Pittsburgh Pirates

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This article is on the baseball team. For the National Hockey League team (1925 - 1930), see Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL). Also, the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers were named the Pirates from 1933 to 1940.

Template:MLB infobox Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a Major League Baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are in the Central Division of the National League.

Franchise history

Early History

Before it was named the Pirates, this baseball club was called Allegheny, when the north side of the three rivers was a separate city (as with Brooklyn and New York). Sometimes erroneously referred to in modern references as "the Alleghenys" or "the Alleghenies" as if it were the team nickname. The plural form "Alleghenys" was used in newspapers in the same way that the club from Chicago was "the Chicagos" or the club from New York was "the New Yorks". The ballclub was renamed Pittsburg (and eventually Pittsburgh) after the City of Pittsburgh annexed the Allegheny government. The ballclub was sometimes dubbed the Innocents during the 1880s.

After the 1890 season, when the one-year-wonder called the Players' League had broken up, a number of the "rebel" players were assigned to League and Association clubs, typically to their previous clubs, provided they had been reserved by their former teams' owners. Highly-regarded second baseman Lou Bierbauer, who had previously played with the Philadelphia Athletics of the Association, was instead awarded to the Pittsburgh National Leaguers on the grounds that the A's had not reserved him. This led to loud complaints by the Athletics that the Pittsburgh club were "Pirates". This incident (which is discussed at some length in The Beer and Whisky League, by David Nemec, 1994) quickly accelerated into a schism between the leagues that pretty well finished off the old A.A. In any case, the colorful epithet stuck with the Pittsburghers, and eventually became the club's official nickname. It was first acknowledged on the team jerseys in 1912, but even by the 1903 World Series, "Pirates" was in common usage.

In its early days, the club benefitted three times from mergers with defunct clubs. The AA club picked up a number of players from a defunct Columbus, Ohio team in 1885. In 1890, they merged with the Pittsburgh team from the Players League after that league folded. In 1900, the Pirates picked up star players from the defunct Louisville, Kentucky club, including greats like Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke (who also served as the team's manager from 1900 to 1915), triggering a long string of pennants.


The 1901-1903 Pirates completely dominated the National League, in part because they lost few star players to the rival American League. However, owing to injuries to their starting pitchers, they lost the first World Series ever played, in 1903 to Boston. Deacon Phillippe pitched five complete games, winning three of them; but it was not enough. With largely the same star players, the Pirates would continue to be a strong team over the next few years and got their first World Series title in 1909, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games.

The decline of Honus Wagner, considered by many to be the greatest shortstop ever, and by a number of his contemporaries to be a greater player than Ty Cobb, led to a number of losing seasons, culminating in a disastrous 51-103 record in 1917, Wagner's last season. However, veteran outfielder Max Carey and young players Pie Traynor and Kiki Cuyler, along with a remarkably deep pitching staff, brought the Pirates back into the spotlight. The Pirates recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the 1925 World Series over the Washington Senators, and reached the 1927 World Series before losing in a sweep to the New York Yankees, who at that time had built the most dominant team in baseball. The 1927 season was the first for the sharp-hitting combination of brothers Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner, who along with shortstop Arky Vaughan ensured that the Pirates had plenty of Hall of Fame-caliber position players through 1941. However, the crushing defeats of 1927, and also of 1938 when they lost the pennant to the Chicago Cubs in the final days of the season, took awhile to recover from.

The post-World War II years were not kind to the Pirates, despite the presence of a genuine superstar in Ralph Kiner. The Pirates would have only one winning season until 1958, when Danny Murtaugh took over as manager. Murtaugh is widely credited for inventing the concept of the closer by frequently playing pitcher ElRoy Face late in close games. The 1960 team featured eight All-Stars, but was widely predicted to lose the World Series to a powerful New York Yankees team. In one of the most memorable World Series in history, the Pirates were defeated by more than ten runs in three games, won three close games, then recovered from a 7-4 deficit late in Game 7 to eventually win on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman otherwise better known for defensive wizardry. In an amusing sidelight, the 1960 Pirates were the only team between 1945 and 2001 to have not succumbed to the so-called "Ex-Cubs Factor" in the post-season.

The 1960s would continue with extremely solid defensive play by Mazeroski and the first Puerto Rican superstar, Roberto Clemente. Clemente was regarded as both one of the game's best all-time hitters and right fielders. Although not the first black-Hispanic baseball player (an honor belonging to Minnie Minoso) Clemente's charisma and leadership in humanitarian causes made him an icon across the continent. However, the Pirates struggled for the remainder of the decade, and Murtaugh was replaced by Harry Walker in 1965.

1970-1979 and "The Family"

Slugger Willie Stargell became a fixture in the Pittsburgh lineup in the late 1960s, and the Pirates would return to prominence in 1970 when Murtaugh returned as manager and the Pirates' home field, Forbes Field, was demolished in favor of the multi-purpose Three Rivers Stadium. In 1971, The Pirates won their first of five division titles over the next six years, and won their fourth World Series the next year behind a .414 Series batting average by Clemente. They also thought they had a genuine superstar pitcher (historically rare for the Pirates) in Steve Blass, who pitched two excellent games in the World Series and put together excellent seasons in 1968 and 1972.

Clemente died tragically in a plane crash in 1972 while accompanying a shipment of relief supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. The Baseball Hall of Fame waived its usual waiting requirement and inducted Clemente immediately; Pittsburgh would eventually erect a statue and name a bridge and park near the stadium after him. In 1973, Blass suffered a mysterious breakdown in his pitching abilities and posted an outrageous 9.85 ERA. Some speculated that the emotional shock of his friend Clemente's death contributed to his breakdown. He retired soon afterwards; he has now been one of the Pirates' radio and TV announcers for almost two decades.

Stargell, speedy Omar Moreno and power-hitting but ostentatious and unpopular Dave Parker became the cornerstones of the Pirates as Murtaugh left and Chuck Tanner took over as manager in 1977. Adopting the then-popular disco anthem "We Are Family" as their theme song, the Pirates won a fifth World Series, again in seven games, in 1979.

1980s & 1990s: The Leyland Era and Decline

Following was a period of decline until the Pirates were regarded as the worst team in baseball during the mid-1980s. Jim Leyland took over as manager, and the Pirates gradually climbed out of the cellar behind young and exciting players such as "outfield of dreams" Bobby Bonilla, Barry Bonds, and Andy Van Slyke; infielders Jay Bell and Jose Lind; and pitchers Doug Drabek and Stan Belinda.

The Pirates would win the first three division titles of the 1990s, but failed to advance to the World Series each time, the second two losing closely contested seven-game series to the Atlanta Braves on questionable calls at the end of the final games.

Before the 1993 season, Bonds left for a more lucrative contract with his hometown San Francisco Giants. Both Bonds and Bonilla complained about the preferential treatment given to fan favorite Van Slyke, although Bonilla flatly rejected Bonds's suggestion that racism was a motivating factor.

Since then, the Pirates have not had a winning season. The closest to a winning team was the 1997 "Freak Show" team, which finished second in the NL Central, only being eliminated in the season's final week, despite having a losing record and a payroll of only $9 million. Their overall lack of success in the last decade have been blamed partly on former General Manager Cam Bonifay, who gave large contracts to players such as Derek Bell while failing to identify, develop, and retain numerous young potential star players. Despite poor play in 2001, Bell announced that he would begin "Operation Shutdown", a passive-aggressive ploy in which he would fail to play effectively in response to losing his role as a starter.

The failure of the Pirates to compete in recent years has been blamed on "small market syndrome"; teams located in small cities such as Pittsburgh and Kansas City cannot compete with New York City and Boston without a salary cap or similar agreement, as the better players tend to gravitate towards cities where teams generate more revenue, meaning larger salaries.

2000-present: The PNC Park Years

The Pirates opened a new stadium, PNC Park, in 2001. Due to its simple, unpretentious concept and strategic usage of the remarkably beautiful Pittsburgh skyline, it is frequently regarded (as in a recent ESPN article) as currently the best park in baseball. Despite this, the Pirates' mediocre performance has translated to subpar attendance figures.

Current General Manager Dave Littlefield was installed midway through the 2001 season and began overhauling the team to comply with owner Kevin McClatchy's dictum to drastically reduce the payroll. Enigmatic but talented third baseman Aramis Ramirez was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 for a fairly minimal return under pressure to dump his $6 million salary for 2004, and he proceeded to become a star for the Cubs. Brian Giles was one of the National League's best hitters for several years, but he and his $9 million salary were also traded in 2003 to the San Diego Padres for youngsters Oliver Pérez, Jason Bay, and Cory Stewart. Pirate fans found this trade much more palatable in the short run, as Pérez led the majors in strikeouts per inning and Bay won the Rookie of the Year Award award in 2004, while Giles put up a subpar season by his standards. After the 2004 season, Kendall went to the Oakland Athletics in a cross-exchange of high-salary players. Though this rash of trades has not been popular in Pittsburgh, it is generally accepted that it can mostly be attributed to the aforementioned "small market syndrome." It is felt that Littlefield is attempting, with perhaps mixed success, to follow the blueprint created by overachieving small market teams such as the Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins, often referred to as the moneyball approach, so-named after the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael M. Lewis. Illustrating the Pirates rebuilding efforts is the fact that at the close of the 2005 season, the team fielded the youngest roster in baseball, with an average age of 26.6. The next youngest team was the Kansas City Royals, with an average age of 27.1. The team also called-up 14 players from its Triple-A affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians, 12 of whom made their first major league appearance.

All-Star Games

The Pirates have hosted the MLB All-Star Game a total of four times. The first game occurred on July 11, 1944. The National League won the competition 7-1, with 12 hits to the American League's 6 hits. The second time the All-Star game visited Pittsburgh was on July 7, 1959. The National League again took the game 5-4, getting 9 hits to the American League's 8 hits. The third All-Star game in Pittsburgh was on July 23, 1974. The National League again took the contest 7-2, with 10 hits against an American League effort of just 4. It was July 12, 1994 when the All-Star game visited Pittsburgh for the fourth time. It was a tight contest, with the A.L. leading by two runs going into the bottom of the 9th. The N.L. posted two runs that inning to tie the score and force extra innings. The N.L. won the game 8-7 in the bottom of the 10th inning.

The MLB has once again chosen Pittsburgh as a host city for the All-Star game. In 2006, baseball's best will visit the Pirates' home stadium, PNC Park, which has gained much recognition as one of the prettiest baseball parks in America. Since the Pirates hosted the 1944 and 1959 games in Forbes Field, and the 1974 and 1994 games in Three Rivers Stadium, this will be third ballpark with which the Pirates will showcase MLB's All-Stars, a feat achieved by no other franchise.


100 Wins in a Season. There has been only one Pirate manager who has recorded more than 100 wins during a single season with the team. Fred Clarke did it first in 1902 with a 103-36 record, and a second time in 1909 with a 110-42 record. The Pirates won the Pennant in 1902, but went further in 1909 with a World Series victory over Detroit.

100 Losses in a Season. There have been six different Pirate managers who have suffered more than 100 losses in one season. Guy Hecker in 1890 (23-113), Jim Callahan and Honus Wagner in 1917 (51-103), Billy Meyer in 1952 (42-112), Fred Haney in 1953 and 1954 (50-104, 53-101), Chuck Tanner in 1985 (57-104) and Lloyd McClendon in 2001 (62-100).

Quick facts

Founded: 1882, as a charter member of the American Association. Transferred to the National League in 1887.
Uniform colors: Black and gold
Logo design: Pirate caricature superimposed on crossed baseball bats
Official mascot: Pirate Parrot
Playoff appearances (14): 1903, 1909, 1925, 1927, 1960, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1990, 1991, 1992
Current Manager: Jim Tracy
Current G.M.: Dave Littlefield

Baseball Hall of Famers

Current roster

Pittsburgh Pirates roster

Minor league affiliations


  • McCollister, John (1998). The Bucs!: The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Lenexa: Addax Publishing Group. ISBN 1886110409.
  • Nemec, David (2004). The Beer and Whisky League : The Illustrated History of the American Association—Baseball's Renegade Major League, Guilford: The Lyons Press. ISBN 1592281885.

See also

External links


de:Pittsburgh Pirates fr:Pirates de Pittsburgh ja:ピッツバーグ・パイレーツ sv:Pittsburgh Pirates