Posted: Sunday, January 19, 2003
On this date in Pirates history there are only 2 former players that were born on January 19th, so I'm going to do something a little different. Each of these players played just one season and combined they played only 6 career games total. Ed Spurney, born in 1872, played 3 games for the 1891 Pirates, he went 2-7 (.286) and played all 3 games at SS. He scored 2 runs and walked twice. The other player Scott Little, born in 1963, played 3 games for the 1989 Pirates, going 1-4. He played one game in right field and even threw out a runner for a double play.
Here's the fun part now. I'm going to do a position by position comparison of the teams these 2 played for. First, the 1891 Pirates were coming off the worst season (still to this date) in team history when they went 23-113 in 1890. They would compile a record of 55-80, not great by any means but it does represent a 32.5 game improvement. The 1989 team was coming off a 85-75 record the previous season, but would finish just 74-88. The attendance for the seasons are as follows. The 1891 team drew 128,000 customers to Exposition Park, good for 7th (out of 8) in the NL. The 1989 Pirates drew almost 1.4 million to Three Rivers Stadium good for 11th out of 12 teams.
The Managers: Jim Leyland vs Ned Hanlon / Bill McGunnigle
Leyland was still one year away from leading this team to its three straight pennant seasons. He had a second place finish to his credit but also 3 sub .500 seasons. Ned Hanlon managed part of 1889 and did well, but jumped to the Players League in 1890 and took most of the Pirates team with him. He lasted 88 games in '91, but won just 31. McGunnigle, who was the original "Gunner", was coming off 2 seasons in a row where he led Brooklyn to championships and he helped to Pirates finish 24-33 after he took over for Hanlon.
Edge: even. While Hanlon is a Hall of Fame manager,it wasn't because of what he did to the Pirates in 1890, but he is a HOF'er none the less.
Catchers: Mike Lavalliere / Junior Ortiz vs Connie Mack / Doggie Miller
Ortiz started the most games, with Lavalliere playing just over 1/3 of the games. Ortiz batted just .217, Spanky batted .316 and they drove in 45 combined runs. Dann Bilardello and Tom Prince also played catcher, but neither contributed significantly. Connie Mack, another Hall of Famer, was a good catcher ,but at bat he was basically Junior Ortiz. He was, however, a good manager and is the all-time leader in managerial wins. Doggie Miller was a good hitter, but he was used alot at other positions. Tun Berger and Jocko Fields also played catcher for the Bucs that year, but neither did much.
First base: Gary Redus / Benny Distefano / Jeff King vs Jake Beckley
Redus batted .283 with 33 RBI's and 25 stolen bases. Jeff King hit just .195 with 19 RBI's in 75 games and Benny Distefano was a light hitting 1B/OF who hit .247 with 15 RBi's in 96 games. Jake Beckley was just 3 seasons into his 20 year career and he hit .292 with 73 RBI's. He would hit .309 the other 19 seasons of his career with 1502 more RBI's. He's also one of the best overall first baseman in baseball history.
Edge: just going out on a limb, umm...huge edge to Beckley
2nd base: Jose Lind vs Louis Bierbauer
Chico was coming off a good rookie season where he hit .262 with 82 runs scored, but he hit just .232 in 153 games, with 48 RBI's and 15 stolen bases. Bierbauer hit just .206 with 47 RBI's and 12 stolen bases in 121 games, but that was a down year for him as he hit .300 three times and had 6 seasons of over 80 RBI's. He is also the reason the Pirates are named Pirates, because of the way they signed him after the Players League folded. Other owners called the move "Piratical".
Edge: Bierbauer, career-wise and historically
Shortstop: Jay Bell / Rey Quinones / Rafael Belliard vs Frank Shugart / Doggie Miller
Belliard wasn't much of a hitter, neither was Quinones in his only season with the team, but Jay Bell was in his first season with the club and he would be a key member of the team for 7 more years, including its three straight pennant winning seasons. Shugart was a decent hitter, average fielder in his first full season in the majors, and he started 75 games at short. Miller again was a good hitter, but played alot of positions, and at shortstop he was a below average fielder.
3rd base: Bobby Bonilla vs Charlie Reilly / Doggie Miller
Bobby Bo was a good hitter and the team leader in everything but steals. He was near the start of his career in which he put up very good numbers, including 2000+ hits, 1000+ runs and 1173 RBI's. He was a below average 3rd baseman in his last full season at the position till 1994 with the Mets. Charlie Reilly was in his only year with the team. He was a poor hitter and fielder and Miller was a good hitter, but was a below average third baseman in the field.
Edge: Huge to Bonilla
Left field: Barry Bonds vs Pete Browning / Ned Hanlon / Al Maul / Doggie Miller
1989 was still pre-MVP Barry Bonds, he wasn't the home run threat he is now, but he still finished 2nd on the team with 19 and he stole 32 bases. Pete Browning was one of the best hitters of his day in 1891,with 9 of the last 10 seasons finishing in the top-3 in the league in average. He retired with a .341 career avg, also had decent speed and was also a top slugger in his day. Hanlon was a good hitter, but played mostly in center. Al Maul and Miller took over after Browning was traded. Maul was below average in the field and at bat, while Miller was a good hitter, but a below average left fielder (notice a pattern with him?)
Edge: Browning & co. up till that point has the edge mostly due to Browning. Bonds has become one of the best players ever, but at that time he wasn't even an All-Star.
Center field: Andy Van Slyke vs Ned Hanlon / Pop Corkhill
Van Slyke was coming off a great year in which he won the gold glove, made the All-Star team and finished 4th in the MVP voting, but he had a bad year in 1989 hampered by injuries. He hit just .237 with 53 RBI's in 130 games, but he was a key member of the 3 straight pennant winning teams. Ned Hanlon was a good center fielder with great speed and was a decent hitter, but near the end of his career. He hit .266 with 60 RBI's and 54 steals. Pop Corkhill started 40 games in center and was a below average hitter, but a GREAT center fielder. In fact, his fielding % career in over 1,000 games was more than 50 points higher than league average and his arm was good enough that he often pitched.
Edge: another tough one to call, Van Slyke had the better career, but the 1891 team wins this one based on Slicks bad year.
Right field: RJ Reynolds / Glenn Wilson vs Fred Carroll / Dan Lally
Reynolds and Wilson played about the same amount of time in right with RJ hitting .270 with 48 RBI's (though Reynolds got about 100 at-bats while not playing RF) and Wilson hitting .282 with 49 RBI's. Fred Carroll was at the end of his career, spent almost all in Pittsburgh and he hit just .218 with 48 RBI's, although he was a much better player before that. Lally was a light hitting rookie in his only year with the team and he wasn't much of a fielder.
Edge: Reynolds / Wilson
Starting Pitchers: Doug Drabek / Bob Walk / John Smiley / others vs Pud Galvin / Mark Baldwin / Silver King
Drabek was still a year away from really breaking out in 1990, but he was a good pitcher at the time coming off a 15-7 year. Walk was a reliable pitcher for a long time for the Bucs and Smiley was a decent pitcher too, and 2 years away from his best season, but only 24 at the time. Neal Heaton, Jeff Robinson and Randy Kramer started a majority of the rest of the games and they were below average overall. Baldwin was a good pitcher, who had a few good years in the bigs ,Silver King was a very good pitcher who had some great years in the majors and won over 200 games. Pud Galvin was the 2nd most durable pitcher in baseball history behind Cy Young and he won 361 games. Despite that they, couldn't help the weak offense of the Bucs, and Galvin was near the end of his career. Combined they won over 700 games between the 3 of them.
Edge: In a 3 game series I'm going with the 1891 guys
Bullpen: Bill Landrum / Bob Kipper / Doug Bair vs hmm....
Landrum saved 26 games, while Bair and Kipper both pitched great in relief. Robinson, Kramer and Heaton also got some time out of the pen and did a decent job. The 1891 Bucs starters finished 122 of the team 137 games, so their bullpen was basically non-existant and was made up of either reserve outfielders or whichever starter wasnt pitching that day.
Edge: 1989 team by far, though I wouldn't mind Pud Galvin closing games for me.
So overall, not taking into consideration the difference in playing skills from each era, I think the experience and strong starters of the 1891 team would take a seven game series 4-3 with a low score in each game almost certain. The 1989 team was still young at the time and by next season would've taken the series.