Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three Pirates rookie pitchers debuted in same game

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

In an April 28, 1951, game against the 7th place Cincinnati Reds, the Forbes Field faithful got a special treat when Pirates manager Billy Meyer gave three rookie pitchers their "major league baptisms" in the same game.

Con Dempsey, was a 6' 4" right-hander whom Pittsburgh had purchased from the San Francisco Seals (Pacific Coast League) at the end of the 1950 season for a reported $75,000. He had led the Coast League in strikeouts in 1948 and 1949. He started for the Bucs. 

In four innings of work he gave up seven hits, two walks and four earned runs, taking the 4-2 loss. He struck out two.

Bob Friend, who had won 14 games as Waco and Indianapolis the previous year,  after a collegiate career at Purdue, made his major league debut in relief in the fifth inning. In two innings he gave up two hits, but no runs.

Friend was followed to the mound by 18-year-old Bill Koski, who closed out the game by retiring all nine Reds batters in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames. Like Dempsey, Koski was a 6' 4" right-hander. He had made the jump to Pittsburgh from Mayfield in the Class D Kitty League in 1950, where he'd had an 8-2 record.

After his April 28 premiere, Koski got a start at New York on May 5, and took the 8-3 loss. He pitched in another dozen games in relief for the Pirates in 1951. In early June he was sent down to the team's Class AA farm at New Orleans. He returned for a couple of games in the September call-ups, but never again returned to the major leagues. In fact, after 1951 he never again pitched in an Organized Baseball league higher than Class B. He retired after 1957.

Koski appears on no baseball cards.

Dempsey pitched in only two other games in the major leagues. His career record was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. In mid-May, the Pirates sold him back to San Francisco for $25,000. There he went 7-7. He did not play in OB in 1952, and ended his career with Oakland (PCL) in 1953.

Surprisingly, Dempsey does appear on a baseball card. He's in the 1952 Topps set in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform . . . Actually, the picture on the card has been airbrushed to a Phillies' uniform. I saw the same picture of Dempsey in a May, 1951, issue of TSN and he was wearing the cap of the S.F. Seals. 

Dempsey was drafted by Philadelphia from San Francisco in the November, 1951, draft, but never pitched for the Phillies.

Friend went on to enjoy a successful 16-year major league career, pitching for Pittsburgh through 1965 and closing out his days with both the Yankees and Mets in 1966. Lifetime, he won 197 games, lost 230 and had an ERA of 3.58.

The four-time All-Star appeared on many baseball cards over the course of his career. He was on a Bowman card every year from 1952-55. After debuting on a Topps card in 1952, he didn't return to that company's issues until 1956, then was included every year through 1966, when he was shown with the Yankees. Friend also appeared on a couple of Kahn's Wieners card, Post cereal and 1960 Leaf.


  1. Bill Koski passed away on July 10, 2014. In reading a piece on-line, it stated that Koski appeared in 3 major league games in 1954, following his return from Korea. Though I could find no boxscore to indicate this, the Sporting News reported his recall from the minors in late July 1954 and his demotion to the minors in mid-August of that year. Have we all missed something?

  2. None of the standard references credit Koski with major league appearances other than his 13 games in 1951. He may have been recalled to Pittsburgh in 1954, but never got into a game.


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