Pittsburgh Pirates Information

The original name of the Pittsburgh's National League franchise was the Pittsburgh Alleghenies. Some contend this is from the county in which Pittsburgh is the seat of government. Others say that it was named after the mountain range in the region. Others maintain that Allegheny, Pennsylvania, which became Pittsburgh's northside after a 1907 annexation, was the tale behind the moniker. In the 1890's, the club was referred to as the Pittsburgh Innocents before the Pirates name stuck by the end of that decade.

When the renegade Players League dissolved after the 1890 season, most of the league's player contracts were assigned to National League and American Association clubs, mostly to their previous clubs provided they had been "reserved" by their former teams' owners. Highly-regarded second baseman Lou Bierbauer, who had previously played with the Philadelphia Athletics of the Association, was awarded to the Pittsburgh team on the grounds that the A's had not reserved him. This led to loud complaints by the Athletics that the Pittsburgh club were "pirates". This incident (which is discussed at some length in The Beer and Whisky League, by David Nemec, 1994) quickly accelerated into a schism between the leagues that contributed to the demise of the A.A. The colorful epithet stuck with the Pittsburghers, and eventually became the club's official nickname. It was first acknowledged on the team's jerseys in 1912, but even by the 1903 World Series, "Pirates" was in common usage.

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Bolstered by former Colonels Honus Wagner (who was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area) and Fred Clarke, the 1901-1903 Pirates completely dominated the National League, in part because they lost few star players to the rival American League. However, owing to injuries to their starting pitchers, they lost the first World Series ever played, in 1903 to Boston. Deacon Phillippe pitched five complete games, winning three of them; but it was not enough. With largely the same star players, the Pirates would continue to be a strong team over the next few years, and got their first World Series title in 1909, defeating the Detroit Tigers in seven games.

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The decline of Honus Wagner, considered by many to be the greatest shortstop ever, led to a number of losing seasons, culminating in a disastrous 51-103 record in 1917, However, veteran outfielder Max Carey and young players Pie Traynor and Kiki Cuyler, along with a remarkably deep pitching staff, brought the Pirates back into the spotlight. The Pirates recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the 1925 World Series over the Washington Senators, and reached the 1927 World Series before losing in a sweep to the New York Yankees, who at that time had built the most dominant team in baseball. The 1927 season was the first for the sharp-hitting combination of brothers Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner, who along with shortstop Arky Vaughan ensured that the Pirates had plenty of Hall of Fame-caliber position players through 1941. However, the Pirates' crushing defeats of 1927 (as well as 1938, when they lost the pennant to the Chicago Cubs in the final days of the season), were tremendous setbacks.

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The post-World War II years were not kind to the Pirates, despite the presence of a genuine star in Ralph Kiner. The Pirates would have only one winning season until 1958, when Danny Murtaugh took over as manager. Murtaugh is widely credited for inventing the concept of the closer by frequently playing pitcher Elroy Face late in close games. The 1960 team featured eight All-Stars, but was widely predicted to lose the World Series to a powerful New York Yankees team. In one of the most memorable World Series in history, the Pirates were defeated by more than ten runs in three games, won three close games, then recovered from a 7-4 deficit late in Game 7 to eventually win on a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman otherwise better known for defensive wizardry. (The 1960 Pirates were the only team between 1945 and 2001 to have not succumbed to the so-called "Ex-Cubs Factor" in the post-season. They were also unique for winning a World Series on a home run.)

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Clemente died tragically in a plane crash on December 31, 1972 while accompanying a shipment of relief supplies to the victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua. He had reached the milestone of 3,000 career hits, a standup double, just a few months earlier, on September 30, 1972, in what would prove to be his last regular season hit. The Baseball Hall of Fame waived its usual waiting requirement and inducted Clemente immediately. Pittsburgh would eventually erect a statue and name a bridge and park near the stadium after him. In 1973, Blass suffered a mysterious breakdown in his pitching abilities and posted an outrageous 9.85 ERA. Some speculated that the emotional shock of his friend Clemente's death contributed to his breakdown. He retired soon afterwards; he has now been one of the Pirates' radio and TV announcers for almost two decades.

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Since then, the Pirates have not had a winning season. The closest to a winning team was the 1997 "Freak Show" team, which finished second in the NL Central. This team was eliminated during the season's final week, despite having a losing record and a payroll of only $9 million. Their overall lack of success in the last decade have been blamed partly on former General Manager Cam Bonifay, who gave large contracts to players such as Derek Bell while failing to identify, develop, and retain numerous young potential star players. Despite poor play in 2001, Bell announced that he would begin "Operation Shutdown", a passive-aggressive ploy in which he would fail to play effectively in response to losing his role as a starter.

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Current General Manager Dave Littlefield was installed midway through the 2001 season and began overhauling the team to comply with owner Kevin McClatchy's dictum to drastically reduce the payroll. Enigmatic but talented third baseman Aramis Ramirez was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2003 for a fairly minimal return under pressure to dump his $6 million salary for 2004, and he proceeded to become a star for the Cubs. Brian Giles was one of the National League's best hitters for several years, but he and his $9 million salary were also traded in 2003 to the San Diego Padres for youngsters Oliver Pérez, Jason Bay, and Cory Stewart.

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PNC Park will host the 2006 MLB All-Star Game.The Pirates have hosted the MLB All-Star Game a total of four times. The first game occurred on July 11, 1944. The National League won the competition 7-1, with 12 hits to the American League's 6 hits. The second time the All-Star game visited Pittsburgh was on July 7, 1959. The National League again took the game 5-4, getting 9 hits to the American League's 8 hits. The third All-Star game in Pittsburgh was on July 23, 1974. The National League again took the contest 7-2, with 10 hits against an American League effort of just 4.

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The only player ever to catch his own home run ball--In a game at Ebbets field in 1949 Pirate Dixie Walker accomplished the "superhuman" feat of catching his own home run ball. In the top of the inning he homered to right. The ball was caught in a chain link fence in right. In the bottom half of the inning Dixie went to right, shook the ball loose, and caught it.

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