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.

We have to go back to the 1880s for this one, Pitcher Ed Morris, who was one of the many players purchased by Pittsburgh from the folding Columbus Buckeyes after the 1884 Season. Morris went off to have a brief but explosive career on the mound for the Alleghenys/Pirates, winning 80 Games in his first two years and throwing well over 1,100 Innings.  Morris led the American Association in Shutouts in both 1885 and 1886, with both seasons keeping his ERA under 2.50.  The workhorse also led the league in WHIP in both years, and he also was the league leader in…
Vern Law played all of his sixteen seasons in the Majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where the right-handed Pitcher performed as one of their top hurlers. Law debuted for Pittsburgh in 1950, and after a few Games, was obligated to go to the American Military.  The Pitcher returned to the Pirates in 1954 and to their staff, where he moved up and down their rotation for years.  Law had his breakout year 1959, with a 2.98 ERA and 18 Wins.  The Pirates were ready to advance to the postseason in 1960, with Law winning 20 Games with a 3.08 ERA, and he was…
Hoyt Wilhelm generally receives credit for being the game's first great reliever.  History may eventually show that Wilhelm was not the only prototype for relievers, asRoy Facedeserves to be considered in that discussion too. Roy Face was the first pitcher to record twenty saves in a season (1958).  He would lead the senior circuit in that category three times.  Roy Face still holds the record for the highest winning percentage in a season with a whopping .947 (18 wins to 1 loss in 1959).  Face used his forkball to get Pirate teams out of jam after jam and racked up multiple wins,…
Lloyd Waner was one of the most consistent slap hitters of his day, and though he was not a flashy player, you know what you were going to get, which was pretty damned good. Waner debuted in 1927, and had there been a Rookie of the Year; he likely would have won it.  He batted a career-high .355, collected 223 Hits, and led the NL in Runs Scored (133).  Waner did not beat that Batting Average again, but he cracked .300 nine more times, had four 200-Hit years, and was the league-leader in Triples (20) in 1929.   After his skills declined in…
One of the most underrated Pitchers in Pirates history, John Candelaria, was on many good Pittsburgh teams, though most fans were focused on the offensive stars of the team. Candelaria was in the Pirates organization for sixteen years, beginning as a Second Round Pick in 1972 until he was traded to the Angels during the 1985 Season.  First making the Pirates in 1975, the "Candy Man" was a regular starter the following year, throwing a no-hitter as a sophomore.  Statistically, his best season was 1977, where the southpaw led the NL in ERA (2.34) and BB/9 (2.0), won 20 Games, was fifth…
Andy Van Slyke began his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, where after four years, he was dealt to the Pirates.  It was a great move for Van Slyke, as his career took off at Three Rivers. Van Slyke mostly in Centerfield, and in 1988, his second year with Pittsburgh, Van Slyke went to his first All-Star Game, led the NL in Triples (14), and set career-highs in Home Runs (25) and RBIs (100).  He won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger and was fourth in MVP voting.   Van Slyke would struggle offensively the following year, but his defense remained an…
Jesse Tannehill had a cup of coffee with Cincinnati in 1894 but returned to the National League in 1897 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tannehill's first full year was non-descript (9-9, 4.25 ERA), but he emerged as a top hurler for the squad over the next five seasons.  The lefthander won at least 18 Games every year, with four of them exceeding 20.  Tannehill had an ERA under 3.00 all of those years, with an ERA Title in 1901 (2.18), the same season he led the NL in FIP (2.59).   He jumped to the New York Highlanders of the American League in 1903,…
Truett "Rip" Sewell is not just known for his long run with the Pittsburgh Pirates, as it is Sewell who gave the world the "Eephus." Sewell first made the Majors with the Detroit Tigers for five Games in 1932, but it was mostly known for Hank Greenberg beating him up.  He finally made it back to the big league with Pittsburgh in 1938, but as Sewell was now in his early 30s, he had to learn how to use every bit of guile and trickery to get outs. Making the Pirates starting rotation in 1940, Sewell had an occasional pitch called…
Ray Kremer was a Pirate for the duration of his ten-year career, beginning in 1924 when he got off to a good start with an 18-10 Record and an ERA of 3.19. For the rest of the decade, Kremer was a top starter for Pittsburgh, anchoring the team to a World Series win in 1925 and another Pennant in 1927.  Kremer won 20 Games twice (1926 & 1930), leading the NL in that stat both times, and he was also a two-time ERA Champion (1926 & 1927), where he finished third and ninth in MVP voting, respectively. Kremer, who did not…
Signing as an Amateur Free Agent in 1964, Al Oliver first made the Pirates in 1968 and became their starting Centerfielder the year after.   Oliver tied for second in Rookie of the Year voting and would help the Pirates win the World Series in 1971.  An All-Star the following season, Oliver developed his hitting stroke, batting at least .300 four times, and from 1969 to 1977, always at least 11 Home Runs, peaking with 20 in 1973.  Finishing seventh in MVP voting twice (1972 & 1974), Oliver added two more All-Stars (1975 & 1976), and by the mid-70s, he was regarded as…
The son of 12-year veteran Catcher Fred Kendall, Jason Kendall naturally came by his trade behind the plate and would eclipse his father in Major League accomplishments. Kendall was a First Round Pick in 1992, and after slowly being groomed by Pittsburgh, he would make his Pirates debut as their starting Catcher in 1996.  The rookie year of Kendall was strong, as he was an All-Star, a third-place finisher for the Rookie of the Year, and he batted an even .300.  Kendall remained a good hitter over his duration with Pittsburgh, batting .300 five more times with the team, with an overall.306…
From Panama, Manny Sanguillen played much of his career in shadows, a shame considering how good he was. The Catcher debuted in 1967 for the Pirates but established himself in 1969 as their starter, a role he held until he was traded to Oakland in 1976.  On the loaded Pirates team, he was often forgotten behind stars like Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and later Dave Parker, but he played his role in Pittsburgh’s 1971 World Series win.  A three-time All-Star, Sanguillen, was never going to be considered the best Catcher of his time, not because he wasn’t good, but because Johnny Bench…
Dick Groat was a two-sport star at Duke, playing both Baseball and Basketball, and was so good that he became the first man to be inducted to both the College Basketball and College Baseball Hall of Fame.  Groat even played a year in the NBA, but thankfully for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he made Baseball his main career choice. Groat signed with the Pirates in 1952 and was third in Rookie of the Year voting but could not immediately capitalize as he was in the Military the next two years.  Returning in 1955, the Shortstop would patrol the infield for the Pirates until…
Ginger Beaumont was one of the better contact hitters in the 1900s, making history as the first National League player to lead the league in Hits three years in a row (1902-04). Beaumont debuted for Pittsburgh in 1899, batting .352 as a rookie and exceeding .300 five consecutive seasons (1901-05), winning the Batting Title (.357) in 1902.  While he did not look fast, he was, swiping at least 20 Bases seven times with Pittsburgh. The Pirates traded Beaumont to Boston after his disappointing 1906 Season, but Beaumont proved them wrong by finishing first in Hits in 1907.  Beaumont, overall as a Pirate,…
Elbie Fletcher was traded to Pittsburgh from Boston during the 1939 Season, where in Western Pennsylvania, he developed one of the keenest batting eyes of the game. Fletcher finished the year strong, batting .303 for Pittsburgh, and though he would not bat over .300 again, he learned how to take pitches and would top the NL leaderboard in Walks twice (1940 & 1941) and On Base Percentage three straight years (1940-42).  He went into the U.S. Navy for two years, missing two seasons, but was not the same player when he returned and was traded after the 1947 Season. Fletcher had…
Bob Elliott had one of the best nicknames in all of sports; “Mr. Team.” Elliott came up in 1939, first playing in the Outfield before he moved to Third Base.  An All-Star four times with the Pirates, Elliott batted over .290 five times, with three of those seasons gaining over 100 RBIs.  He earned a reputation as the consummate teammate, an honor that he took the next level with his second MLB team. After the 1946 Season, Elliott was traded to the Boston Braves, immediately proving the Pirates wrong by winning the MVP in his first year there.  With the Pirates, Elliott collected…
Bobby Bonilla will always be more known for the contract he signed with the New York Mets, of which he is still getting paid for today, but at his peak, he was a dynamic MVP contender whose best years were in Pittsburgh. Bonilla was first signed by the Pirates as an Amateur Free Agent in 1981 but would be plucked by the White Sox in the 1986 Rule 5 Draft.  After 75 Games, Bonilla was traded back to the Pirates, and the year after, he entered the season as the starting Third Baseman.  Offensively, Bonilla was solid, earning a Silver Slugger and…

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Bespectacled and unassuming, Kent Tekulve was one of the better Relief Pitchers in the National League for years. Tekulve was in the Pirates organization from 1969 to 1985, debuting for the parent club in 1974.  Having never started a game for Pittsburgh, the submarine-style hurler settled in with the Pirates bullpen, becoming their closer in 1978.  That year, and the year after, Tekulve led the National League in Games Pitched, Games Finished and was fifth in Cy Young balloting.  Tekulve was also instrumental in Pittsburgh's 1979 World Series Championship, saving three games, including the deciding one. Tekulve continued to be a top reliever…
Advanced metrics don’t always tell the story. Doug Drabek was the ace of the Pirates staff during the years they went to three consecutive NLCS (1990-92), though his bWAR does not reflect this.  Still, Drabek WAS the ace, won a lot, and generated confidence in teammates and fans alike. Drabek began his career with the New York Yankees and was traded to the Pirates after only one year.  Inserted into Pittsburgh starting rotation immediately, Drabek slowly became a workhorse for the team, first breaking the sub-3 ERA in 1989 (2.80), and he reduced that to 2,76 in 1990.  That was the year he…