Saturday, April 19, 2008


- Professional baseball began near Pittsburgh in 1876 with independent teams barnstorming the area. The strongest of these organizations joined the American Association as a founding member in 1882. This early team played across the Allegheny River in what was at the time a different city, named Allegheny.

- After five mediocre seasons, the Alleghenys became the first AA team to switch associations to the older National League in 1887. Upon joining the NL, the team renamed itself the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, although Allegheny remained a separate city until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907. First calling themselves "Pittsburgh" in 1887, the team did not play it's first game in Pittsburgh until 1908.

- In 1890, upon the collapse of the Players' League, the Alleghenys inherited several local players. Due to a procedure mishap, they also acquired a highly-regarded player from Philadelphia, which upset the Philadelphia Athletics of the AA, leading to cries of piracy. Although the club was cleared of any wrongdoing, the Alleghenys sportingly renamed themselves the "Pirates" for the next season.

- The Pirates lost the first modern World Series in 1903 to the Boston Pilgrims. In 1909, the Pirates won the first World Series to go all seven games, over the Detroit Tigers. In 1960, the Pirates became the first team to win a World Series on a walkoff home run and are still the only team to have done so in the seventh game of the series.

- The Pirates have never developed a Hall of Fame pitcher. There are HOF pitchers who have pitched with the club but the closest they have ever come to developing one was Burleigh Grimes, who came up with the club then spent his best years in Brooklyn before reprising his career in Pittsburgh for a few years towards the end. He won 48 of 270 career victories while with the Pirates.

- The first ever MLB game broadcast on the radio was a contest between the Pirates and the host Philadelphia Phillies on August 5, 1921, carried on KDKA-AM Pittsburgh. The longest relationship between a sports team and a radio station was ended when the Pirates moved to an FM talk station for the 2007 season.

- In 1948, the Pirates completely overhauled their team colors from red, white, and blue, to black and gold. Red returned as an accent color in 1997. In the late 1950's, the Pirates popularized the sleeveless jersey look. In 1970, the team introduced pullover spandex uniforms, which were adopted by most other teams by the end of the decade. They were then one of the last teams to switch back to the traditional button-down style in 1991. The club also were innovators of the alternate jerseys during the late '70s when they would mix and match from four different looks.

- Slugger, Ralph Kiner, led the NL in home runs for seven consecutive seasons (1946-52), despite the club being one of the worst teams in the league during that span.

- The foundations of the franchise's renaissance of the 1960s-70s was built by GM Branch Rickey. Rickey put into place one of baseball's most successful farm and scouting systems and made baseball fans of Latinos with Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh as he had done with African-Americans a decade prior with Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn.

- Manager, Danny Murtaugh, is widely credited with inventing the concept of the closer by frequently playing pitcher Elroy Face late in close games.

- On September 1, 1972, the Pirates became the first MLB team to field an all-black starting lineup: Rennie Stennett, Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernandez, and Dock Ellis.

- During the 1979 championship season, a Pirate player was designated as MVP in every available category: All-Star Game MVP (Dave Parker), NLCS MVP (Willie Stargell), World Series MVP (Stargell) and NL MVP (Stargell, shared with Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals).

- On June 8, 1989, the Pirates became the first team in MLB history to lose a game in which they scored ten runs in the first inning. Broadcaster, Jim Rooker famously proclaimed after the inning that he would walk home (from Philadelphia) if the Pirates blew the lead. He fulfilled the vow after the season by organizing a charity walk between the two cities.

- The first combined extra inning no-hitter in MLB history took place at Three Rivers Stadium on July, 12, 1997, with Francisco Cordova pitching the first nine innings and Ricardo Rincon pitching the tenth. Pinch-hitter, Mark Smith, ended the contest against the Houston Astros with a three-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the tenth to preserve the no-no.

- The Pirates have not had a winning season since Sid Bream crossed the plate in the 1992 NLCS. With an expected sub-.500 season this year, they will tie the all-time record for futility set by the Philadelphia Philles from 1933-1948. They are a favorite to break the record in 2009.


Tom said...

I did know a few of these: Kiner and Jim Rooker (although I didn't remember him by name).

I thought developing no HOF Pitcher was the most interesting fact. A team should have been able to do that in 100 years.

KDKA is curious. I suppose it predates the standard where stations west of the Mississippi begin with K and east begin with W.

I think Rickey's involvement with Clemente might be overstated by the guy who put these facts together. I remember reading that the Pirates were able to steal him from the Dodgers farm system through some loophole. Knowing the loophole, the Dodgers barely played Clemente so that no scout would see him. I think a Pittsburgh scout caught on and talked the parent club into grabbing him up. I don't think Rickey was instrumental and he wasn't there long after Clemente came. Does anyone know more of this story?

Dude said...

I compiled these myself so if there are errors it is my mistake. Most of the info came from Wikipedia. I researched the HOF pitcher angle to feed my own curiosity.

The page on Clemente intimates that there was some sort of agreement between the Bucs and Dodgers to draft Clemente in the amateur draft since the Brooklyn AAA team was using him as a bench guy plus he was feeling culture shock playing in Montreal.

Tom said...

My apologies. I figured this list took so much work it must be the result of some columnist from Pittsburgh. Therefore, good work.

My Clemente knowledge is fractured and come from a long time ago story I once heard that may bear no relationship to actual events even if I remembered it 100% right. It makes me want to read a biography to set is straight.

And since you compiled it, the early stuff is really interesting. I had never heard any of it.

Did KDKA change its call letters eventually?

Dude said...

The early stuff I pretty much lifted directly from the wiki page on the team. Once I read how they became the "Pirates" I thought, wow, the boys must read this, and then I kept finding interesting facts, and thus the list.

I read a juvy bio on Clemente when I was in grade school. I remember finishing it while in the tub and crying when his plane went down. The thing I remember most from that book is when he was shopping for furniture and he inquired about a piece and the stuffy white salesman replied "If you have to ask, sir, then you probably can't afford it." Clemente pulled out his Sky Masterson bankroll and told the guy he was going across the street.

KDKA was given its call letters before they decided to make the eastern stations start with W and the westerns with K. They were grandfathered in and still use those call letters. That's one of the few things I learned at University as a communications student. You were probably sitting next to me but too concerned with facing Bibby to focus.

Tom said...

Here is the documentary we needed to see:

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