Saturday, June 30, 2018

It's Not Bob, It's Roberto

Roberto Clemente left behind a legacy of excellence on the field, as well as the legacy of a man who worked tirelessly to provide aid and comfort to those less fortunate than himself.

He reached the big leagues at the right time - Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier and Minnie Minoso starred for the White Sox when Clemente was scouted by Brooklyn in his home of Puerto Rico. While he too would face discrimination for the color of his skin and for speaking English as a second language, the players that paved the way allowed Clemente to let his play on the field speak for him.

Clemente's MLB Career really took off in the 1960 season, his first of 15 All-Star appearances. He had struggled early in his career due to lingering back issues that stemmed from a car accident all the way back in 1955. He spent 6 months in the 1958 offseason in the U.S. Marine reserves, where daily conditioning and rigorous training alleviated some of the chronic back pain. By the start of the 1960 season, Clemente was fully healthy and ready to take his game to another level.

Clemente helped the Pirates to the 1960 World Series, which they won in 7 games. He hit .310 in the Series, and went on to win the batting title the following year.

Clemente would hit 200+ 4 times in the 1960s, winning the batting title in 3 of those seasons, and the league MVP award in the 4th. Defensively, Clemente was without equal. He won his first Gold Glove in 1961 - he would go on to be a Gold Glove winner for the rest of his career, 12 seasons in total.

By 1970, Topps finally corrected their convention of calling Clemente "Bob" instead of Roberto.

After his untimely death, Clemente continued to be featured on cards - especially in recent years.

Stadium Club in particular has produced some great cards of Clemente.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Some Preferred Pirates

Tomorrow I'll post about Roberto Clemente to close out Pirates' Week, but today I just felt like highlighting some of my favorite Pirate cards (non-Clemente division). Willie Stargell is probably the only person who could wear that hat and make it look cool.

I've always been a fan of the World Series "sub-set" in the main Topps set. Celebrations are great.

History made here, as Matty and Felipe finish 1-2 in the 1966 Batting race. They'd finish 2-3 in 1968 as well.

Catcher cards are often the more interesting - I've always felt the Pittsburgh colors worked well for most of the 80s Topps sets.


Veale was another candidate for the All-time rotation. He's 2nd all-time in Strikeouts for the team, and his glasses were a ubiquitous part of the 1960s. The letter jacket is awesome, too.

I think the 86 Topps set goes so well with the Pirates with the yellow contrasted against the black border. Had to include some bat rack guys, and of course "Pirates that look like Pirates."

Not 100% sure what's going on here - the giant stovepipe mesh pillbox hat, the crazy 80s confetti backdrop, and of course the hilarious "Smiley Scowl."

Some of my favorite horizontal shots - Managers hitting grounders or tossing batting practice are always a winning combo.

Some web gems!

And last but not least -the man, the myth, the legend.

Can't forget to show the back!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pirates' All-Time Team

Everybody likes lists, right? I sure do, especially Highly Subjective ones. Here are my picks for the All-Time Pirates Team, with a hat tip to for some photos and for some hints on the older generation's greats.

Catcher - Jason Kendall
- Pirates' All-Time Leader in HBP
- 3X All-Star as a Pirate
- hit .306 as a Pirate

First Base - Willie Stargell
-All-Time Pirates' leader in HR, RBI, and Walks.
- 1979 NL MVP
- 2X World Series Champ (1971 and 1979)
- 7X All-Star
- Hall of Famer

Second Base - Bill Mazeroski
- Pirates' All-Time Leader in Defensive WAR
- 10X All-Star
- 8X Gold Glove Winner
- 2X World Series Champ (1960 and 1971)
- Hall of Famer

Third Base - Pie Traynor
.320 Average, 2400+ hits, 1100+ Runs
1923 NL Triples Leader
2X All-Star (The first two all-star games)
World Series Champ (1925)
Hall of Fame

Short Stop - Honus Wagner
Pirates' All-Time Leader in WAR, Runs Scored, Times on Base. Tied for most games played.
8X NL Batting Champion
World Series Champ (1909)
723 Career Stolen bases (10th all-time in MLB history)
3420 Career Hits (8th all-time in MLB history)
252 Career triples (3rd all-time in MLB history)
1739 Career Runs Scored
Hall of Fame

Left Field  Right Field  - Roberto Clemente
(in left because Paul Waner has less range. Updated- of course he's in Right, don't know what I was thinking)
Pirates' All-Time Leader in Hits and Total Bases - Tied for most games played
15X All-Star
1966 NL MVP
12X Gold Glove Winner
2X World Series Champ (1960 and 1971)
1971 WS MVP
4X NL batting champ
Hall of Fame

Center Field - "Scoops" Carey
Pirates' All-Time leader in Stolen bases and sacrifice hits
10X NL Stolen base champ
World Series Champ (1925)
735 career Stolen bases (9th all-time in MLB history)
5th All-time in MLB history in Range Factor as a CF.
7th All-time in MLB history in OF Assists
2600+ career hits
1500+ career runs scored
Hall of Fame

Right Field  Left Field  - Paul "Big Poison" Waner
Pirates' All-Time leader in doubles, Runs Created
4X All-Star
3X NL batting champ
1927 NL MVP
National League Pennant winner (1927)
3100+ Career Hits
191 Career Triples (10th All-time in MLB history)
Hall of Fame

Bench -  Ralph Kiner, Arky Vaughn, Barry Bonds, Andrew McCutchen, Manny Sanguillen
Kiner (1B/RF/LF) - Pirates' All-time leader in AB/HR, 6X All-Star, 7X NL HR champ, HOF
Vaughn (3B/SS/2B) - 9X All-Star, 1935 batting champ (.385/.491/.607), HOF
Bonds - Pirates' All-Time leader in Power/Speed rating, 1990 and 1992 MVP, 3 Gold Gloves as Pirate.
McCutchen - 5X All-Star, 2013 NL MVP, 2012 NL Hits leader, 2014 NL OBP leader. 2012 GGlove
Sanguillen - Pirates' All-Time Leader in Smiles. 4th in Defensive WAR. RH pinch hit specialist.
1977 Dover Classic Baseball Cards Reprints - [Base] #BAAD - Babe Adams (Cracker Jack) - Courtesy of
photo courtesy of COMC

1986 TCMA All Time Pittsburgh Pirates - [Base] #10-PIR - Wilbur Cooper - Courtesy of
Photo courtesy of COMC

1911 T205 - [Base] - Piedmont Factory 25 Back #SALE - Sam Leever [GAI 4] - Courtesy of
photo courtesy of COMC

Starting Rotation - Babe Adams, Wilbur Cooper, Bob Friend, John Candelaria, Sam Leever.
Adams - 2X World Series Champ (1909 and 1925), Pirates' All-Time leader in Pitching WAR, shutouts
Cooper - Pirates' All-Time leader in Wins, 279 Career Complete Games, 35 Career Shutouts
Friend - Pirates' All-Time leader in Innings, Strikeouts, 3X All-Star, World Series Champ (1960) 
Candelaria - Pirates' All-Time leader in WPA, 1977 All-Star and ERA title. WS Champ (1979)
Sam Leever - 4X 20 game winner, 1903 ERA title, WS Champ (1909), 39 Career Shutouts

Bullpen - Kent Tekulve, Dave Giusti, Mike Williams, Tony Watson
Teke - Pirates' All-Time leader in ERA+, 1980 All-Star, WS Champ (1979), saved 3 games in 79 series
Giusti - 133 Saves as a Pirate, 1973 All-Star, WS Champ (1971), 1971 NL Saves leader.
Williams - 2X All-Star, 140 Saves as a Pirate, 11.7 K/9 in 1999
Tony Watson (Gotta have a LOOGY) - 2014 All-Star, NL Leader in Games Pitched (2014). career 2.61 ERA

Closer- Roy Face
Pirates' All-Time Leader in Games, Games Finished, Saves.
6X All-Star (in 3 different years)
World Series Champ (1960)
3X NL Saves Leader

Manager - Danny Murtaugh
2X World Series Champ as Manager (1960 and 1971)
1115 Career Wins

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Pirates Week - National Sunglasses Day

It's Pirates Week! And today is National Sunglasses Day so that fits right into my collecting wheelhouse.

Jay Bell was a fan of the flipdown shades. Orlando Merced has a kind of mixed metaphor going on with shades and a throwback uni combined. Topps Rookie All-Star Carlos Garcia turns two with four eyes, while Nate McLouth is being stared down by a wild animal on the outfield wall. Starling Marte contemplates who to invite to the next Marte Par-tay.

Harvey Haddix was a key member of the 1960 Pirate Championship team, and was back as a coach in 1979 and beyond. It wouldn't be a post about Pirates wearing glasses without Kent Tekulve.

Teke was similar to guys like Andrew Miller or Chris Devenski out of the pen. He could come into a game in any situation, and his side arm delivery would cause all kinds of problems for opposing hitters.

The patron saint of Shades!

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.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pirates Week (Topps All-Star Rookie Bucs)

It's Pirates Week at HSCA headquarters! Today, I'm taking a look at Pirates that have been named to the Topps All-Star Rookie squad over the years. First up is lefty Woody / Woodie Fryman.

His claim to fame is probably a half season he spent in Detroit. He was picked up off waivers by the Tigers in August of 1972, and he went 10-3 with a 2.06 ERA in 14 starts, propelling the Tigers to the playoffs. Fryman was a hit in Montreal as well, representing the Expos in the All-Star game in 1976. Fryman pitched in 18 seasons in the big leagues, having great success as a middle reliever at the tail end of his playing days.

SCOOP! He was 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1969, losing out to Dodgers' infielder Ted Sizemore. For his career, Oliver was a 7 time All-Star,  and played Center Field in the 1971 World Series for the Buccos. He was the NL batting champ in 1982, also leading the league in base hits, doubles, and RBI.

He was a career .303 hitter and finished with over 2700 hits, 525 doubles, 1100 runs scored, and 1300 RBI - He's one of several players from the 70s and 80s that make a compelling case for the Hall of Fame despite receiving little support from the voters.

Cash found a home in Philly in the 70s after several years competing for playing time in Pittsburgh against veterans like Bill Mazeroski and young talent like Rennie Stennett. He was the starter at 2nd in the 1971 series for the Pirates, teaming up with Al Oliver to bring home a title.

Cash was a 3-sport star in High School, and I believe it because Topps said so. His teammates in Philly gave him the nickname "A.C." because he was "Always Cool." Cash was one of the first big name free agents after the 1976 season, and surprised many by signing with the Montreal Expos. He would go on to play in the Senior League for two seasons, and had three stints as a minor league manager.

The Pirates did have a pair of catchers named to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team in the dark ages (when Topps failed to put the trophies on the cards) - Steve Nicosia in 1979 and Tony Pena in 1981.

It was feast or famine for a while for the Pirates - they would have no Rookie All-Stars for years at a time, then the 1987 and 1993 seasons had two each!

Al Pedrique had a decent rookie campaign for Pittsburgh, but he would be left in the dust the following season by Jose Lind and Rafael Belliard in the Pirates' middle infield. He signed as a free agent with Detroit, but his MLB career would last just 31 more games.

Mike Dunne was part of the Andy Van Slyke trade, and like Pedrique had his best season as a rookie. He cruised through the National League in 87, posting an ERA+ of 135 and finished 2nd in ROY balloting behind Benito Santiago.

Steve Cooke has a similar story, with a solid rookie campaign followed by diminishing returns. He hung around a bit longer, but was susceptible to the gopher ball, allowing 20+ homers in each of his first two seasons.

Carlos Garcia shares a few things in common with Al Pedrique. Both born in Venezuela, both middle infielders. Garcia, however, showed decent power numbers in his rookie year. He made the 1994 All-Star team, the only one in this group to make the midsummer classic roster. Garcia would also last the longest, playing in 9 seasons at the MLB level. His 12 homers in 1993 were his career high- he would never hit more than 6 in another season.

After another mini-drought, the Pirates came back in style with a ballplayer's ballplayer. Jason Kendall was a 3 time All Star for the Pirates, and was the heart and soul of the team for 9 seasons. He bounced around a bit at the end of his career, but he finished with over 2,000 career hits.

Early in his career, Kendall was known for his ability to steal bases - he swiped 20+ bags in three straight seasons. He finished with 189 steals in his career. With the exception of a 2001 experiment as a part time corner outfielder, Kendall was a steady presence behind the plate, catching in 2,025 career games.

Jose Guillen has one of my favorite Rookie Cup cards, shown with the newly completed statue of Pirates' great Roberto Clemente. Guillen had just jumped from Single-A all the way to the Pirates' Opening Day Roster.

He was known for an incredibly strong arm in Right Field, so the Clemente comparisons were tough to avoid. Guillen would bounce around between 10 different teams over his 14 year career, but made many memorable stops along the way. He reached the post-season just once, in 2003 with the Oakland A's. Oakland would lose the Divisional series against Boston, though Guillen hit .455 in 4 games. He finished up with over 1500 career hits and over 200 home runs.

The early 2000s were tough for small market teams (Moneyball was still getting started), but the young prospects offered hope.

Warren Morris had his biggest baseball moment with a 2 out walk off homer in the 1996 College World Series, and was a Bronze Medalist in the 1996 Olympics. With the Pirates he had 2 solid seasons in 1999 and 2000, but had a truncated 2001 season and was released by the Pirates before the 2002 season began. He latched on with the Twins, but was traded in June to Saint Louis. By July he was on waivers and picked up by Boston. He tried to make teams in Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, and was out of baseball by 2006.

Craig Wilson led the league in being hit by pitch twice in his career. He showed great promise as a rookie, crushing 13 homers in 88 games. Wilson had a great season in 2004, with a career high 29 homers and 147 hits. If not for the injury bug biting hard in 2005, Wilson could have found himself at the heart of the Bucs lineup for years to come.

Jason Bay was the only Pirate regular to have a better 2004 season than Wilson - Bay was the rookie of the year, hitting 26 homers and batting .282. His Sophomore season of 2005 was arguably the best of his career. He racked up 5.7 WAR, scored 110 runs, hit .306/.402/.559 with 32 homers and 21 stolen bases. He went to Boston in 2008 in a 3 team deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers and not much came back to Pittsburgh.

Mike Gonzalez was also traded to Boston, but he ended up coming right back 10 days later. It's complicated, so I'll just copy/paste from Baseball Reference:

July 22, 2003: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Scott Sauerbeck to the Boston Red Sox for Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez.
July 31, 2003: Traded by the Boston Red Sox with Freddy Sanchez and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brandon LyonAnastacio Martinez and Jeff Suppan.

So the Pirates gave up Scott Sauerbeck and Jeff Suppan to get Freddy Sanchez and some $$$. The rest of the pieces were just sent back. Gonzalez settled into an 11 year career as a lefty specialist, appearing in over 500 games, but only 444 and a third innings.

Hey look an MLB record for pinch hit home runs!

The flagship for these were terrible, so I am just going with Heritage. Can't say much about Andrew McCutchen that you won't already know - League MVP, intense competitor with a mix of power, average, speed - so I'll just say that he was the franchise player for the Pirates for 9 seasons.

The season after his MVP year, he was even a little better, leading the NL in OBP and OPS. The season before his MVP year he had career highs in hits (A league leading 194), runs scored, homers, and batting average. McCutchen was the key piece of the team that finally ended the Pirates' playoff drought.

Switch hitting infielder Neil Walker was the last Pirate to make the Rookie All-Star roster, which I find somewhat surprising given the number of talented young players to come through their system in the last 5 years.

Walker spent 7 seasons in Pittsburgh, and rapped out at least 120 hits in each year. He has been mostly a doubles hitter, with consistent seasons of double digit homers. He's currently in a rough stretch playing for the New York Yankees, hitting below the Mendoza line.

Who will be the next Pirate to be Topps All Star Rookie? 25 year old Colin Moran has played well so far this season, and may join some of the young stars from Atlanta on the 2018 squad.