- P, OF
- Tanny, Powder
- July 14, 1874
- 5' 8"
- 150 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 6-17-1894 with CIN
The Pirates have had several fine lefthanded pitchers in the team’s history. Wilbur Cooper, the club’s all-time winningest pitcher was a lefty as obviously was Al “Lefty” Leifield. Harvey Haddix, author of baseball’s greatest pitching performance and twice a victor in the 1960 World Series was a southpaw. Fans of the last 40 years remember the powerf of Bob Veale and the excellence of John Candelaria. Ken Brett, Jerry Reuss, Jim Rooker, Zane Smith and John Smiley all had big moments in Pittsburgh.
One of the first successful portsiders for the Pirates was Jesse Tannehill, who came to the club in 1897. He went 9-9 that season, which would have been considered his rookie year, although he had pitched in five games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1894. He won 20 or more games the next three years for mediocre Pirate teams. His 25 wins in 1898 more than doubled the second highest total on the team, which finished just 72-76 and his 24 wins in 1899 again topped the team and his 20 victories in 1900 tied newcomer Deacon Phillippe for the team lead. Tannehill, who was also a fine hitter batted .336 that season. While his batting average in 1900 represented a career high, Jesse was not an easy out and throughout his career, filled in in the outfield when he was not pitching.
Tannehill missed the 20 game mark in 1901 as his victories totaled 18, but he led the league with a 2.18 ERA. He returned to the charmed circle of 20 victories in 1902. One of three Pirates to win 20 games that season, Tannehill posted a career best ERA of 1.95. Late in the season, Tannehill was approached by catcher Jack O’Connor about accepting an offer to pitch in the American League. The rival circuit offered Tannehill and several teammates $1,000 to jump to the still new league following the season. The clandestine deals were not to be spoken of to management, but Tannehill got into a clubhouse fight with utility man Jimmy Burke and when the doctors treating his injuries used ether, Tannehill spilled the beans to Pirate owner Barney Dreyfuss when the mogul visited him in the hospital. Dreyfuss left Tannehill go prior to a scheduled exhibition series at the end of the season, and although Tannehill expressed he felt guilty about leaving the Pirates, he joined the New York Highlanders following the season. After a 15-15 year in New York, Tannehill went to the Boston Pilgrims, the team which had just defeated Pittsburgh in the first World Series. He won 20 in both 1904 and 1905 and in 1904 no-hit the Chicago White Sox, but arm problems reduced his availability and effectiveness afterwards.
Tannehill, however, remains one of the franchise’s best pitchers. His 116 wins are tied with Veale for tenth all-time and only Cooper and Candelaria won more games as Pirate southpaws. Even more impressive is Tannehill’s Pirate winning percentage of .667, tops of all Buc hurlers with 100 or more decisions. Also, Tannehill’s four 20 win seasons are surpassed only by Phillippe’s five among Pirate pitchers who threw from the modern distance of 60’6”.