Top 50 Pittsburgh Pirates

One of the oldest teams in Major League Baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, began in the American Association as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1881.  They joined the National League in 1887 and changed their name to the Pirates four years later.

Pittsburgh won their first World Series in 1909, with Honus Wagner leading the way.  A second title came in 1925, but it would not be until 1960 when they won their third, punctuated by Bill Mazeroski’s Game 7 walk-off Home Run.  Led by Roberto Clemente, they won a fourth World Series in 1971, and their fifth came in 1979 with Willie Stargell and the “We Are Family” team.

This list is up to the end of the 2022 regular season.

Note: Baseball lists are based on an amalgamation of tenure, traditional statistics, advanced statistics, playoff statistics, and post-season accolades.

Honus Wagner is not just the man on the most elusive and most valuable baseball card in history; he is also the best player in Pittsburgh Pirates history. Playing his first three years with the Louisville Colonels, Wagner was dealt to Pittsburgh as part of the firesale that saw the end of the Colonel's existence.  Wagner would play for 17 years in Pittsburgh, and the case can be made that he was the top man in the first decade of the 1900s. Wagner won the National League Batting Title in 1900, and he set the tone for the decade, leading the…
If there were going to be anyone who would have supplanted Honus Wagner as the greatest Pittsburgh Pirate of all time, it would have been Roberto Clemente. The Pirates did not discover Clemente, as he was signed initially by the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Pirates plucked him in 1954 via the Rule 5 Draft, and he played all 18 of his MLB seasons in Pittsburgh.  Capturing the starting Rightfield job as a rookie, Clemente blossomed into a star and was one of the top Outfielders in baseball throughout the 1960s.  From 1960 to 1967, the Puerto Rican was a perennial All-Star, and he began…
The 1920s brought us the Home Run era that we still enjoy today, but spray hitters have never gone out of style.  One of the best was Paul Waner. Waner learned how to bat by hitting corncobs from Oklahoma, but that is not the most unique part about developing his skills.  Waner had poor eyesight, specifically due to astigmatism, and he learned how to hit the blurry baseballs in the middle.  Unique as it was, it worked, and he tore it up in the Minors and would land a job in Pittsburgh in 1926 as their Rightfielder. Waner had a terrific rookie year,…
Arky Vaughan played the bulk and best of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team he debuted in the Majors for in 1932 as a backup Shortstop. Vaughan took over for good as their starter the following year, leading the NL in Triples (19), and in 1934, he began a nine-year run (eight in Pittsburgh) of All-Star Game appearances.  The infielder had his best year in 1935, sweeping the league-lead in Slash Line (.385/.491/.607), and would belt a career-best 19 Home Runs.  Vaughn would finish third in MVP voting, a finish that would be his best. Vaughan remained one of the…
Willie Stargell was a Pittsburgh Pirate for all 21 of his Major League seasons, and he lived up to the first four letters of his last name. Signing in 1958 and debuting for Pittsburgh in 1962, Stargell became a starter in Leftfield in 1964, and he was a fixture in the Pirates starting lineup over the next 16 years.  A seven-time All-Star, Stargell was blessed with a phenomenal power game, blasting 475 Home Runs over his career, and was a two-time National League leader twice (1971 & 1973) in both of those years, he was the runner-up for the MVP.  Stargell was…
Playing all but one game of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Babe Adams was one of the best control Pitchers of his day. Adams played in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1906, and his contract would be traded to the Pirates shortly after.  1909 was the year he stuck, and in that year's World Series, he was their shining star, where he won three Games, posting a 1.33 ERA and a 0.889 WHIP.    Over the next few years, Adams was a high-end starter for the Pirates, and he would lead the NL in WHIP in 1911 and…
Of all of the phenomenal Home Run hitters that the game of Baseball has seen, only one of them led their league in going deep seven times in a row.  That man is Ralph Kiner. Kiner won his first Home Run crown as a rookie in 1946, albeit with only 23, but he also led the NL in Strikeouts (109) and had a Slugging Percentage of .430, which is not exactly a number befit for a Home Run titlist.  As weird as it is to say, the numbers of the 1946 National League HR winner were an aberration and not a pattern.…
Although Wilbur Cooper is considered one of the best pitchers in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was so long ago, and his legacy is often forgotten. From 1917 to 1924, Cooper was at his best and regularly in the top ten in virtually every pitching category in the National League. He was the first left-hander in the NL to hit 200 wins, but his overall total in that department did not exceed much more than that.  Advanced metrics have given Cooper a bit more of a look again, but at the very least, he should be remembered with greater fondness…
Max Carey made his Major League debut with the Pirates for a pair of Games in 1910, and while they did not know it then, they acquired the best base stealer in franchise history. Carey played in the Outfield, where he would have likely won a few Gold Gloves had they existed when he played.  Carey was not a power hitter but was a competent contact hitter, who batted over .300 six times, was a two-time leader in Walks, and collected 2,665 Hits over his career, most of which as a Pirate.  Once Carey got on base, that was where the real…
Barry Bonds might be one of the most controversial figures in baseball, but other than attitude, that wasn’t the story when he was a Pittsburgh Pirate. A First Round Pick (Sixth Overall) in 1985, Barry Bonds had the pedigree of a superstar, as the son of Bobby Bonds. Bonds made it to the Pirates the following year, and began 1987 as a starter in Left.  It was evident to anyone watching the Pirates that Bonds was a rare five-tool player, though it was equally apparent that he could be a handful for those who had to deal with him. Bonds had good…
Bob Friend played most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1951-63), where he quietly had one of the better decades of the National League's Pitchers. Friend cracked the Majors in 1951, but it was not until 1955 where he proved himself as a bona fide Starting Pitcher.  While his record was only 14-9, he led the NL in ERA (2.83) and bWAR for Pitchers (6.0).  Over the next three seasons, Friend was a workhorse leasing the league in Games Started in the first three years and Innings Pitched in the first two.  The three-time All-Star had his most decorated season in 1958,…
Andrew McCutchen was a former First Round Pick (11h Overall in 2005), and four years later, after tearing it up at every Minor League level, he took over in Centerfield for the Pirates. McCutchen finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting, and two years later, he went to the first of five consecutive All-Star Games.  Growing into the top Centerfielders in the National League, McCutchen showed power, with seven straight 20-Home Run years, speed with five consecutive 20-Stolen Base seasons, and he hit over .300 three times, including winning an On Base Percentage in 2014 (.410).  A four-time Silver Slugger,…

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Fred Clarke was one among the herd of players who was traded from the Louisville Cardinals to Pittsburgh at the turn of the century, but unlike the others, Clarke was brought in to serve as both a player and Manager. Clarke was Pittsburgh's starting Leftfielder for the first 12 years, and he provided 1,638 Hits with a .299 Batting Average with 261 Stolen Bases.  His best season as a player was 1903, where Clarke led the NL in Doubles (32), Slugging Percentage (.532), and OPS (.946), with a career-high .351 Batting Average.  Clarke would lead the Pirates to their first World Series…
With the nickname of "The Cobra" and a look that screamed, "badass," Dave Parker was one of the most popular baseball players of the late 70s and early 80s, and that was not just in Pittsburgh. Parker debuted in 1973 and was the Pirates starting Rightfielder two years later, with his first 20 HR, 100 RBI, .300 year. Parker was third in MVP voting that season and was third again in 1977, where he won the Gold Glove and won the Batting Title (.338), led the NL in Hits (215) and Doubles (44).  He won his second Batting Title (.334) and Slugging…
A Pittsburgh Pirate throughout his entire MLB career, Pie Traynor is one of the names that come up when discussing the best Third Baseman of the first half of the 1900s. Traynor played a handful of games for Pittsburgh in 1920 and 1921, and from 1922 to 1935, he was their starting Third Baseman.  Traynor did not hit a lot of Home Runs (58), but he hit in the clutch, exceeding 100 RBIs six times.  He never won a Batting Title but was often in the hunt, finishing over .300 ten times, and he concluded his career with a lifetime .320 Batting…
Sam Leever played the entirety of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team he first joined in 1898. After playing five Games in 1898, at age 27, Leever had a good rookie year in 1899, leading the NL in Games Pitched (51) and Innings Pitched (379), though he had a losing record (21-23) and had a 3.18 ERA.  Leever never had a season where he pitched over 300 Innings again, and he was far more effective, never having an ERA over three and winning the ERA Title in 1903.  He had four 20-Win seasons, winning 194 Games against only 100 Losses,…
When the name Bill Mazeroski comes up, the automatic response is "World Series-winning Game 7 Home Run".   Maz was a lot more than that. Mazeroski played his entire MLB career with Pittsburgh, debuting in 1956 and staying until 1972.  Playing at Second Base, Mazeroski would be an All-Star in seven different years, collecting 2,016 Hits with 138 Home Runs.  Mazeroski never batted .300, but his lifetime Batting Average of .260 was respectable, though his .299 career OBP did hamper him, and did reflect on this list.  Still, nothing he ever did with his bat will be remembered as much as the walk-off Home Run…
How often is an athlete described as "small in stature but big in heart"?  This analogy has been used more times than we can determine but far too often, but it was an accurate assessment when describing the turn of the century ballplayerTommy Leach. "Wee" Tommy Leach was a triples machine and one of the fastest ballplayers in his day.  Leach hit a few Home Runs in the Dead Ball era, though most were of the inside-the-park variety.  Leach was a power hitter for this time and often cleared the bases, or would himself get on base for the legendary Honus Wagner who…
A Louisville Colonel for the first season of his career (1899), Deacon Phillippe was one of many players to be transferred to the Pittsburgh Pirates when the Colonels folded before the century's turn.  In Western Pennsylvania, Phillipe played the rest of his professional career, which turned out to be a pretty good one. Phillippe won 21 Games with Louisville, and he would be a 20 Game winner in his first four seasons with Pittsburgh.  The Virginian's calling card was his control, leading the National League in BB/9 five times, SO/BB four times, and FIP twice.  He was a huge reason that the Pirates…