Pittsburgh Pirates: Which Is Your Favorite Team Of All-Time?


Feb 13, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; A freshly painted logo adorns at wall at Pirate City before the Pittsburgh Pirates first spring training workout. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of my City of Champions co-writer Larry Snyder who posed the question, “Who is your favorite Pirates manager of all-time?,” comes the subjective question, “Which is your favorite Buccos team of all-time?”

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Some of the younger readers haven’t had the experience of following a Pittsburgh team that won a World Series, or perhaps their parents have told them stories of glory years gone by. After all, it’s been almost 36 years since the Pirates last won a World Series in 1979.

Prior to that, it was just eight years before that they had won their fourth ever world title in 1971. It had been since 1960 that Pittsburgh had brought home a World Series title when they did it in dramatic fashion that year.

Bill Mazeroski with one swing of the bat took the title away from the powerful New York Yankees as Maz homered in the bottom of the ninth over Yogi Berra’s head to win the title.

The Yankees would win the next two World Series in 1961 and 1962, but for 1960, the Pirates won the title in seven games losing three games in lopsided fashion but winning the four others.

In that 1960 series, New York won three games by scores of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0, but the other four games were decided by three runs or less in each of the four Pirates victories.

Up until 1960, the Pirates had won just two other World Series while appearing in an additional two other championship rounds in 1927 and the very first World Series played between the National and American Leagues in 1903. The other years that saw the Pirates become world champs were 1925 and 1909.

With five World Series titles to their name, for this article, only those championship teams will be put to the test to decide which team is the fan’s favorite. In their other two losing efforts in 1903 and 1927, the Pirates lost that first-ever series to the Boston Americans when the series was a best-of-nine instead of the current seven game series.

The Pirates, led by manager Fred Clarke, lost five of the eight games played. In 1927, the Bucs had no chance of winning going up against the infamous “Murderer’s Row” of the New York Yankees. Losing four straight games (5-4, 6-2, 8-1, 4-3), The Yanks had a lineup that might be the greatest in the history of Major League Baseball.

Their starting lineup consisted of Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, and Babe Ruth. Ruth would smack a then history making 60 home runs that stood until 1961. Gehrig added another 47, and of the starting eight batters, five hit above .300.

So between the 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979 teams, which would be the fan’s favorite? In 1903, Fred Clarke was the manager having held the position from 1900 and would stay on as the skipper until 1915. Bringing home Pittsburgh’s first World Series title, ironically, Clarke passed away just a few short months of his 88th birthday and just before the Pirates would win the series again in 1960.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates /

Pittsburgh Pirates

In winning that ’03 title, Clark had the great Honus Wagner playing the infield but Clarke was also a playing manager, something that had been popular during that era. The team had a few outstanding pitchers in Sam Leever and Deacon Phillippe.

Six years later, the Pirates returned to the World Series and defeated the mighty Detroit Tigers who had the pesky Ty Cobb leading the way. The series between the two would go the full seven games with each team winning a game then losing the next until with the series knotted at three a piece, Pittsburgh would prevail behind Babe Adams in the clincher 8-0.

Honus Wagner was still with the team and Fred Clarke was still player/manager. Sam Leever also became a two-time world champ still throwing pitches for the Bucs. With 110 regular season wins, the Pittsburgh Pirates would never again in their history win that many games. The closest they came was in 1902 with 103.

16 years later, the Pirates earned their way to another shot at the world title by facing the American League champion Washington Senators who had a hard throwing Walter Johnson on the mound.

But the Pirates now had Pie Traynor playing the hot corner and bolstered their lineup with Max Carey and Kiki Cuyler. Bill McKechnie led the team, a man who would end up in Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame as well as having Pittsburgh’s spring training stadium named after him in Bradenton, Florida, McKechnie’s one-time place of residence.

Those 1925 Pirates would finished 8 ½ games ahead of the New York Giants in the N.L. With 95 wins. In a full seven games, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1925 series outlasting the Senators. In game #7, Walter Johnson took the loss and the Pirates at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh stayed home with a 9-7 World Series clinching victory.

1927 was already mentioned so Buccos fans had to wait a long 33 years before they had another shot at being called world champions. Heading into the 1960 series, most experts gave the Pirates no chance against the heavy hitting Yankees. With Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Bill Skowron, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Yogi Berra, and a pitching staff that included Whitey Ford, and Ralph Terry, Pittsburgh seemed overwhelmed.

But Mazeroski smacked that famous home run off of Terry and made that most memorable trek around the bases that will forever be etched in Pittsburgh fan’s memories.

The Pirates had a colorful pitching staff of their own with Harvey Haddix, Bob Friend, Vern Law, and Vinegar Bend Mizell. Offensively, there was Smoky Burgess, Dick “Dr. Strange glove” Stuart, Maz, Dick Groat, Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon, and the great Roberto Clemente.

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  • For this writer, the next championship team in 1971 is my personal favorite to this day. 1971’s World Series winning team that defeated the Baltimore Orioles four games to three, just had some classic players with plenty of character, and a ton of heart.

    Led by Roberto Clemente, #21 would finally get the respect he had been seeking for so long with an incredible performance in the seven games played. Tragically, he would only play one more season of baseball before his untimely death.

    But in 1971, he and players like Willie Stargell, Richie Hebner, Dave Cash, Mazeroski again, Gene Alley, Bob Robertson, Rennie Stennett, Jose Pagan, the colorful and energetic, ever-smiling Manny Sanguillen would make for a solid lineup.

    With pitchers like Steve Blass, Dock Ellis, Mudcat Grant, Bruce Kison, Bob Moose, Luke Walker, and Bob Veale, the team would help Danny Murtaugh earn his second World Series after being the manager as well in 1960. Tragedy not only struck Clemente in the year ahead, but also for Bob Moose who was killed in a car accident five years later at just age 29.

    Finally, the Pirates last World Series appearance to date came in 1979, the year of “We are Family.” The team leader was clearly Willie Stargell, known to his teammates and fans as Pops. With Sister Sledge’s song being blared repeatedly during the season, Stargell made it a point to award players for their performances by handing them gold stars to place on their ball caps.

    The Pirates would edge the Montreal Expos for the National League East division crown, then sweep the Cincinnati Reds in the championship series three games to none to advance to the matchup with the Orioles.

    The men who wore the Black and Gold in 1979 were a colorful bunch, probably the most intriguing Pirates team ever. There was a story for nearly ever player on that team.

    Catcher Ed Ott became famous in 1977 when after a hard slide by Ott into the New York Mets’ second baseman Felix Milan, the Met player took offense to the hard slide and subsequently tried to hit Ott in the face while holding the baseball. Ott, a former wrestler, simply picked up Milan and body slammed him forcing a separated shoulder and essentially ending the second baseman’s career.

    Ott was joined by his teammates who all were outstanding players. Rennie Stennett was still with the team, and at third base was Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock. Omar Moreno manned center field and was stealing bases like a thief. The “Cobra” Dave Parker, replaced Roberto Clemente as Pittsburgh’s next great right fielder and had a cannon for an arm.

    Sanguillen was also on the roster, and interestingly enough Yogi Berra who saw the ball sail over his head in 1960 had his son Dale playing for Pittsburgh in 1971. The Pirates had a “hitman” in Mike Easler.

    The pitching staff had Bert Blyleven, born in the Netherlands. John “Candy Man” Candelaria was one of the team’s aces. The staff was rounded out with Bruce Kison, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker, Rick Rhoden, Jim Bibby, Ed Whitson, Kent “Teke” Tekulve, and Enrique Romo.

    So with five World Series winning teams, there may be fans unfamiliar with any of them. There may be old-timers who can remember the 1960 squad and the subsequent 70’s winning teams.

    For those who can recall one or more of these teams, the question remains, which is your favorite team Pirates fans?

    Next: Who is your favorite Pirates manager of all-time?

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