Pirate Near Greats

Last Updated 18 January 2000

These are the Pirate Near Greats. They spent several years in a Pirate uniform, and were starters and key players for the Bucs. They'll never be in the Hall of Fame, and they don't show up in the Top 10 on the Pirate Team Records list (except games played), but they were All-Stars, League Leaders and consistent performers for the Bucs over the years. These are the Pirate Near Greats.

I made a cut-off criteria for this list that a player must have been with the Bucs for at least six years to appear here. If you don't find your favorite Pirate player here, then look at these other pages:

I have a list of nearly 50 players to eventually appear on this list, but I have decided to start the page with these players. The list should now include those players with 9 or more years as a Pirate, plus several other Near Greats.

Index: | Alley | Bell | Bigbee | Bonilla | Burgess | Camnitz | Clendenon | Fletcher | Gibson | Grimm | Groat | Gustine | Handley | Madlock | Moose | Pena | Ray | Ritchey | Robertson | Robinson | Rooker | Sanguillen | Skinner | Stennett | Taveras | Virdon | Walk | Wilson |


Gene Alley: #14

Years as a Buc: 1963-1973; Short Stop
Total ML seasons: 11 years in the big leagues; all of them with the Bucs.
Career Highlights: A .254 career hitter, Alley was better known for his leather work. He teamed up with Bill Mazeroski for 128 Double Plays in 1966 - this puts Alley in the top 10 of short stops for DPs in a single season. A 2-time All-Star and starter in the 1967 game, Alley played more games at short for the Bucs than anyone except Wagner, Vaughan, Groat, and Bell. Gene Alley won two Golden Glove awards (1966, 1967).
Best Year: In 1966, Gene Alley flashed the leather at short and also hit a career best .299, scored a career high 88 Runs, with 28 Doubles and 10 Triples.
Fan Remembrances: Here's a clip from Twin Killing: Alley, as a 20 year old, was watching Maz in spring training taking ground balls: "I watched him taking ground balls and I thought, man, if you have to be this good to be in the major leagues, I'll never make it."

Gene Alley also talked about the play he and Maz would use on a ball hit up the middle; if Maz caught the grounder going away from first base, Maz would flip to Alley to relay to first. On two occasions, Alley had the runners gunned out on that play, but the first sacker dropped the ball. Maz and Alley finally got a runner out in Atlanta using this play - I'm sure I remember seeing that play on a TV broadcast.

Alley played in the minors one year with Willie Stargell at Grand Forks - Alley led the team in home runs that year. He hit 55 homers in the big leagues, with his best 2 seasons hitting 8 each. Alley finished his career with 999 hits.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.
Photo from my childhood collection; Arco sponsored these photos in 1971. (45k)


Jay Bell: #3

Years as a Buc: 1989-1996
Total ML seasons: As of the beginning of the 1997 season, Bell was still active in MLB. He came up with Cleveland in 1986, but wasn't a Major League regular until the 1990 season with the Bucs.
Career Highlights: He won a Gold Glove in 1994. He was named to the All-Star team in 1993. Jay Bell is 4th on the All-Time Pirate list for games played by a shortstop.
Best Year: In 1993, he hit .310 with 32 doubles and 102 Runs scored while holding down the short stop position for 154 games.
Fan Remembrances: On September 9, 1986, Jay Bell hit the first major league pitch he saw for a home run. The pitcher was Bert Blyleven. Bell was part of a package that went from Minnesota to Cleveland for Blylevan in 1985. Bell came to the Bucs in 1989 for Felix Fermin and Denny Gonzalez. He left the team after the 1996 season in a trade to Kansas City (along with Jeff King) for Joe Randa, Jeff Granger, Jeff Martin, and Jeff Wallace.

Bell led the Bucs in the 1991 LCS with a .414. batting average.

He may be best remembered for his steady defense and his ability to bunt the runner over. He led the league in 1990 (39) and 1991 (30) in sacrifice bunts.

On Sunday, 17 Mar 1996, Dave Noordhoff (dnoordho@icis.on.ca) sent me this note:
" 1) The great play where Bell noticed Dave Justice had missed third base and saved at least a run for the Bucs by getting an out on an appeal play during the 1992 LCS.
2) I was at a spring training game at Bradenton in 1993 when Bell appeared on the field before the game with his near-infant daughter in arms and "introduced" her to Jim Leyland in front of the Pirate dugout in full view of the fans. Great gesture. I think Bell is one of the "headiest" ball players I have ever seen."

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Carson Bigbee

Years as a Buc: 1916-1926: Outfielder; Skeeter
Total ML seasons: 11 seasons; all with the Pirates.
Career Highlights: A career .287 hitter, Bigbee had 2 seasons where he hit over .320. He had two break out seasons (1921-1922) that really stand out. He collected 1205 hits in his career. Bigbee would put the ball in play; he only struck out 161 times in 4192 career at-bats (that's a better ratio that Joltin' Joe DiMaggio - .0384 vs .0541 - and you can look it up!). He was also a threat on the base paths; he swiped 145 bases in 6 seasons, stealing 31 each year for 2 consecutive years. He ranks 11th on the Pirates all-time list for games played in the outfield.
Best Year: In 1921, he hit .323 with 23 doubles, 17 triples, 100 Runs scored, and 42 RBIs. In 1922, he exploded for a .350 average with 29 doubles, 15 triples, 113 Runs scored, and 99 RBIs while playing 150 games in the outfield.
Fan Remembrances: His brother Lyle played 2 seasons in the majors and was on the Bucs with his little brother in 1921.

Bobby Bonilla: #25

Years as a Buc: 1986-1991
Total ML seasons: As of the beginning of the 1997 season, Bonilla was still active in MLB. He had his first Major League action with the White Sox, but quickly moved to Pittsburgh. After another 5 full seasons as a Pirate, he left the team via free agency to the Mets. He has also had stints with the Orioles and Marlins.
Career Highlights: Bonilla was named to the All-Star team 4 straight years during his stint in Pittsburgh (1988-1991). He lead the league in doubles with 44 in 1991.
Best Year: Bonilla's best year with the Bucs was 1991; he hit .302 with 18 home runs, 102 Runs scored and 100 RBIs. In 1990, he hit .280 with 39 doubles, 32 home runs, 112 Runs scored and 120 RBIs.
Fan Remembrances: Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds were a formidable pair with the Pirates; they were dubbed as the "Killer Bees". In the 1991 LCS, Bonilla hit .304 with 2 doubles, 2 Runs scored and an RBI.

Chuck_Blahous(@simpson.senate.gov) wrote to remind me that Bobby Bo is a member of the Upper Deck Club at TRS. Chuck also fondly remembered this: "Let's not also forget his tendancy to whack himself on the helmet after a bad swing or taken strike."

Louis Crandall (lvbc@ix.netcom.com) sent this note:
Bonilla was never given credit for his versatility or the hard work that made him an All-Star. He was a much-needed switch-hitter in a Pirates line-up that was vulnerable to lefties. He played third, first and right field as needed. He never looked very graceful in the field and ran up the error totals, but he also handled a *lot* of chances and started a lot of double plays when playing at third.

He was baseball's first six-million dollar man when he signed with the Mets.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Smokey (Forrest H.) Burgess: #6

Years as a Buc: 1959-1964: Catcher
Total ML seasons: 18 seasons; Burgess came up with the Cubs in 1949 and played 2 seasons in Chicago, 3(+) seasons with the Phillies, 2(-) seasons with the Reds, 6 years with the Bucs and his final 3 years were with the White Sox. Burgess retired from playing baseball in 1967.
Career Highlights: A .295 career hitter, Burgess is best known as one of the game's premier pinch hitters. He ranks first in the majors all-time roster with 507 pinch-hit At Bats and ranks second on the list with 145 pinch hits (a .286 career pinch hitting average). He never caught more than 113 games in a season, but remained effective throughout his long career. His last three years in the majors, Burgess led the league each year in pinch hit ABs and twice in pinch hits posting a .308 and .318 average as he approached his 40th birthday. For the Bucs, he provided 7-17 (.412) and 9-20 (.450) in 1959 and 1960 in pinch hitting roles. Burgess was a 4-time All-Star with the Bucs. He had 5 seasons where he hit over .300.
Best Year: In 1954 in Philadelphia, Burgess caught 91 games and batted .368 in 345 ABs. The following year for the Reds, he smacked a career best 21 home runs and posted a .301 average.
Fan Remembrances: Burgess came over to the Bucs from the Reds in 1959 in a trade along with Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak in exchange for Frank Thomas, Johnny Powers, Whammy Douglas, and Jim Pendleton. It was a transaction that helped to put the Bucs over the top in 1960; it provided a starting left-handed pitcher, a starting third baseman, and a Left-handed hitting catcher. Smokey was waivered to the White Sox in Sept 1964.

In the 1960 World Series, Smokey caught 5 games and hit .333 (6- 18) with a double and 2 Runs scored.


Howie Camnitz

Years as a Buc: 1904; 1906-1913: Red
Total ML seasons: 11 seasons; after throwing 9 games in Philadelphia, he returned to Pittsburgh, but in the Federal League (1914-15).
Career Highlights: A lifetime 133-106, 2.75 ERA pitcher. In 1911, he was 20-15; 1912 he was 22-12.
Best Year: In 1909, he was 25-6, 1.62 ERA and led the league with a .806 winning percentage and 7 wins in relief. He completed 20 of the 30 games he started, while racking up a career high 283 innings. He was a key member of the 1909 World Champion team.
Fan Remembrances: He started and lost Game 2 of the 1909 World Series; he also appeared in relief in Game 6, but combined for only 3.2 innings in his two appearances. Howie's brother. Harry was also a member of the 1909 World Champion Pirates team. Howie was traded in August 1913 along with Bobby Byrne to the Phillies for Cozy Dolan and cash.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Donn Clendenon: #17

Years as a Buc: 1961-1968; First Baseman
Total ML seasons: 12 seasons; he started with the Bucs and played for the Expos, the Mets, and finished his career with St Louis in 1972.
Career Highlights: A .274 career hitter, Clendenon hit 159 Home Runs. He was part of the amazing 1966 Bucco double play combination; along with Mazeroski and Alley, Donn was in on 182 DPs that year ranking him 3rd on the all-time list for first baseman in a season. In 1965, Donn was in on 161 DPs; that also breaks the top 10 list for first sackers. He said of the DP combination, "I knew we were good when we doubled up Maury Wills and Willie Davis, and it wasn't even close." Donn Clendenon has played more games at first base than any other Pirate except Gus Suhr.
Best Year: At the plate in 1966, Clendenon hit .299 and smacked a career high 28 home runs and collected 98 RBIs.
Fan Remembrances: Donn may be best remembered for his 1969 World Series performance for the Miracle Mets; he hit 3 home runs and a double for a .357 batting average and a 1.071 slugging average; Clendenon was named the Series MVP - that means the former Pirates 3-4-5 hitters all became Series MVPs: Clemente (1971), Stargell (1979), Clendenon (1969).

Here are a couple snippets from Twin Killing: Clendenon was a 3-sport All-American at Morehouse College. Donn worked a full-time job while he played Major League Baseball. Donn was a college graduate prior to entering pro ball. He earned his law degree after he quit playing ball. Clendenon's roommate with the Bucs, Bob Veale, said this, "Donn was always the articulate one, a real student... Being a lawyer, Donn can tell you two or three lies in the same breath. Donn's a good fellow."

Clendenon left the Bucs in the 1969 expansion draft to Montreal.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Elbie Fletcher: #3

Years as a Buc: 1939-1943; 1946-1947: First Baseman
Total ML seasons: 12 seasons; he came up with the Braves and spent 4 seasons in Boston before coming to Pittsburgh. He finished his career in 1949 back with the Braves.
Career Highlights: A .271 career hitter, Fletcher was the everyday first sacker for the Bucs; only Gus Suhr and Donn Clendenon have played more games at first base for the Pirates. Fletcher led the league in walks two years in row: 1940 with 119 and 1941 with 118. He was named as a starter on the 1943 All- Star team.
Best Year: In 1939, he hit a career best .290 with 25 doubles and 12 home runs. In 1941, he hit .288 with 29 doubles, 13 triples (both career highs) and 11 home runs.
Fan Remembrances: Fletcher came to the Bucs in exchange for Bill Schuster and cash; he was traded to Boston for cash.

Photo of Fletcher


George Gibson

Years as a Buc: 1905-1916: Catcher; Moon
Total ML seasons: 14 seasons; after a long career in Pittsburgh, Gibson finished the last two years of his career with the Giants.
Career Highlights: A .236 career hitter, Gibson was a mainstay behind the plate for the Bucs. He is first on the Pirates all-time list for games played as a catcher. He had 2 seasons where he hit .280 or better.
Best Year: He hit for average in 1914 hitting .285 while catching 101 games. In 1909, he had his best overall season lacing a career best 25 doubles and 9 triples while hitting .265 and catching 150 games in the Pirates World Championship season.
Fan Remembrances: Gibson had 2 doubles, scored twice and drove in 2 RBIs in the 1909 World Series.

Charlie Grimm

Years as a Buc: 1919-1924; First Baseman; Jolly Cholly
Total ML seasons: 20 seasons; Grimm played for the A's and the Cardinals before moving to Pittsburgh. After his career with the Bucs, he spent 12 years with the Cubs before he hung up his playing spikes in 1936.
Career Highlights: A career .290 hitter, Charlie played over 148 games at first base for the Bucs for 5 straight seasons. He ranks 5th on the All-Time Bucco list for games played at first base. He hit over .300 six times in his career. At 39 years old with the Cubs in 1932, Grimm hit .307 with a career high 42 doubles as Chicago won the pennant. He hit 17 triples in 1921 for the Bucs.
Best Year: In 1923, Grimm hit .345 with 29 doubles, 13 triples and 7 home runs while scoring a career high 78 Runs and driving in a personal best 99 RBIs. He played 152 games for the Bucs that year.
Fan Remembrances: Charlie went on to an extensive managing career with the Cubs and the Braves; he managed 3 world series teams ('32, '35, '45), but was on the losing end each time. Grimm managed until 1960.

Grimm was traded in October 1924 with Rabbit Maranville, and Wilbur Cooper for Vic Aldridge, George Grantham, and Al Niehaus.


Dick Groat: #24

Years as a Buc: 1952, 1955-1962; Shortstop
Total ML seasons: 14 seasons; after 9 years with the Bucs, Groat spent 3 years in St Louis, a year in Philadelphia before finishing up with the Giants in 1967.
Career Highlights: A career .286 hitter, Wilkensburg PA native Dick Groat collected 2,138 hits in his career. He hit .300 or better 4 times and led the league with 43 doubles in 1963 with the Cardinals. Groat collect a World Series championship ring with the Bucs (1960) and the Cards (1964). He turned 127 Double Plays in 1958 which ranks him in the top 10 list for best DP season for a shortstop. He also is listed in the top 5 list for career DPs for shortstops with 1,237. Groat played more games at shortstop for the Bucs than anyone except Wagner and Vaughan. He was a 5-time All-Star (3 with the Bucs).
Best Year: In 1960, Groat was named to the All-Star team, won the NL batting crown with a .325 average and was voted the league MVP, while helping to lead his hometown Pirates to the World Championship. For the Cards in 1963, Groat hit .319, led the league in doubles and received more votes for the All-Star team (from the players) than anyone else in either league.
Fan Remembrances: Dick Groat was named College Basketball Player of the Year in 1952 at Duke. He still holds the single-season scoring record at Duke with 831 points. He played briefly in the NBA for the Fort Wayne Pistons. Groat also led his Duke Baseball Team to the College World Series in 1952. Despite being a 2-time All-American in Baseball and his ML career, Groat considers himself to have been a better basketball player than a baseball player. He also served a two year hitch in the Army. Groat could have been a two-sport star in the pros, but Pirate GM Branch Rickey wanted Groat to focus on baseball. Despite a basketball contract offer from Fort Wayne that would have paid him more money than the the Bucs, Groat honored the baseball contract he had signed with the Bucs.

Dick Groat is on a short list of ML players who never played in the minor leagues.

Groat and Mazeroski led the league in double plays for five consecutive years; he said in Twin Killing, "...my wife could have led the league in double plays with Mazeroski at second base if she were a shortstop. He was that good."

Groat may be best remembered as the master of the hit-and-run.

Groat was traded to the Cardinals with Diomedes Olivo for Julio Gotay, and Don Cardwell.

He owns and manages the Champion Lakes Golf Club north of Ligonier PA.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Frank Gustine: #16

Years as a Buc: 1939-1948: Infielder
Total ML seasons: 12 seasons; he came up with the Pirates and spent a year each at the end of career with Cubs and the Browns. He retired in 1950.
Career Highlights: Frank Gustine may best exemplify the Pirate players on this list. He was an everyday player for the Pirates at three positions: he played as many as 113 games in a season at second base, 116 at shortstop, and 156 at third base. He was a versatile player who enjoyed some success with the Bucs. A career .265 hitter, Gustine was a 3-time All-Star for the Bucs.
Best Year: In 1947, he hit a career best .297 with 30 doubles and 9 home runs, while scoring 102 times and driving in 67 RBIs. He started in the All-Star game that year.
Fan Remembrances: Gustine came up as a 19-year old in 1939. He was traded along with Cal McLish for Cyde McCullough, and Cliff Chambers.

Lee Handley

Years as a Buc: 1937-1941; 1944-1946: Third Baseman; Jeep
Total ML seasons: 10 seasons; he came up with the Reds and spent one year in Cincinnati before coming to Pittsburgh. He finished his career in 1947 with one season with the Phillies.
Career Highlights: A career .269 hitter, Handley led the league in 1939 with 17 stolen bases. He had 4 seasons where he hit over .280 as a starter. His first year in Pittsburgh, he smacked 21 doubles and a career best 12 triples. He ranks fifth on the Pirates all-time list for games played by a third baseman.
Best Year: In 1938, he hit a career best 25 doubles, 8 triples, and a personal best 6 home runs while scoring 91 Runs (career best) and driving in a career high 51 RBIs.
Fan Remembrances: His brother Gene also played 2 years in the majors with the A's (1946-1947).

Bill Madlock: #5

Years as a Buc: 1979-1985: Third Baseman; Mad Dog
Total ML seasons: 15 seasons; Madlock came up with Texas in 1973; he spent 3 years with the Cubs and 2 1/2 years with the Giants before coming to Pittsburgh. He split portions of his last three years between the Dodgers and the Tigers. He hung up his spikes in 1987.
Career Highlights: A 4-time batting champion (2 with the Bucs), Mad Dog hit .341 in 1981 and .323 in 1983 for the Bucs. He hit a career best 19 home runs while adding 33 doubles in 1982. Madlock ranks fourth on the Pirates all-time list for the numbers of games played at third base. Mad Dog was named to the All-Star team twice during his stint in Pittsburgh.
Best Year: In 1975, in Chicago, Madlock hit .354 with 29 doubles and a career best 7 triples. The following year, he hit .339 with a career best 36 doubles while adding 15 home runs.
Fan Remembrances: In the 1979 World Series, Bill Madlock hit .375 with a double, 2 Runs scored and 3 RBIs while drawing 5 walks.

He was acquired from the Giants June 28, 1979 along with Lenny Randle and Dave Roberts for Ed Whitson, Fred Breining, and Al Holland. On August 31, 1985, he went to the Dodgers for RJ Reynolds, Sid Bream, and Cecil Espy.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Bob Moose: #38

Years as a Buc:1967-1976; Pitcher
Total ML seasons: 10 seasons, all with the Pirates
Career Highlights: Moose is on a short list of Pirate pitchers who have tossed a no-hitter. On September 20, 1969, Bob Moose no-hit the Mets at New York and won the game 4-0. He also started Game 6 of the 1971 World Series and turned in a solid 5 innings of work. Moose also appeared in relief during Games 1 (4 innings) and Game 2. His starting assignment was critical as two of the Pirate pitchers had been ineffective against the Orioles. The assignment was made more difficult because he had to oppose Hall of Fame-bound Oriole oitcher Jim Palmer. Overall, in his ML career, Moose was a 76-71 pitcher with a 3.50 ERA. He had 11 or more wins in 5 straight seasons ('69-'73), and threw over 200 innings twice.
Best Year: 1969: in addition to his no-hitter, Moose was 14-3 with a 2.91 ERA.
Fan Remembrances: Moose and I are from the same hometown, although Bob starred on the high school baseball team about 13 years before I played on that team. I met him as a kid and had a picture autographed, but I've lost track of where it went. Moose was killed in an auto accident after the 1976 season on his 29th birthday.

Moose may be remembered as the pitcher who threw the wild pitch that allowed the Reds to score the winning run in the 1972 playoffs. This is a little unfair to Moose - Dave Giusti allowed the Johnny Bench home run that tied the game in the 9th inning; Moose came on in a jam and recorded 2 outs before uncorking one that allowed the Reds runner at third to scamper home.

Bob Moose was well liked by all his team mates. A plaque was dedicated to him after his death which still hangs in the Pirate clubhouse at TRS.


Tony Pena: #6

Years as a Buc: 1980-1986
Total ML seasons: 18 seasons; Tony was active in the majors through the end of the 1997 season. After his days in Pittsburgh, Tony went to the Cardinals for three years, and then to Boston and the Indians. He finished up in 1997 with the White Sox and Astros.
Career Highlights: Tony was a 4-time All-Star with Bucs. He won 3 Gold Gloves and is 3rd on the Pirates all-time list for games played as a catcher. A .260 career hitter, Pena collected 1,686 hits over his long career and smacked 107 home runs.
Best Year: Tony hit .301 in 1983 while slugging 15 home runs. In 1982, he laced 28 doubles.
Fan Remembrances: With the Cards in 1987, despite hitting .214 during the season, Pena exploded in the post-season. In the LCS, he hit .381, scoring 5 times and even stole a base. In the World Series, he hit .409 with a double, scoring twice and driving in 4 RBIs. Despite Pena's heroics, the Cardinals lost to the Twins 4 games to 3.

Two people (Chuck and Caleb for you long-time readers) wrote to remind me of Pena's unique catching stance; sometimes sitting down with no runners on base; one leg out - one leg folded under - one-handed catching style. Chuck also mentioned Pena's throws to the bases from the squatting position.

Louis Crandall (lvbc@ix.netcom.com) sent this note:
The snap throws to first from his knees were deadly, especially when he had a left-handed batter to shield his motion from the runner. Pena's batting motion was wild -- literally. He used to hit himself in the back so hard with the bat, that the story at the time was that he had padding in the back of his uniform between his shoulder blades to protect himself from his follow-through.

He will coordinate Dominican Republic operations and manage the rookie team in Tucson for the White Sox. During the '97-98 winter season, he managed the Aguilas in the DR winter league

April 1, 1987, he was traded to the Cardinals for Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, and Mike Dunne.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Johnny Ray: #3

Years as a Buc: 1981-1987: Second Baseman
Total ML seasons: 10 seasons; after his time with the Bucs, Ray played 3 more seasons with the Angels. He retired in 1990.
Career Highlights: Ray played more games at second base for the Bucs than anyone except Bill Mazeroski, Claude Ritchey, and Rennie Stennett. A career .290 hitter, Ray had three seasons where he hit better than .300. He led the league twice in doubles with 38 (1983, 1984). He hit a career best 42 doubles for the Angels in 1988. He had three seasons in which he scored over 70 Runs and another three seasons with over 70 RBIs.
Best Year: In 1984, Ray hit a career best .312 while leading the league in doubles.
Fan Remembrances: Ray turned 102 double plays in 1983 and 103 DPs in 1987.

Louis Crandall (lvbc@ix.netcom.com) sent this note:
A rarity in a modern-day Bucco -- tough to strike out.

August 31, 1981: Ray comes to the Bucs from Houston along with minor league outfielder Kevin Houston and Randy Niemann for Phil Garner. August 29, 1987: Ray goes to the Angels for Miguel Garcia and minor league infielder Bill Merrifield.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Claude Ritchey

Years as a Buc: 1900-1906: Second Baseman
Total ML seasons: 13 seasons; Ritchey came up with Cincinnati and spent 2 years with Louisville before spending 7 seasons with the Bucs; he played his last three years with Boston (N) before finishing his career in 1909.
Career Highlights: A career .275 hitter, Ritchey played more games at second base for the Bucs than anyone else except Maz. He collected 1629 hits during his career. In 1905, he hit a career high 29 doubles, while in 1904 he hit 28 doubles and a personal best 12 triples.
Best Year: In 1899, Ritchey hit .309 while smacking 15 doubles, 7 triples, and 4 home runs.
Fan Remembrances: He came to Pittsburgh in the same deal that brought Honus Wagner to Pittsburgh as Louisville was dropped from the league in 1900. December 1906: Ritchey, Ginger Beaumont, and Patsy Flaherty went to Boston (N) for Ed Abbaticchio.

Bob Robertson: #7

Years as a Buc: 1967, 1969-1976: First Baseman: The Maryland Strong Boy
Total ML seasons: 11 seasons; he played for Seattle in 1978 and Toronto in 1979 before hanging them up.
Career Highlights: Robertson knocked 115 Major League Home Runs. In 1971, he played a career-high 131 games with a personal best 469 At Bats. He whacked 26 Home Runs and drove in 72 RBIs. He was a member of the 1971 World Championship team. Those of us who were fans at the time will always remember him thrusting his arms in the air as the final out of the '71 Series was recorded. He is the original member of the Three Rivers Stadium Left Field Upper Deck Club, with his smash on 7/16/71 of 456 feet.
Best Year: In 1970, prior to his 24th birthday, he smashed a career-best 27 Home Runs, drove in a personal best 82 RBIs and achieved his best Batting Average and Slugging Average with a 287/372/564 effort. He also added a career high 19 doubles to his year's stats line.
Fan Remembrances: Bob Prince would say of him, "Robertson can hit a ball out of any park - including Yellowstone."

In game 3 of the 1971 Series, after Baltimore had won the first two games, Steve Blass tried to keep the Bucs going. Blass had a two to one lead when Clemente and Stargell each got on base with no one out. Skipper Danny Murtaugh figured it was time to play small ball, so he gave Bob Robertson ("The Maryland Strong Boy") the bunt sign. Perhaps because he so rarely saw the bunt sign, Robertson missed it. Clemente tried to call time out, but the pitcher had started his motion and the umpire declined to call time. Robertson swung away and hit a decisive three run homer en route to a 5-1 final score.
Steve Blass was sitting next to Murtaugh in the dugout. He turned to the skipper and said, "If you fine him, I'll pay." Murtaugh didn't.

If you visit Camden Yards in Baltimore, you'll see that Bob Robertson was inducted into the Maryland natives Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. Look for his name on Eutaw Street near center field.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.
Photo from my childhood collection; Arco sponsored these photos in 1971. (44k)


Don Robinson: #43

Years as a Buc: 1978-1987; Pitcher
Total ML seasons: 15 seasons; after 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, he went to the Giants for 5 seasons, and split 1992 with the Angels and the Phillies.
Career Highlights: 109-106, 3.79 in his career, Robinson took the ball as a starter 111 times in four seasons ('78-'80, '82). He added 32 starts in 1989 to the Giants rotation. He led the league with 11 wins in relief in 1987 between stints with the Bucs and Giants.
Best Year: Robinson showed great promise as a 21 year old rookie who went 14-6 in 1978 with a career best 9 complete games. His career best year was in 1982 when he earned a 15-13 record.
Fan Remembrances: Robinson was a good hitting pitcher, posting a .231 career average and belting 13 home runs in 631 at bats. Robinson won Game 2 of the 1979 World Series for the Bucs. Robinson was dealt to the Giants in 1987 for Mackey Sasser and cash. He pitched in the 1989 World Series for the Giants.

Don Robinson played in one game in the outfield in 1984, handling two fly balls successfully. His best year with the bat was probably 1982, when he hit .282/.315/.412 (in 85 ABs) and drove in 16 runs.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Jim Rooker: #19

Years as a Buc: 1973-1980; Pitcher
Total ML seasons: 13 seasons; he had a cup of coffee with Detroit in 1968, 4 seasons in KC before coming to Pittsburgh for 8 seasons.
Career Highlights: 103-109, 3.46 in his career, Rooker turned in 5 consecutive winning seasons for the Bucs where he won at least 10 games ('73-'77) and compiled a 67-45 record during that stretch.
Best Year: In 1974, Rooker won a career best 15 games (15-11) while posting a 2.77 ERA; he pitched a career high 263 innings and turned in a career best 15 games. He also won 15 games (15-8) in 1976. Rooker didn't come to the Pirates until after his 30th birthday.
Fan Remembrances: Rooker served in the Pirate broadcast booth 1981-1993.

As a Pirate announcer during a early 90's Buccos broadcast while the Bucs were winning 10-0 in Philadelphia, Rooker said that he would walk home if the Pirates lost the game. The Pirates lost 11-10, and Rooker did walk from Philly to Pittsburgh... but after the season for charity.

In the 1979 World Series, 37 year old Jim Rooker took the mound as the Game 5 starter. He had only won 4 games in 17 starts during the season, and the Bucs were down 3 games to 1 to the Baltimore Orioles in the Fall Classic. Rooker gave The Bucs 5 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball, and gave the Bucs a chance to rally in the last three innings for a 7-1 victory.

Rooker was obtained in a trade with KC for pitcher Gene Garber.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Manny Sanguillen: #35

Years as a Buc: 1967; 1969-1976; 1978-1980; Catcher: Road runner
Total ML seasons: 13 seasons; all except one year (1977 in Oakland) Sangy played for the Bucs.
Career Highlights: A career .296 hitter, this free-swinging Panamanian has the highest lifetime batting average for any post-WWII catcher; that's pretty good company to beat catchers like Munson, Berra, Campanella, and Bench. Sangy hit over .300 four times. A 3-time All-Star, Manny ranks second in games played as a catcher for the Bucs. Sangy was a member of both the 1971 and 1979 World Champion teams. In the '71 Series, he hit .379, scored 3 times and stole 2 bases.
Best Year: In 1975, Manny hit a career best .328 with 24 doubles and 9 home runs, while catching 132 games. In 1971, as a member of the Lumber Company, Manny drove in a career best 81 RBIs.
Fan Remembrances: Here are a couple clips from Twin Killing: Manny's first ML hit was off a pitcher named Giusti; it was an infield roller to Joe Morgan that Sangy beat out.... Sangy once threw out Lou Brock twice in one game while Brock was trying to steal.... Sangy was the catcher for Bob Moose's no-hitter in 1969 and also couldn't knock down Moose's infamous wild pitch that ended the 1972 playoffs.... Manny was traded to Oakland for a Manager (Chuck Tanner).

Chuck_Blahous(@simpson.senate.gov) sent this note: "one of the most beloved Bucs of his time, seemingly always grinning, couldn't draw a walk to save his life, but could hit a pitch thrown almost anywhere. Sanguillen was that rarity as a catcher -- a speed threat -- he was the Road Runner (before Ralph Garr was) and a hitter for high average."
Chuck also noted how close Sangy was with Roberto Clemente and remembered that Manny was one of the divers who looked for Roberto's body after the fateful plane crash that killed Clemente.

On Sunday, 17 Mar 1996, Dave Noordhoff (dnoordho@icis.on.ca) sent me this note: "How about that great pinch single in Game 2 of the 1979 series that drove in Ed Ott with the winning run? And the greeting he got from the fans when the Bucs returned to Pittsburgh for Game 3 (Manny was wearing a toque!). My wife's favourite, she managed to meet him during our visits to Pittsburgh so many times, the last time he said to her, "I know you!". By the way, I have a posed picture of him and her; if he's 6 feet tall, as the books say, then my wife sure is isn't 5'4"! He's only about 4-5" taller than her."

Louis Crandall (lvbc@ix.netcom.com) sent this note:
There is one Pirate moment that I would like to see above all others. Game 2 of the 1979 World Series, Sanguillen singling in Ed Ott with two out in the ninth to win the game. Manny was a hero of mine growing up, since I had been a stumpy little bad-ball chasing catcher in Little League myself. I was distraught when the Bucs let him go in 1977, overjoyed when he came back. He hardly played in the 1979 regular season and never got up to bat in the playoffs. That hit in Game 2 made up for it all.

Dr. Charles J. Leberknight (Chuck or Doc) jcdoc@usa.pipeline.com sent this note:
Manny was one of my favorite Bucs growing up ... I remember his unorthodox batting style (bat way over his head) that we all used to emulate in little league, his extended-leg crouch behind the plate, and the funky felt covered batting helmet he used to wear.

And who can forget Manny's ritual in the batter's box where, as he was chatting and smiling at the umpire and catcher, he would draw a line in the batter's box with the knob of the handle, dig in, and swing at anything thrown in the general direction of the plate.

Dave Darlington (darlingt@HAL.MUHLBERG.EDU) added this note to a discussion about favorite players:

I'd have to go with Sanguillen as number 2, although I have only been around enough to remember the tail end of his career ('79 series). Maybe it is because I'm distantly related to him (by marriage -- he's my cousin's husband's cousin's husband, which makes us absolutely nothing, but I still like to say I'm related to a Buc anyway :)) Heck, George I got to the throne of England with less credentials!

November 5, 1976: Sanguillen and $100,000 went to Oakland for Manager Chuck Tanner. April 4, 1978: Sanguillen returns from Oakland for Miguel Dilone, Elias Sosa, and Mike Edwards. December 9, 1980: Sanguillen and Bert Blylevan go to Cleveland for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Rafael Vasquez, and Bob Owchinko.

Sanguillen Profile from The Summer of 1971.
Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.
Photo from my childhood collection; Arco sponsored these photos in 1971. (36k)


Bob Skinner: #4

Years as a Buc: 1954, 1956-1963: Left Fielder
Total ML seasons: 12 seasons; Skinner came up with the Pirates. After 8+ seasons in Pittsburgh, he spent time with the Reds and the Cardinals.
Career Highlights: A .277 career hitter, Skinner had 4 seasons where he hit better than .300. Bob was a 2-time All- Star. He is a member of a short list of players who hit a ball over the right field roof at Forbes Field; Skinner did it twice. Skinner earned two World Series rings in his career; 1960 with the Bucs and 1964 with the Cards.
Best Year: In 1958, Skinner hit .321 with 33 doubles, 9 triples and 13 Home Runs and was a starter in the All-Star game.
Fan Remembrances: Bob Skinner played in the last game at Ebbetts Field and hit the last home run at old Busch Stadium. Skinner said this is Twin Killing, "The guy who ran the scoreboard (at Forbes Field) could tell from his vantage point inside if the ball was going to be over my head. I would be going back and he would yell at me to play it off the wall."

May 23, 1963: Skinner goes to Cincinnati for Jerry Lynch.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Rennie Stennett: #6

Years as a Buc: 1971-1979: Second Base
Total ML seasons: 11 seasons; after 9 years with the Bucs, Stennett played 2 seasons with the Giants and retired in 1981.
Career Highlights: On September 16, 1975 at Chicago, Rennie Stennett was 7-for-7 in a nine inning game; he had 2 doubles and a triple while scoring 5 Runs. He is the only major League player to go 7-7 in a nine inning game since 1892 (his feat is displayed at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown). Rennie also put together a 20-game hitting streak that year. A .274 career hitter, Stennett twice played in 157 games in a season for the Bucs (1974 and 1976). In 1976 he belted 31 doubles and 9 triples, both career best marks. In 1973, he smacked a career high 10 home runs. Rennie Stennett played more games at second base for the Bucs than anyone except Maz and Claude Ritchey.
Best Year: In 1977, he hit .336 with 20 doubles and stole 28 bases.
Fan Remembrances: Chuck_Blahous(@simpson.senate.gov) sent this note: "my childhood hero; he hit over .400 a good portion of the 1971 season when he came up to replace an injured Dave Cash during the pennant chase, and made a huge contribution to the win, coming immediately into the leadoff position. he was widely heralded as the most wide-ranging second-sacker of his time. One thing about Stennett that always struck me was his unique ability to perform the exact same physical motion until his opponent adjusted and could get him out. When you look at replays of his 7-for-7 game, a huge number of hits are sprayed by Stennett into short right field, as he was just swinging that way perfectly on that day, and he could just stay in the zone and do it over and over. Similarly, in 1971, I don't know how often he hit line drives into the center-to-right area, which if not caught for outs, contributed to his high batting average and his getting 5 triples in only 150 or so at-bats. Stennett would seem to repeat the same trick several times in succession until word got around as to how to prevent him from doing whatever he was doing, and then he'd have to come up with something else. A very streaky hitter as a result.

Both Steve Alvin (salvin@heartland.bradley.edu) and Chuck reminded me of Stennett's broken leg in 1977. Steve said Rennie was never the same player again, " It was a real shame as he was just 26 and appeared to be really coming into his prime." Chuck said, "At the time, Stennett was battling Dave Parker for the league lead in batting average -- Stennett was hitting .336 (behind Parker's .343). He made a steal attempt of second and broke his ankle. It was a terrible injury, and I remember Stennett lying there and screaming in pain. Stennett, if my memory serves me correctly, still had a shot at the batting title, since others saw their averages dip from that point on, and if one added the requisite hitless at-bats to Stennett's total to come up with 502 plate appearances, he still had a decent average."

November 29, 1979: Stennett signed with the Giants as a Free Agent.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Frank Taveras: #10

Years as a Buc: 1971-1972, 1974-1979: ShortStop
Total ML seasons: 11 seasons; after 7+ years in Pittsburgh, he went to the Mets for 3 seasons, and finished with the Expos.
Career Highlights: A .255 career hitter, Taveras stole 300 bases. He was a fixture at SS for the Bucs for 5 years. In 1978, he hit .278 and stroked a career best 31 doubles.
Best Year: In 1977, he lead the league with 70 steals.
Fan Remembrances: April 19, 1979: Taveras was traded to the Mets for Tim Foli and minor league pitcher Greg Field.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Bill Virdon: #18

Years as a Buc: 1956-1965; 1968: Centerfielder
Total ML seasons: 12 seasons; Virdon came up with the Cardinals, but after his rookie season, he came to Pittsburgh for the rest of his career.
Career Highlights: Virdon was Rookie of the Year for the Cardinals in 1955 when he hit .281 with a career best 17 Home Runs. A career .276 hitter, Virdon was also known for his defensive skills in center field; he won a Gold Glove in 1962. Virdon ranks sixth on the Bucs all-time list for games played by a Pirate outfielder. Virdon led the league with 10 triples in 1962. He has enjoyed an extensive coaching and managing career since the end of his playing days.
Best Year: In 1956, Virdon's first in Pittsburgh, he hit .319 23 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 Home Runs.
Fan Remembrances: Virdon will always be associated with the hard grounder to short in the 8th inning of game 7 of the 1960 World Series that hit Tony Kubek in the throat. The grounder could have resulted in a rally killing double play, but was a key turning point that allowed the Bucs to turn a 7-4 deficit into a 9-7 lead. In the Series, Virdon had 3 doubles, drove in 5 RBIs and scored twice.

On Sunday, 17 Mar 1996, Dave Noordhoff (dnoordho@icis.on.ca) sent me this note: "In spite of the famous grounder to Kubek, I best remember Bill's catches during the 1960 series, two great ones as I remember, but especially the one in Game 4, on a 400 plus foot drive to right centre by Bob Cerv (two on, one out, Pirates ahead 3-2 in the seventh, Face pitching). Face got the next hitter, Kubek on a grounder to the box, and the Bucs won 3-2, tieing the series. He also made a great catch on another 400 footer (hit by Berra) in Forbes in Game 1, score 3-1 for Bucs, two on, none out, Yankees had to settle for one run as a result. For the series, Bill made 18 putouts in 7 games (made an error, also, on a throw to plate in Game 6, which didn't cost anything) and hit 3 doubles and 4 singles that drove in 5 runs. He also had a hit in every game but the second. His stolen base after he walked in the first inning of Game 1 set up a three run inning. Pretty good for a leadoff man! I always told my boy that Van Slyke was the best centrefielder we had SINCE Virdon.

Virdon was part of a minor league package that moved from the Yankees to the Cards for Enos Slaughter in 1954. May 17, 1956: Virdon came to the Bucs in exchange for Dick Littlefield and Bobby Del Greco.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Bob Walk: #17

Years as a Buc: 1984-1993: Pitcher; Whirlybird
Total ML seasons: 14 seasons; he came up with the Phillies and also played with Atlanta before coming to Pittsburgh.
Career Highlights: Walk was 105-81 lifetime. He posted six straight winning seasons 1987-1992.
Best Year: In 1988, he was 12-10 with a 2.71 ERA and was named to the All-Star team. He threw a career high 212.2 innings that year while taking the ball for a career best 32 starts. The following year, Walk was 13-10, 4.41 in 31 starts and 2 relief appearances and turned in 196 innings of work.
Fan Remembrances: Walk started Game One of the 1980 World Series (as a Phillie in his rookie year) against Kansas City and won the game. His best game was probably his Game 5 victory over the Braves in the 1992 LCS. Walk allowed only three Braves hits in the 7-1 victory, while going the distance for the Bucs.

Bob Walk joined the Pirate broadcast team in 1994.

Photo on Cecil Greek's Pirates Page.


Owen Wilson

Years as a Buc: 1908-1913: Outfielder; Chief
Total ML seasons: 9 seasons; Wilson came up with the Bucs and then spent his last 3 years in St Louis - retiring in 1916.
Career Highlights: A career .269 hitter, Wilson hit an even .300 two consecutive years for the Bucs (1911-1912). He collected 1246 hits over his career. He hit 36 triples in 1912; that total stands as a Major League record for one season. Wilson stands 15th on the Pirates All-Time list for games played in the outfield.
Best Year: In 1911, he rapped a career best 34 doubles and 12 home runs, while batting .300 and adding 12 triples.
Fan Remembrances: December 12, 1913: Wilson went to the Cards with Art Butler, Dots Miller, Cozy Dolan, and Hank Robinson for Ed Konetchy, Mike Mowrey, and Bob Harmon.

Years as a Buc:
Total ML seasons:
Career Highlights:
Best Year:
Fan Remembrances:
Sources: Baseball Encyclopedia, 1995 Record and Information Guide (Media Guide) and Twin Killing: The Bill Mazeroski Story, by John T. Bird
Thanks to the Pirate team offices for their assistance with some of the uniform numbers.
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