Pittsburgh Pirates

Fri, 07 Nov 2008 20:17

The history of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Information about the MLB team Pittsburgh Pirates.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a team in Major League Baseball. They belong to the National League’s Central Division, and are nicknamed “Bucs” or the “Buccos.” The Pittsburgh Pirates have won the World Series five times.

The Pittsburgh Pirates: The early years

Before the 1900s, the teams that played baseball were “independent” – meaning, they were not tied to any organization or league. The American Association was formed in 1882. The teams that were the strongest became founding members of the association. One of them was the team from Allegheny City in Pittsburgh, aptly named the Alleghenys.

When the American Association games weren’t turning out good games, a number of the teams moved to the National League. This included the Pittsburgh team, now renamed as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Horace Phillips was the owner and manager. By 1887, he sold the Alleghenys to Dennis McKnight while retaining the manager position for himself.

The team experienced playing jumping ship onto another Pittsburgh team called the Pittsburgh Burghers. With a weakened team, the Alleghenys performed so badly that McKnight needed to return the franchise to the league. However, as soon as the franchise was returned, McKnight joined the owners of team Burgher and they repurchased the franchise. They also retained the services of some of the key players.
Other players from the teams of the American Association were also signed. One of them was Lou Bierbauer, who was with the Philadelphia Athletics. He wasn’t on the reserve list of the Athletics so the new owners signed him to the new team. This incurred protests from the Athletics, calling the move “piratical.” This seemed like a cue for the owners to rename themselves as the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1891 even when it wasn’t proven whether they did anything wrong.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were also infused with powerful players from the Louisville Colonels in 1899. The Colonels were set to be cut from the National League so owner Barney Dreyfuss began buying Pirates ownership. Many of the great Colonel players transferred to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even Dreyfuss would fully embrace the Pittsburgh Pirates by buying all of its ownership shares. He held total control of the team until he died in 1932.

The new Pittsburgh Pirates – doubly powered by ex-Colonels Honus Wagner and manager/ player Fred Clarke – dominated the game from the started. They made it to the World Series in 1903, but lost. Another World Series was in contention in 1909. This time, they won against the Detroit Tigers.

The Pittsburgh Pirates had several bad seasons after, especially with the weakening of Wagner, whom many say was the best shortstop of all time. They were brought back up by the entrance of younger players like Pie Traynor and Kiki Cuyler, and legendary outfielder Max Carey. They again made it to the World Series in 1925 and won against the Washington Senators.

They were back in the World Series again in 1927, only to lose to the New York Yankees in a sweep. The Pittsburgh Pirates, after which, experience some setback in 1927 and 1938. In 1938, they lost in the playoffs for the pennant against the Chicago Cubs.

Post-war games were no different either. The Pittsburgh Pirates had its star in Ralph Kiner, who topped home runs in the National League from 1949 to 1952. However, the team he had around him was not powerful enough to capitalize on this. By 1946, the Dreyfuss family sold the franchise to a syndicate that included Bing Crosby, the entertainer.

The Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950s and 1960s

John W. Galbreath became the majority owner by 1950. One of his first acts was to have Branch Rickey become general manager of the team. Rickey was responsible for for several baseball dynasties, as well as baseball's infamous farm system.

As general manager, Rickey removed the veteran and high-cost players from the team. This included Kiner. He then moved to infuse new and generally untested talents into the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some of talents shone, like Vern Law, Bob Friend, Elroy Face, Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente. Others were disappointments. In any case, Rickey was responsible for implementing one of the most successful scouting systems in the industry, even when its results weren’t evident yet when he retired in 1955.

The Pittsburgh Pirates won’t make it to another World Series until 1958, when they were underdogs to a very powerful New York Yankees. And as predicted, they were practically clobbered in the first few games. They caught up, and much to everyone’s surprise – won the World Series with a home run by Mazeroski in Game 7.

Mazeroski and Clemente continued their excellent playing throughout the 1960s. However, this was not enough to carry the team into another World Series.

The Pittsburgh Pirates: The 1970s and 1980s

Beginning in 1970, Willie Stargell became one of the top sluggers of the Pittsburgh Pirates. And with Danny Murtaugh as manager, Clemente on the bat, and Steve Blass pitching, they won the World Series for the fourth time.

An unfortunate accident happened in 1972, when Clemente died in a plane crash. Aside from losing one of their best players, it also affected game play, particularly Blass'. He eventually retired.

By the middle of 1970s, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ star lineup included Stargell, Dave Parker and Omar Moreno. Chuck Tanner was the manager by 1977, after Murtaugh’s death in 1976.

The team adopted the Sister Sledge song “We Are Family,” and was soon chanting away with another World Series title in 1979.

This was followed by a decline that even got the team named as the worst team in baseball by the middle of the 1980s. This gradually changed when Jim Leyland took over as manager and infused young and powerful talents into the team. this included the likes of Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Jay bell, Andy Van Slyke, Steve Buechele, Sid Bream, Mike LaValliere, Jose Lind, John Smiley, Doug Drabek, and Stan Belinda.

The young Pittsburgh Pirates ranked high and was in competition for the pennant for several seasons in the late 1980s. They were however set back by injuries.

The Pittsburgh Pirates: The 1990s until today

In the 1990s, the Pittsburgh Pirates would win three division titles but never progress into the World Series.

Post season of 1992, manager Jim Leyland proceeded to rebuild the team. They were already on a losing streak for 16 years. He let go of some of the higher paid veterans and hired new blood. Some critics blame bad personnel choices for the losing streak. High-priced players were hired for very little returns.

In 2001, the Pittsburgh Pirates moved to their new home at PNC Park, currently deemed as the best baseball park in the US, and had a new manager in Dave Littlefield. Littlefield was pressed by owner Kevin McClatchy to cut payroll. Hence, some talented by high-cost players were traded off, such as Aramis Ramírez and Brian Giles. In exchange, they got younger talents like Oliver Pérez, Jason Bay, and Cory Stewart.

By 2007, Robert Nutting took over as majority owner. He fired Littlefield and had Neal Huntington as new general manager. They kept to their strategy of finding new talent in exchange for expensive tested ones. In the recent trade deadline, they traded Dámaso Marté and Xavier Nady. In exchange, they got Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, and Dan McCutchen.