First Pitch: Check Out the Freak Show

We haven’t posted an old game clip to watch recently, so I figured this would be a good way to start off a Monday. YouTube is full of complete game videos if you search around. While doing that the other day, I found this game. It’s from the 1997 Freak Show Pittsburgh Pirates, as they take on the Philadelphia Phillies on July 21st.

I won’t give any spoilers in case you just want to watch the game without knowing what will happen. I’d suggest not reading the comment section until afterwards if you plan on doing that. This game saw Esteban Loaiza take on Curt Schilling. The Pirates were attempting to get to the .500 mark if they could win this game. Here is the boxscore, which is obviously a major spoiler.





By John Dreker

Just one former Pittsburgh Pirates player born on this date and no transactions of note, so we also take a look at the Pirates 1893 Opening Day.

Paul Miller, pitcher for the 1991-93 Pirates. He was a 53rd round draft pick of the Pirates in 1987 out of Carthage College in Wisconsin and he is still the only player from that school to make the Major Leagues. In 1986 the Cincinnati Reds took him in the 27th round of the amateur draft but he did not sign. Miller spent his first full season of minor league ball pitching for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. He went 6-5, 2.89 in 15 starts, with 51 strikeouts in 90.1 innings. He moved up a level to Salem in 1989 and struggled, forcing the Pirates to repeat him at the level to start the next year. In 22 starts for Salem in 1990, he went 8-6, 2.45, pitching a total of 150.2 innings. He was moved up to Double-A Harrisburg to finish the year and had a 2.19 ERA in five starts. Miller had a breakout season in 1991, splitting the minor league season between Double-A and Triple-A. In 25 total starts, he had a 12-4, 2.01 record with a 1.11 WHIP in 156.1 innings. On July 30, 1991, he earned a promotion to the majors to make a spot start. In five innings against the Braves, he allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts.

Miller started the 1992 season on the disabled list, making a brief rehab stop in Triple-A before being recalled in early May when the Pirates released Kirk Gibson. Pitching in relief, Miller made six appearances, throwing a total of 11.1 innings with a 2.38 ERA. Despite the strong stats, he was optioned to the minors in late May when the Pirates called up veteran pitched Jerry Don Gleaton. Miller made just a few more starts before going on the disabled list again, this time for the rest of the season. In 1993, he made 16 minor league starts, going 5-3, 3.77 in 90.2 innings before getting called up to the majors in September. With the Pirates, he made two starts and a relief appearance, allowing six runs in ten innings of work. Miller was granted free agency after the season, but chose to resign with the Pirates in January of 1994. He made 13 appearances in Triple-A in 1994, nine as a starter, with a 4.91 ERA in what would be his last season of pro ball. He had a 47-46, 3.11 record in eight seasons in the minors and was 1-0, 4.10 in ten major league games.

1893 Opening Day

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Spiders opened up the 1893 season on April 27th, the latest that Pittsburgh has opened their season since 1887, their first year in the National League (Hopefully that will be surpassed this year). Cleveland went with 26-year-old starter Cy Young, a 36-game winner in 1892 with a league leading 1.93 ERA. The Pirates had 22-year-old lefty Frank Killen on the mound, an off-season acquisition from the Washington Senators. The Spiders ended up winning that day with a lineup that included two other future Hall of Fame players besides Young. Catcher Buck Ewing played right field this game and the left fielder was Jesse Burkett. The also had Chief Zimmer (who caught for the Pirates from 1900-02) and one of the better double play combos in baseball history, and one that most people couldn’t name either player involved. Ed McKean played shortstop for 12 years in Cleveland, hitting .304 with 1,084 RBIs. His double play partner was Cupid Childs, who hit .318 with 541 RBIs and 758 walks in eight seasons alongside McKean.

Young went the distance and allowed two runs on six hits with both runs coming in the first inning. The Spiders put four runs on the board in the first inning and took the game by a 7-2 score. The attendance that day was considered strong at nearly 5,000 despite the cold weather, but for the town of Pittsburgh it was the first time in two weeks that the sun was out according to the local paper. The lineup for Pittsburgh that day was as follows:

Patsy Donovan, rf
George Van Haltren, cf
Frank Shugart, ss
Mike Smith, lf
Jake Beckley, 1b
Denny Lyons, 3b
Louis Bierbauer, 2b
Connie Mack, c
Frank Killen, p

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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