Pittsburgh Rebels

From BR Bullpen

Win-Loss Record: 218-231-7 (.486)

Ballpark: Exposition Park III (April 14, 1914-October 2, 1915)

The Rebels were Pittsburgh’s entry in the Federal League when the league first began back in 1913. Previously the team had been members of the short-lived outlaw minor league, the United States Baseball League. Managed by former Pittsburgh Pirates’ star Deacon Phillippe, the team was popularly known as the Filipinos. In addition to the Filipinos, there were 7 other teams: 5 big-league cities: Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New York, Pittsburgh and Washington with Richmond, VA and Reading, PA rounding out the league. Initially the league was supposed to have played a 126 game schedule, beginning on May 1st. Unfortunately due to financial difficulty the league folded in early June with Pittsburgh winning the pennant with a 19-7 record. This success convinced the team owners, particularly, William Tice McCullough that the city of Pittsburgh was big enough for two ball clubs. However, Pirates’ owner Barney Dreyfuss flat out refused to allow another team in his territory.

When the Federal League was formed during the winter of 1912/13, Pittsburgh was one of the teams to be included. Deacon Phillippe remained manager of the team. The Feds would play their home games at Exposition Park, but due to the location of the park, which was near the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, the field was susceptible to flooding. Both Pittsburgh, and fellow Federal League team, the Covington Blue Sox, had their home openers threatened by flooding from the Ohio River due to heavy rains on March 31st, but both clubs would manage to open the season at home without any difficulty.

The team opened the season on May 6th against the Indianapolis Hoosiers. A crowd of 7,225 at Exposition Park III witnessed the Hoosiers defeat the Rebels 9-5. Eight days later, Roy Ashenfelter came close to pitching the first no-hitter in a 5-0 win over the St. Louis Terriers. The lone St. Louis hit came in the first inning by the second baseman, and that the Rebels’ second baseman, Menosky, or first baseman, Sabrie, should have fielded the ball, but didn’t. However, the team was no-hit against by the Terriers 2 games later. Mid-way through the season, the team was having financial difficulty and was unable to pay their players. Things were so bad that on one trip, Phillippe had to pay expenses out of his own pocket. After the season, Philippe left the team and baseball, and did not want to have anything to do with professional baseball again. However, he would make a short appearance in January, when he filed a lawsuit against the team for close to $1,600. This was done because Phillippe felt the team still owned him money dating back to July 15th, with a 6% interest.

During the off-season, the team went through three different choices before settling on Harry "Doc" Gessler. With Phillippe gone from the team, the team was no longer called the Filipinos. Veteran newspaper reporters took to referring to the team as the Stogies, after the former Union Association team. However Ralph Davis of the Pittsburgh Dispatch took to calling the team “the Rebels” even before Rebel Oakes was named team captain. The team opened the 1914 season at home against the Brooklyn Tip-Tops. 15,000 fans were on hand to watch the both pitchers Tom Seaton and Elmer Knetzer in a pitcher’s duel for 9 innings with neither side scoring. Then in the 10th Tip-Tops center fielder Solly Hofman scored the game winning run. The Rebels would lose three straight before getting their 1st win of the season against the Tip-Tops.

Gessler lasted 11 games before being replaced by team captain Rebel Oakes, though the move wasn’t made official until May 7th. Although the Rebels would reach as high as 4th place, they only came within 1 game of reaching .500 on June 8th when the team was 20-21-2. The team win finish the season in 7th place with a 64-86-4 record. Both team captain Rebel Oakes and third baseman Ed Lennox led the team with a .312 batting average, though Lennox would lead the team with 11 homers. Elmer Knetzer led the team both in wins with 20, and ERA at 2.88. The next season saw the Rebels win on the road against the Kansas City Packers on opening day, winning 8-0. After a 6 game road trip, which saw the team go 2-4, the Rebels returned home for their first home opener against the Packers. As in the first game of the season, the Rebels would win, this time by a score of 4-1. The team would spend majority of the season in contention for the pennant but a 2-4 record in their last six games against the Chicago Whales, and the team ended the season in 3rd place by a ½ game to the Whales and Terriers. This year Ed Konetchy would lead the team in home runs and batting average, while Frank Allen would lead all pitchers in wins and ERA. After the season, like the rest of the league the Rebels would fold.

Sources:

  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
  • Robert Peyton Wiggins: The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs: The History of an Outlaw Major League, 1914-1915, McFarland © Jan. 1, 2008
  • Brendan Macgranachan: "The United States Baseball League", Seamheads website.