Pirates, driving in 64 runs and scoring 71 times. He finished ninth in the NL in stolen bases and homers and sixth in triples. His second season with the team didn’t go so well, hitting .213 with 39 RBI’s in 114 games. In 1917, the Pirates went with Honus Wagner at first base and Doc spent the entire year in the minors. By early 1918, he was back with the Indians. Johnston had three good seasons with Cleveland, hitting at least .292 each year from 1919-21. He was sold to the Philadelphia A’s after the 1921 season and finished his major league career there after one season. Doc went on to play four more seasons in the minors, then managed for two more years before retiring.

Abner Dalrymple (1857) Left fielder for the 1887-88 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and the first batter in Pittsburgh NL history. He was a star outfielder in the 1880’s for the Chicago White Stockings(Cubs), but by the time the Alleghenys got him in 1887, he was clearly on the downside of his career. Abner led the NL in AB’s four times between 1880-85, led the league in runs and hits in 1880, home runs in 1885 and four times he batted over .300, including a high of .354 in 1878 as a rookie. He was awarded the NL batting title that rookie season, but later researched showed he actually fell four points behind Paul Hines(see link for details). Pittsburgh purchased him in November of 1886 after he hit .233 in 82 games for Chicago. The Alleghenys had moved from the American Association to the NL over the off-season and on April 30,1887, Abner led off against his old team and helped Pittsburgh to a 6-2 win. He never regained his batting form from years earlier, finishing that first season hitting .212 in 92 games, with 45 runs scored and 29 stolen bases.

Dalrymple was never strong defensively, early in his career he led the NL in errors three times, but by the time he reached Pittsburgh, he was an average fielder. In 1888, he played 57 games for the Alleghenys, hitting .220 with 19 runs scored. Abner went to the minors in 1889 and played for another seven seasons before retiring. He actually played major league ball again in 1891 under odd circumstances by today’s standards. That year the American Association had a team from Cincinnati that folded near the end of the season and the AA needed a team to take their spot, to finish out the schedule. They chose the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League, and Dalrymple just happened to be on that team, hitting .340 at the time. When the team moved to the AA for the last month, Abner went with them and hit .311 with 22 RBI’s in 32 games.

Jolly Roger Rewind: September 9, 1987

Relief pitcher Jeff Robinson stunned the Cubs with a tie-breaking two-out, ninth-inning home run against ace reliever Lee Smith, lifting the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Robinson, acquired in a trade for Rick Reuschel in the previous month, had entered the game in the bottom of the seventh in relief of starter Mike Bielecki with the bases loaded, none out, and the Bucs clinging to a 3-2 advantage.* While allowing the Cubs to tie the game on a Ryne Sandberg RBI groundout, he retired Leon Durham and Andre Dawson to limit the damage, and then held Chicago scoreless in the eighth.

In the top of the ninth, Smith, pitching his second inning of relief, quickly retired Sid Bream and Al Pedrique on groundouts. Bucco manager Jim Leyland then allowed Robinson to bat for himself because, as his told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette afterwards, he “didn’t want to use [closer Jim] Gott in a tie game [and] . . . thought Robinson was [his] best bet to get three outs in the bottom of the ninth and get us to extra innings.”

At that point, extra innings looked like a best-case scenario for the Pirates: relevant metrics included Robinson’s lifetime .106 average in 94 career at-bats, and Smith’s allowing only three home runs in 78 innings all season. Plus, as Pirates coach Rich Donnelly noted, Robinson was “hitting only .125 with no home runs and four RBIs in the pitcher’s game during batting practice. Heck, he’s been pinch-hit for twice in THOSE games.”

But Robinson somehow crushed Smith’s first pitch, a fastball, against the screen behind the left-field bleachers for his first major-league home run, giving the Pirates a one-run lead. “It was pretty much of a fluke,” Robinson acknowledged afterwards. “He could go to the plate another 500 times against Lee Smith and not do it again,” Andy Van Slyke observed. “I was a genius, wasn’t I?” postulated a grinning Leyland.**

Leyland then turned to his bullpen, calling on Gott to record the final three outs in the bottom of the ninth. With the sweep of the three-game series, the Pirates had twelve wins in fifteen games since general manager Syd Thrift’s August 24 closed-door team meeting.

Box score and play-by-play

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette game story

* Two days earlier, Robinson had entered the Pirates-Cubs game in the eighth inning with a 3-2 lead and struck out the side on nine pitches.

** This game received prominent coverage in the 1987 Pirates’ season highlight film; Greg Brown’s dramatic narration referred to Robinson’s blast as a “home run from an unlikely source.”