First Pitch: What Was the First Pirates Game You Attended?

Bb-ref is great.  I’ve only realized just how great in staggered increments.  One of these came about 10-12 years ago, when I realized I could look up the first game I went to at Forbes Field.  Yup, here it is:

August 22, 1965:  Pirates 5, Braves 4, 11 innings

Bob Veale lasted only two innings, but Al McBean threw five shutout innings and Don Schwall allowed just an unearned run over four innings.  Willie Stargell had three hits and Donn Clendenon had a pinch-hit, two-run triple.

I was nine and I was instantly hooked.  I was excited that it went into extras and sorry to see it end.  I didn’t want to go home, although I was glad the Pirates won.

The odd thing is the number of details I mis-remembered.  I could have sworn the score was 6-5 in 12 innings, that Clendenon and Hank Aaron had dingers (Aaron had a double), and that the Pirates won on a bases-loaded walk to Schwall.  In reality, the Pirates won on a walk to Bill Virdon after Andre Rogers, batting for Schwall, had singled to load the bases.

My recollections of other games were more accurate.  I correctly remembered seeing the Pirates line into a triple play against the Cubs on the last day of the 1965 season, although the Bucs won anyway, 6-3.  I also correctly remembered seeing Clemente go 4-for-4, two singles and two doubles, in an 8-0 rout of the Mets.  And I definitely saw Veale lose a 1-0 game to the Giants on a balk.

Yeah, bb-ref really is great.  What memories of yours can it validate?


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If you get eight of these, you win a free copy of the book that took the ‘Burgh by storm in 2007, “Surviving Without Baseball,” by Dave Littlefield.



By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players and a manager were born on this date.

Brian Fisher, pitcher for the 1987-89 Pirates. He spent two years in the New York Yankees bullpen before the Pirates acquired him in a six-player deal on November 26, 1986 that also brought Doug Drabek back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates moved Fisher to a starting role and he responded with an 11-9, 4.52 record in 185.1 innings. He had similar results the following season, going 8-10, 4.61 in 146.1 innings, but his strikeout total dropped from 117 to 66 and his WHIP went up. Fisher started 1989 on the disabled list, then pitched poorly when he returned. He went on the DL again, which prompted the Pirates to send him to Triple-A to finish the year when he returned. Following the season he was released. Fisher pitched in pro ball until 1993 but he played just 26 Major League games left after leaving the Pirates.

Dick Littlefield, pitcher for the Pirates from 1954 until 1956. The Pirates acquired Littlefield from the Baltimore Orioles on May 25,1954 in exchange for veteran outfielder Cal Abrams. It was the fifth time Littlefield was traded since 1950. Prior to joining the Pirates, he had 12 career wins in 93 games, 32 as a starter. For the Orioles in 1954 he had a 10.50 ERA in three relief appearances. He nearly equaled his career win total in his first four months in Pittsburgh, going 10-11, 3.60 in 155 innings. The record was impressive because the Pirates lost 101 games that year back during the days of the 154 game schedule. Like most of the Pirates pitchers in 1955, he struggled on the mound, posting a 5-12, 5.12 record. Three other regular pitchers on that staff had a higher ERA and only Bob Friend (14-9) had a winning record.

Early the next year, the Pirates traded Littlefield and young outfielder Bobby Del Greco to the Cardinals for Bill Virdon. Littlefield played in the majors until May 1958, then returned to the minors where he finished his career in 1962. He had a 91-69 minor league record but he manage to go only 33-54 in the majors. He was involved in ten trades during his nine-year career including being traded from the Giants to the Dodgers for Jackie Robinson. Robinson refused to report to the Giants, and the deal was voided when he decided to retire.

Elbie Fletcher, first baseman for the 1939-43 and 1946-47 Pirates. The Pirates acquired him from the Boston Bees in exchange for infielder Bill Schuster on June 15, 1939. Fletcher would end up playing 916 games in Pittsburgh while the Bees got just two games out of Schuster. Fletcher stepped right into the starting first baseman role and hit .303 with 71 RBIs in 102 games that first year. In 1940 he started a streak of three straight seasons with over 100 walks, while leading the NL in OBP each season. He not only walked 119 times in 1940 to lead the league, he also drove in 104 runs and scored 94 times. In 1941 he had an NL leading 118 walks, scored 95 runs and drove in 74 while hitting a career high 13 triples and 29 doubles. After a .289 average and 105 walks in 1942, Elbie made his only All-Star appearance in 1943. That year he led all NL first baseman in assists, putouts and fielding percentage.

Fletcher would lose the next two years while serving in the military during WWII, returning to the Pirates in 1946 and picking up where he left off. He drew 111 walks, drove in 66 runs and scored 72 times. His numbers and playing time dropped in 1947 and then following the season he was traded to the Indians in exchange for veteran first baseman Les Fleming. Fletcher spent the 1948 seasons in the minors before getting one more year at the big league level right back where he started, spending the 1949 season with the Braves. He finished his career in the minors in 1950. For the Pirates, Fletcher hit .279 with 625 walks and 464 RBIs in 916 games.

Nixey Callahan, manager for the Pirates during the 1916-17 seasons. He started as a pitcher in 1894 with the Phillies, then spent two years in the minors before spending the next nine seasons in Chicago, four with the Cubs, then five with the White Sox. He was one of the better hitting pitchers in baseball, which led to more playing time in the field on his days off from pitching. After the 1905 season he purchased a semi-pro team and took five years off from the majors. Due to the fact his team was considered an outlaw team, he was put on the MLB ineligible list. To clear his name he had to pay a heavy fine so he could play again when the 1911 White Sox came calling.

Despite the long layoff, and the fact he was 37 years old at the time, Callahan hit .281 with 60 RBIs and 45 stolen bases. He retired after 1913 with a .273 batting average in 923 games and a pitching record of 99-73 in 195 games pitched. Nixey (whose first name was Jimmy) was a player/manager for the White Sox in 1903-04 and 1912-14. He had a 309-329 record over those five seasons. He worked in the White Sox front office in 1915 then took over the Pirates managerial job to start 1916. Under Callahan, the Pirates went from fifth place in 1915 down to sixth place in 1916. Pittsburgh was even worse in 1917 and after a 20-40 start, he was replaced by Honus Wagner. It was the last job in baseball for Callahan, who became a successful contractor later in life.

Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.

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