Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I Love The 80's: The 1981 Pittsburgh Pirates

Last time, we looked at the Pirates' NL Rival for much of the 1970s, the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates entered the 1980s as the World Champions, and performed admirably in a tough NL East Division. Pops Stargell was still the team's leader, though his contributions on the field had regressed. The 1980 club finished 3rd in the division, led by a dynamic outfield of Dave Parker, Mike Easler, and Omar Moreno. On the Mound, 35 year old Jim Bibby was the team's ace, ahead of future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and young hurler Rick Rhoden. The bullpen was led by closer Kent Tekulve and swingman Eddie Solomon.
The Strike shortened 1981 season was rough on the Bucs. Stargell played in just 38 games, Blyleven returned to the American League via trade, and the addition of 40 year old Luis Tiant did not tip the scales in their favor. Bill Madlock was the team's best player, with converted starter Eddie Solomon and Jim Bibby contributing on the hill. The 80s would see the Pirates reload and rebuild from the Stargell era Fam-A-Lee to start again with Bonds, Bonilla, Doug Drabek, et al.

Here are the Cards!

. . . and the backs

Manny Sanguillen Topps #226 - Sanguillen is one of a handful of players that were on both the 1971 and the 1979 World Series squads. By 1980, he had become the main Right handed bat off the bench for the Pirates, with 42 pinch hits in his career in that role. He was traded to Cleveland after the 1980 season along with Bert Blyleven. Sanguillen did not play after the 1980 season. The 3 time All-Star is a frequent visitor / ambassador for the Pirates at Spring Training and at PNC Park.

Dave Parker Kellogg's 3-D Super Stars #13 - The Cobra was in his prime playing years in 80/81, though he would have another decade of ballplaying ahead of him. 1980 would be the first time his average dipped below .300 since his first full season, but he still was a force in the middle of the Pirates' lineup. The 1978 NL MVP was a 2 time batting champ, a 7 time All-Star to go with 3 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Slugger awards.

Willie Stargell Topps #380 - Stargell was the team's leader and provided them with their identity after the tragic loss of Roberto Clemente. He embraced the role and by 1980 he was influencing the team's fashion, handing out Stargell Stars that would be added to his teammate's hats like the stickers on Ohio State football helmets.

John Candelaria Donruss #374 - The Candy Man was just The Man in the late seventies as the team's best pitcher. He would run into injury issues in 1981 that limited him to just 6 appearances. The 1977 ERA champ would be traded in 1985 to California, and would end up playing for six different teams over the final decade of his career. His 1990 stint with the Twins was a bright spot on a cellar dwelling team, and his mid season trade would bring key OF bat Pedro Munoz to Minnesota. As a Twins fan, I am thankful for that trade!

Willie Stargell Donruss #132 - In 1980 and 1981, Stargell would play in less than 100 games combined. The Hall of Famer had turned 40, and was showing some of the wear and tear from carrying the team on his shoulders for nearly a decade. He led the majors in home runs hit in the 1970s, just one of the stats that would propel him to the Hall of Fame. I had to include a 2nd Stargell card on this sheet because his STAR hat is so good.

Bert Blyleven Donruss #135 - Bert only spent three seasons in the National League, and though he speaks highly of his teammates in Pittsburgh, and of course loved winning a World Series, he was not a big fan of the National League rules. He had 10 or more complete games in every season of his career before coming to the NL, and 1979 was the first time he did not throw at least one shutout. He was not a great hitter, but even if he were "good for a pitcher" he would probably still give way to a pinch hitter more often than not in a close game. The inability to pitch as deep into games as he was used to frustrated him and he basically orchestrated his own exit following the 1980 season. He was traded to Cleveland for a package of 4 players, none of which really made up for losing a Hall of Fame pitcher.

John Candelaria Topps #265 - Candelaria was a near instant hit in Pittsburgh in 1975 with his long shaggy hair and prodigious moustache. Of course, it was his play on the field that made him a star. He gave up a lot of homers early in his career, but his ability to limit walks made up for that. For his career he averaged 2.1 walks per 9 innings and had a nearly 3 to 1 strike out to walk ratio. He also was a good fielder, finishing with just 11 errors in his 2500+ innings pitched.

Phil Garner Fleer #364 - Garner represented the Pirates in the All-Star game in 1980 and 1981. He primarily played 2nd Base for Pittsburgh, though he also filled in at Shortstop. He was already an All-Star when he arrived in the Steel City from Oakland in 1977. He just missed Oakland's 3 World Series championships, on the regular season roster but not the playoff squad. "Scrap Iron" was a solid contributor to the Pirates' 1979 run, however, hitting .500 in the Series with 4 doubles and 5 runs batted in.

Kent Tekulve Topps #695 - Teke was the main bullpen option for Pittsburgh from 1976 through 1984 - appearing in 722 games with an impressive 2.68 ERA as a Pirate. With the exception of the Strike year of 1981, Teke finished at least 50 games for 7 straight seasons. He compiled 184 career saves in a time when saves were not necessarily the goal of the bullpen ace. Unlike his teammates Blyleven and Candelaria, he was especially stingy with homeruns, allowing just 0.40 homers per nine innings. In 1979 he was the NL leader in WPA (win probability added - the change in win expectancy based on a player's actions). In the 1979 World Series, he saved 3 of the team's 4 victories.

1 comment:

  1. That 1981 Topps Pops card is awesome! Love how he's watching that ball take off. His Donruss card is cool too. Don't think I've taken the time in three decades to appreciate his STAR hat.