Pittsburgh Sports: Honors And Awards Aplenty

1 of 2

Recently, City of Champions published an article profiling Major League Baseball players that played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and have won the Most Valuable Player Award. Taking a look back over the history of professional baseball, football, and hockey, representatives of Pittsburgh sports have won plenty of awards.

More from Pittsburgh Sports

Staying with the topic of professional baseball, aside from M.V.P.s, the Pittsburgh Pirates have brought home other hardware as well. At each season’s end, the best pitchers in the National and American leagues are honored with a trophy named after one of the greatest pitchers ever, Cy Young. Only twice in the history of that award have members of the Buccos won the trophy. Those two men are Vernon Law and Doug Drabek. Law took the trophy in 1960 while Drabek turned the trick 30 years later.

While the Most Valuable Players and Cy Young Award winners have been made known, there have been only four other players in MLB history that won awards while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The two awards were the Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year. The only man to win the award presented to the top rookie in the National League was Jason Bay in 2004.

Bay played his final season in 2013 with the Seattle Mariners. He debuted as a full-time player with the Bucs in 2004 when he played in 120 games and finished the season with a .282 batting average. To boot, Bay smacked 26 home runs and scored 82 RBIs. Bay also scored 61 times. The following season he would play in all 162 games.

With five World Series titles under their belt, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had just three managers who were honored with being named National League Manager of the Year. Clint Hurdle won the award in 2013 and Jim Leyland won it twice in 1990 and 1992.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh Pirates /

Pittsburgh Pirates

The award process began in 1983 so Chuck Tanner (1979), Danny Murtaugh (1960 and 1971), Bill McKechnie (1925), and Fred Clarke (1909) were unable to be named the Manager of the Year when they led their teams to a World Series title.

With the Pittsburgh Pirates owning five world titles, one of their counterparts in town, the Pittsburgh Steelers hold six Lombardi Trophies for winning the Super Bowl. While the Buccos only have a handful of award winners, the Black and Gold on the gridiron have seen 25 players honored with one award or another.

When an NFL team wins the Super Bowl, it is rare that the M.V.P. in the game comes from the losing team. So with the Steelers, they have had a player winning the award with each of their Super Bowl triumphs.

It began with Franco Harris in Super Bowl IX and when the Steelers repeated the following season, Lynn Swann became the game’s Most Valuable Player. Winning back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1978 and 1979 seasons saw Terry Bradshaw winning two game MVPs.

The “One for the Thumb” victory in Super Bowl XL had Hines Ward taking home a Super Bowl MVP award. Finally, in their last Super Bowl victory, Santonio Holmes clinched winning the honor with a final series domination that culminated with a championship winning, spectacular, touchdown reception.

When they have not been winning Super Bowls, there have been players recognized for other accomplishments as they played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Defense has commonly been known as the M.O. for the football Black and Gold and seven players have been named as the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year. Those magical seven are Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Rod Woodson, Jack Lambert, Mel  Blount, and Joe Greene twice.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers /

Pittsburgh Steelers

As Jason Bay was the only Pittsburgh Pirate to be awarded as his league’s top rookie, six Pittsburgh Steelers players took the same honor in the National Football League‘s AFC. On the offensive side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger with his magnificent rookie campaign of 2004, when he led the team to 15 straight victories before bowing out to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game, was easily named top rookie. He was matched 20 years earlier by Louis Lipps. In 1972, with his “Immaculate Reception” stored away in history as one of the greatest plays ever, Franco Harris was the Rookie of the Year.

Defensively, Joe Greene, one of the greatest defensive ends ever, received the honor in his rookie year of 1969 despite the Steelers finishing a lowly 1-13. During the year of perhaps the greatest draft in the history of the NFL, 1974 saw Jack “The Count” Lambert winning the award. 2001 finished with Kendrell Bell taking the honor.

The late great Walter Payton has an award named in his honor. His name precedes Man of the Year. The trophy is presented to the player who best exemplifies volunteer and charity contributions in addition to showing excellence on the field. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jerome Bettis, now a Hall of Famer, received the award in 2001. Lynn Swann was a winner in 1981 and Franco Harris in 1976.

Other players to win awards for the Pittsburgh Steelers were just two. Again Jerome Bettis won a trophy in 1996 when he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in a trade with the St. Louis Rams on draft day. At seasons’ end he was named  Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year. Six seasons later, Tommy Maddox became the second Steeler to be so named.

Next: Penguins And Panthers: Who Brought Home The Trophies