Pittsburgh Pirates: Looking Back At Opening Day On Five World Series Runs


The Pittsburgh Pirates were Buster Olney’s choice in March to win the 2015 World Series over the Seattle Mariners. Olney is the senior baseball writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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Clint Hurdle’s squad opens the 2015 season Monday, April 6 on the road at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati against the Reds. Left-hander Francisco Liriano will be on the mound for the Pirates. Cincy will counter with righty Johnny Cueto.

The thought of Opening Day, has me wondering, In the years that the Bucs went the distance and won the championship, how did they do on opening day? Can we predict how they will fair, this year, from Monday’s results? Let’s take a look back at these pitchers who started the season for the Jolly Roger crew.

Their first World Series championship came in 1909 and manager Fred Clarke opted for Howie Camnitz to start the season opener against the Reds at the Palace of the Fans in Cincinnati. The 5-foot-9, 169-pound right-hander won the contest 3-0, and went on to register a 25-6 record that season with a 1.62 earned-run-average and 133 strike-outs.

Pittsburgh claimed a 110-42 mark under Clarke and captured their first World Series four games to three against the Detroit Tigers. The 110 victories still stands as the most wins in a single season in team history. They also opened a new ball park on June 30, 1909 and it was known as Forbes Field.

We set the controls of the “Wayback Machine” for 1925 and manager Bill McKechnie selects left-hander Emil Yde to take the hill for the Bucs against Chicago at Cubs Park. It became known as Wrigley Field in 1927.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound southpaw lost 8-2 that day, but rebounded to go 17-9 with a 4.13 ERA and 41 strike-outs. McKechnie’s squad went 95-58 and defeated the Washington Senators four games to three in the Fall Classic.

The next stop through the “Time Tunnel” is 1960 and I was five-years-old when Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh selected Bob Friend to get the season started against the Braves at County Stadium in Milwaukee. The 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander lost 4-3, but wrapped up the campaign 18-12 with a 3.00 ERA and 183 strike-outs.

Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a home run in the season opener as well as the most famous home run in World Series history when he took down the New York Yankees 10-9 in a Game 7 for the ages.

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  • When you and I emerge next from the “Doctor’s Tardis”, it is 1971 and Danny Murtaugh was back for the third time at the helm of the Bucs. He gave the ball to Dock Ellis to begin the season at Three Rivers Stadium against the Philadelphia Phillies. The stadium opened the year before in July 1970.

    The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander won 4-2 as he put together a 19-9 mark with a 3.06 ERA and 137 strike-outs for the season. When it came to playing in October, the first scheduled night World Series contest was Game 4 at Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh grounded the Baltimore Orioles 4 games to three.

    Our last stop in Mr. Wells’ “Time Machine” is 1979. New Castle’s Chuck Tanner is in charge of the dugout and he goes with Bert Blyleven in the season opener against the Montreal Expos at Three Rivers Stadium.

    While the future Hall of Famer went down to defeat 3-2, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-hander finished the season 12-5 with a 3.60 ERA and 172 strike-outs. The “We Are Family” gang hooked up with the Baltimore Orioles again in the World Series, and came away with the championship four games to three.

    When we add it all up, Pittsburgh went 2-3 on Opening Day in their World Series runs. Will this season see the crew of the Jolly Roger set sail on a sixth World Series adventure? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

    Date To Remember: The Pirates home opener along the North Shore is Monday, April 13 at 1:35 p.m. against the Detroit Tigers.

    From The Clipboard: The Cincinnati Reds Monday morning released former Bucs left-hander Paul Maholm. Should the Pirates bring him back to work with pitching coach Ray Searage?…Coming into Monday, Pittsburgh is 13-10 on the Grapefruit Circuit with 98 runs scored and 117 runs allowed… Joel Reuter at Bleacher Report has the Pirates at No. 7 in his pre-opening day Power Rankings.

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