By the time 1914 rolled around, Fred Clarke was very aggressively trying to put the Pirates back at the top of the National League standings. Eager to secure the rights to first baseman Ed Konetchy of the Cardinals, Clarke opened up the vault sending right fielder Owen Wilson, converted first baseman Dots Miller, who had been switched to first from second, claiming he was just another victim of the Pirates jinx at first, but in reality probably sealed his fate when he had been named in a divorce suit as having an affair with another mans wife, third baseman Cozy Dolan, acquired from the Phillies just last year, pitcher Hank Robinson, who had been solid for the team over the past couple years and shortstop Art Butler. In return the Bucs got Konetchy, third baseman Mike Mowery and pitcher Bob Harmon.
While Wilson would have two solid years in St Louis before retiring after his third and Miller would hit .290 in 1914, playing seven more major league seasons, Konetchy, hit only .249 before joining the rival Pittsburgh Rebels in 1915 as did fellow former Cardinal, Mowery. Harmon was the only one who stayed with the team for more than a season going 39-54 in four campaigns. The destruction of the once proud franchise was now almost complete, except for one more nail in the coffin, the Federal League.
In what would prove to be the last challenger to major league baseballs supremacy, the Federal League, spawned from the departed United States League of 1912, not only raided the leagues of some of their best players, including the Pirates former 24-game winner Claude Hendrix, outfielders Solly Hofman, Fred Kommers and back up catcher Mike Simon, who took over the starting reigns behind the plate when Gibson broke his ankle in 1913, it also put a team in the Bucs former confines along the three rivers, Exposition Park, by the name of the Pittsburgh Rebels.
Although the Rebels opened up in front of a jammed packed 12,000 people early on, it was the Pirates who stole the headlines with an 8 game win streak and a 15-2 mark by May 7th. They held on to the top spot until May 30th, when in they lost two to the Reds dropping them into second. The losing streak eventually hit 10 and Pittsburgh, who couldn’t even depend on Honus Wagner anymore as the 40-year old legend dropped to .252, fell the whole way through the standings finishing 54-83 after the 15-2 start.
George Gibson would be one of the lone bright spots hitting .285 after his injury in 1913. Overall the team was devastated. A few years of poor trades and signings had ripped apart everything they worked hard to build. As far as Clarke’s assessment of Konetchy being the next superstar, he eventually would become a much better player starting with his .310 average for the Rebels the following year, but never reached the status Clarke was certain he would, although some considered him one of the best of the decade.By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Art Butler, Bob Harmon, Claude Hendrix, Cozy Dolan, Dots Miller, Ed Konetchy, Exposition Park, Fred Clarke, Fred Kommers, George Gibson, Hank Robinson, Honus Wagner, Mike Mowrey, Mike Simon, Owen Wilson, Pittsburgh Rebels, Solly Hofman