The Mount Rushmore of the Pittsburgh Pirates

Honus-WagnerThe Pittsburgh Pirates trace their beginnings to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, one of the American Association’s original teams in 1882. The Alleghenys joined the National League in 1887 and adopted the Pirates nickname in 1891. When the National League contracted from twelve to eight teams in 1900, Barney Dreyfuss acquired a controlling interest in the Pirates and brought to Pittsburgh many of the best players from his former club, the now defunct Louisville Colonels. Included was the gentleman at left, the legendary Honus Wagner.

The Pirates are the fourth of the original NL clubs in our Mount Rushmore series. Your task is to choose the four players who best represent this franchise. Have fun!

For their first two decades, the Pirates were a second division team, only twice finishing higher than 3rd. Their best club in this period was the 1893 team that went 81-48 (including a 55-21 finish) and placed second, 5 games back of the NL champion Boston Beaneaters. With the influx of quality players from Louisville, Pittsburgh immediately challenged with a second place finish in 1900, followed by three successive NL championships in 1901-03. The 1903 club challenged the Boston Americans in the inaugural World Series, falling 5-3 to the AL champions. After a 110 win season in 1909, still the franchise record, Pittsburgh edged Detroit 4-3 in the World Series, the first to go the distance. The top players in the franchise’s first 3 decades were Wagner, Fred Clarke and Tommy Leach, all former Louisville players, plus HOF first baseman Jake Beckley. Notable moundsmen include Sam Leever, Deacon Philippe and Jesse Tannehill from the championship teams of the early 1900s, and Ed Morris and HOFer Pud Galvin from the 1880s teams.

The Pirates were next a contending team in the 1920s when, led by HOF third baseman Pie Traynor, Pittsburgh posted eight straight first division finishes (1921-28), all within 9 games of top spot. Included were pennants in 1925 (won WS in 7 games over the Senators) and 1927 (swept in WS by the Yankees). The season between those two pennants marked the debut of Paul Waner who teamed with fellow HOFer Arky Vaughan to lead the Pirates through the 1930s, including second place finishes in 1932, 1933 and 1938. The last was a particularly tough pill to swallow as, after leading by 7 games starting September and being in first place for 71 days, the Bucs were overtaken in the last week of the season by the surging Cubs who finished 22-7, including a sweep of Pittsburgh at Wrigley on Sep 27-29. Ray Kremer was the leading Buc moundsman of this period but was supported by several pitchers who compiled decent WAR totals, including Wilbur Cooper and Johnny Morrison in the 1920s (plus Babe Adams, winding up his 18 seasons with the Bucs), and Larry French and Bill Swift in the 1930s.

Through the war years and the 1950s, the Pirates were mostly dreadful, only once finishing within 10 games of the pennant from 1939 to 1957. Included was a franchise worst 112 losses in 1952, the first of three successive 100 loss seasons. After consecutive .500 seasons in 1958 and 1959, the Pirates took the 1960 pennant after holding down first place every day since late May. Their victory in that year’s World Series was memorable for an iconic game 7 decided on a Bill Mazeroski walk-off home run (the series was also notable for even reaching game 7, as the opposing Yankees had outscored the Bucs to that point in the series by the improbable count of 46 runs to 17). The Pirates were a middle-of-the-pack team for most of the 1960s, challenging for the pennant only in 1966 in a three-way race with the Dodgers and Giants. With expansion and divisional alignment in 1969 came a flurry of NL East crowns, with five in six seasons from 1970 to 1975. Alas, Pittsburgh turned those five titles into only a single pennant in 1971 when they went on to edge the Orioles in another 7-game World Series thriller. As in 1960, the winning run in game 7 came on a home run, this time by Roberto Clemente. He, Mazeroski and Willie Stargell were the fixtures of those Pirate teams, together with pitchers Bob Friend, Vern Law and Bob Veale.

The Pirates continued their strong performance through the 1970s, culminating in another 7-game World Series triumph in 1979, again defeating the Orioles, this time after trailing in the series by 3 games to 1. The 80s were a down decade for Pittsburgh, bottoming out with 104 losses in 1985 as the Bucs finished below .500 in 4 successive seasons (1984-87) for the first time in 30 years. Things turned around when the Pirates started the 90s with 3 straight division titles, but also 3 straight NLCS defeats, the last the most memorable as the Braves’ Sid Bream slid home safely for a walk-off series win. Nobody could have guessed it then but that 1992 season would be Pittsburgh’s last .500 season for 20 years, a streak started by the departure of their best player (Barry Bonds) to free agency. Other dominant players of this period include Dave Parker, Andy Van Slyke and Andrew McCutchen, with John Candelaria, Doug Drabek and Kent Tekulve on the mound.

Here are the top 15 Pirates’ batters, by WAR (Baseball-Reference.com version) as a Pirate.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Honus Wagner 120.3 1900 1917 26-43 2434 10220 1521 2967 551 232 82 1475 877 665 .328 .394 .468 .862 *693/574H81
2 Roberto Clemente 94.4 1955 1972 20-37 2433 10211 1416 3000 440 166 240 1305 621 1230 .317 .359 .475 .834 *9/H8745
3 Paul Waner 68.2 1926 1940 23-37 2155 9536 1493 2868 558 187 109 1177 909 325 .340 .407 .490 .896 *9/H387
4 Arky Vaughan 64.0 1932 1941 20-29 1411 6182 936 1709 291 116 84 764 778 227 .324 .415 .472 .887 *6/H75
5 Willie Stargell 57.5 1962 1982 22-42 2360 9027 1194 2232 423 55 475 1540 937 1936 .282 .360 .529 .889 *73H/98
6 Max Carey 52.4 1910 1926 20-36 2178 9654 1414 2416 375 148 67 719 918 646 .287 .363 .391 .754 *87/H
7 Barry Bonds 50.1 1986 1992 21-27 1010 4255 672 984 220 36 176 556 611 590 .275 .380 .503 .883 *78/H9
8 Fred Clarke 46.7 1900 1915 27-42 1479 6368 1015 1638 238 156 33 622 630 361 .299 .379 .418 .797 *7/9685
9 Ralph Kiner 44.6 1946 1953 23-30 1095 4732 754 1097 153 32 301 801 795 546 .280 .405 .567 .971 *7/83H
10 Tommy Leach 36.4 1900 1918 22-40 1574 6646 1009 1603 192 139 43 626 516 486 .271 .332 .373 .705 *58/7694H
11 Bill Mazeroski 36.2 1956 1972 19-35 2163 8379 769 2016 294 62 138 853 447 706 .260 .299 .367 .667 *4/H5
12 Pie Traynor 36.2 1920 1937 21-38 1941 8297 1183 2416 371 164 58 1273 472 278 .320 .362 .435 .797 *5/6H3
13 Dave Parker 34.6 1973 1983 22-32 1301 5267 728 1479 296 62 166 758 346 777 .305 .353 .494 .848 *9/H8734
14 Andrew McCutchen 33.2 2009 2014 22-27 880 3819 548 986 200 36 128 462 445 646 .299 .385 .498 .883 *8/HD
15 Andy Van Slyke 30.9 1987 1994 26-33 1057 4441 598 1108 203 67 117 564 431 733 .283 .353 .458 .811 *8/H93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/27/2014.

And, the top 15 pitchers by WAR as a Pirate.

Rk Player WAR From To Age G GS CG SHO GF W L W-L% IP BB SO ERA FIP ERA+
1 Babe Adams 49.9 1907 1926 25-44 481 353 205 44 90 194 139 .583 2991.1 428 1036 2.74 2.72 118
2 Bob Friend 47.9 1951 1965 20-34 568 477 161 35 46 191 218 .467 3480.1 869 1682 3.55 3.33 108
3 Wilbur Cooper 47.9 1912 1924 20-32 469 369 263 33 78 202 159 .560 3199.0 762 1191 2.74 3.03 120
4 Sam Leever 41.8 1898 1910 26-38 388 299 241 39 75 194 100 .660 2660.2 587 847 2.47 2.84 123
5 Ed Morris 33.8 1885 1889 22-26 241 240 235 25 1 129 102 .558 2104.0 412 890 2.81 2.95 115
6 John Candelaria 32.1 1975 1993 21-39 345 271 45 9 42 124 87 .588 1873.0 436 1159 3.17 3.40 117
7 Deacon Phillippe 30.1 1900 1911 28-39 330 251 209 25 68 168 92 .646 2286.0 299 861 2.50 2.46 119
8 Jesse Tannehill 27.4 1897 1902 22-27 192 171 149 17 20 116 58 .667 1508.0 243 466 2.75 2.98 128
9 Vern Law 26.2 1950 1967 20-37 483 364 119 28 77 162 147 .524 2672.0 597 1092 3.77 3.70 101
10 Rip Sewell 25.7 1938 1949 31-42 385 243 137 20 86 143 97 .596 2108.2 740 634 3.43 3.77 109
11 Ray Kremer 25.5 1924 1933 31-40 308 247 134 14 37 143 85 .627 1954.2 483 516 3.76 4.18 113
12 Bob Veale 24.0 1962 1972 26-36 341 255 78 20 31 116 91 .560 1868.2 839 1652 3.06 2.76 113
13 Pud Galvin 23.1 1885 1892 28-35 246 241 225 17 5 126 110 .534 2084.2 370 434 3.10 3.43 107
14 Frank Killen 21.3 1893 1898 22-27 213 201 163 9 10 112 82 .577 1661.1 519 467 3.97 4.03 109
15 Doug Drabek 21.2 1987 1992 24-29 199 196 36 16 1 92 62 .597 1362.2 337 820 3.02 3.46 118
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/27/2014.

Now, it’s your turn. Please choose 4 players, or write in your own. Polls are open until midnight Pacific time on Thu, Dec 11th. You can check on results using the link at the bottom of the ballot. If the ballot does not display on your browser, you can also vote here.

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58 Comments on "The Mount Rushmore of the Pittsburgh Pirates"

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John
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Clemente was a gimme. Think of the Buccos, you think of Roberto Clemente. End of discussion. Honus Wagner was also easy. Andrew McCutchen got the 3rd slot. He is the face of the rejuvenated Pirates. Now. Who to leave off? For me it comes down to Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner, Paul Waner and John Candelaria. Kiner had a shorter career. Sorry, Ralph, you’re gone. Threw a three-sided coin, and it came up Pops. Clemente, Wagner, McCutchen and Stargell. That’s today. Tomorrow, it could be different.

Yippeeyappee
Guest

Darn, saw Waner as Wagner and misvoted

RJ
Guest

Hah, isn’t that sort of how Lloyd Waner got into the Hall?

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

There’s a longstanding rumor that the Veterans Committee mistakenly got brother Paul’s statistics, when they were considering Lloyd Waner for the HOF.

That’s almost as good as the rumor that Tommy McCarthy got elected to the HOF because some voters mistakenly thought they were voting for the longtime beloved press stewart of the Braves, rather than the RFer of the 1890s Braves.

Baltimorechop
Guest

Wagner, Clemente and Arky were easy top 3 for me. Took Big Poison over Pops In a squeaker.

Bucs, like my redlegs, surprisingly lame on the pitching front. In my personal hall, Adams and Cooper are right there with Bucky Walters and Eppa, but I’m a softie.

bells
Guest
I feel like the Pirates are a team that has not really had huge periods of sustained success, so I’ve gotta go with players who I think of when I think “Pirates”. Honus Wagner. The most obvious. Clemente after about 3 seconds of thinking. Of course I think Bonds and McCutchen after a minute because Cutch is current and Bonds is a legendary player, but Cutch hasn’t played enough and Bonds didn’t even have them as his primary team, ‘issues’ aside. That aside, I’ve gotta go for what I associate with the team’s winningest moments. Their World Series wins are… Read more »
donburgh
Guest

The 1925 Pirates were the first team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, beating Walter Johnson in game 7. The franchise is the only one to turn the trick twice (1979 vs. Baltimore)

bells
Guest
Yeah, it’s crazy that baseball history has made it well known that the horrible Sens and Walter Johnson finally won their WS in 1924, but I’ve had to look through results tables to even know that they actually made it the next year as well and lost. Sounds like an exciting series, and it’s on my to do list this week to find some account of it. As far as the Mount Rushmore concept goes, I’m starting to see my motivation for voting as diverging strongly from my voting for the CoG. For the Circle, I see it as a… Read more »
RJ
Guest

You’re not the only one that didn’t know much about Arky. The BBWAA in all their wisdom didn’t name Vaughan on more than 15.8% of ballots until his final appearance, when he rocketed up to 29%. It’s doubly bizarre when you consider Vaughan was a nine-time All Star and a two-time third place MVP finisher.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

I’m inclined to pick just one player per era for this franchise.
That means Clemente over Stargell.
And Waner over Arky, for duration.

Wagner, obviously.

For the 4th… Kiner and Bonds cancel each other out.
A pitcher would be nice. Babe Adams is the best guy, but not quite great enough, and overlaps with Honus.

So I’ll predict the future and say that McCutchen will earn the spot.
_____

Wagner, Waner, Clemente, McCutchen

Steven
Guest

Wagner, Clemente, Stargell and Mazeroski.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

I’m voting for Tommy Leach because I loved his chapter in Lawrence Ritter’s “The Glory Of Their Times” (still the best baseball book ever, IMHO),Maz because I associate him with those baseball guides in the 1980’s named after him; also because he was perhaps the greatest defensive second baseman ever.

Pirates are similar to the Reds in that they’ve had many fine pitchers over the years, but no all-time greats.

Baltimorechop
Guest

Shocked Arky is below Maz.

Hartvig
Guest
As someone who grew up in the 60’s I can tell you that in much of the public’s eye Clemente didn’t really supplant Mazeroski as the face of the franchise for many until the 1971 World Series and for at least a couple of decades after his retirement was viewed as the 2nd base equivalent of Brooks Robinson. At the same time the BBWAA didn’t even realize that Vaughan was arguably the greatest shortstop to play between Wagner and the 1980’s and even baseball fans as dedicated as we have on HHS have said they really didn’t know much if… Read more »
no statistician but
Guest
Aftter some deliberation, I’m going with Wagner, Clemente, Vaughan, and . . . Ralph Kiner. Wagner and Clemente need no justification. I took Vaughan over Waner for all the reasons you can think of, plus the fact that Arky did a lot more in a shorter career in Pittsburgh, 64 WAR in 1411 games vs 68.2 in 2155 for Waner. Kiner? Well, he was a great star for the franchise when they had no one else, and he put up numbers that indicate, I think, that he’s underrated. Poor fielder, true, but acceptable. Compare him with Bonds as a Pirate:… Read more »
Albanate
Guest

The Pirates didn’t win the NL East in 1969–the Mets did.

GaryL
Guest

Wagner, Clemente, Mazeroski, Stargell. Yes, it over represents the 60s and 70s…but the Pirates enjoyed a disproportionate amount of their success in those decades.

I like the discussion of “HOFers” compared to “icons”. That certainly strengthens case for Maz..maybe Pops too.

Pitchers? lol

dr. remulak
Guest

Wagner, Clemente, Waner…then McCutchen, as he’s signed through 2018 (including the club option) and if he stays healthy, four more years of his excellence will cement his legacy. Plus, it would be interesting to watch the stone-carvers craft those dreadlocks.

donburgh
Guest

One thing that keeping me from voting for McCutchen is that there is no way to tell where he will be after 2018. McCutchen has stated he wants to be a Pirate for life, but the money that would be waved at him on the open market, should he continue his current career arc would be awfully hard to turn down.

donburgh
Guest
Pirate Retired Numbers, by order of when they were retired #33 Honus Wagner – 1952 This was Wagner’s number as a coach. Didn’t have a number when he played. #1 Billy Meyer, manager – 1954 Almost certainly the strangest decision to retire a number in MLB. BUT he was Sporting News Manager of the Year in his first year, 1948, and remained popular thereafter. #20 Pie Traynor – 1972 Number was retired the same year that he died. #21 Roberto Clemente – 1973 #40 Danny Murtaugh, manager – 1977 Number retired the year following his death. #8 Willie Stargell –… Read more »
donburgh
Guest

BTW, Babe Adams is not in the Hall of Fame, although he does have a Hall of Stats rating of 108.

donburgh
Guest

107, sorry about that.

Darien
Guest

Honus, Clemente, and Parker. And… Pie Traynor because pie.

RJ
Guest

But apparently you are unmoved by Felix Pie’s 31 PAs for Pittsburgh.

Luis Gomez
Guest
This one is difficult one, at least for me. Roberto Clemente gets my vote, he was one of the first legends that I knew about, even after the fact that I was born a few years after his passing. The other is Honus Wagner, because, well, he is Honus Wagner. The third on my list is Pops. Mainly because I think he is the heart and soul of those Pirates teams with the yellow-mustard unis. The fourth one is where I´m a little stuck. Maz, Traynor and Vaughan. I´ll go with Maz. He is the one who hit THE homerun… Read more »
Tubbs
Guest

I chose Wagner, Clemente, Waner, and Stargell. After a comfortable gap the next closest were Mazeroski and Traynor

Hartvig
Guest
Wagner & Clemente were easy. My next choice was Warner. Traynor played on both of the Pirates WS teams of the 20’s & was around for much of the decade or so afterwards when they were still really competitive but he was never more than a really good player on a good team and many years wasn’t even the best infielder on the team much less player. Vaughan was better than both but came along too late for the WS appearances and as evidenced by many of the current comments isn’t all that well known even by many hardcore baseball… Read more »
Steve
Guest

Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell

donburgh
Guest
I finally decided on Mazeroski to go with the locks of Wagner, Clemente and Stargell. Those are the four honored by statues that currently surround PNC Park. Other players I considered included Adams, Big Poison, Vaughan, and Kiner. Didn’t consider Bonds solely because most of his career was spent elsewhere, and voting for McCutchen would feel too much like voting “on credit” – trying to predict the future. I had no problem voting for Bench, Rose and Morgan for the Reds, and I have no problem with voting for three overlapping players here. I wonder how much of the lack… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

Wagner, Clemente, Vaughan, and Wilver Dornel Stargell.

(10 years with Pittsburgh seems like it should be enough for Arky, since he was one of the five best position players over that span, and he only spent two regular years elsewhere.)

Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Cutch seems destined to join this group, but I’m sure Bonds did in the early ’90s too. Wagner and Clemente should be preserved eternally. Let’s leave some room behind whoever wins the fourth spot for some future dreadlocks.

Joseph
Guest

Re Pie Traynor–I don’t know how a player accumulates 2400 hits, almost 1200 runs, has a .320 lifetime BA and only manages 36 WAR. I’m sure there are others, for example Dave Parker–but he took large deducts on Rpos and dWAR. Traynor picked up runs in those areas and still finished with what seems to be a low WAR for a HOF player with his stats.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
@38; Traynor didn’t walk much, only twice over 50 BBs in a season and 39 BB/162G, so that very impressive 320 BA is a 362 OBP, only nine points above the NL average over his career. Likewise, while he hit a lot of 2Bs/3Bs, he had almost no HR power: 58 his whole career, about 5 a full year. So, he had a 435 SLG, only 19 points above the NL average over his career. So; despite the superficially impressive BA, his career OPS+ was only 107 and his career Rbat was 93; far, far less than most other players… Read more »
Joseph
Guest

Thanks Doug and Lawrence–some interesting tidbits there. And Nettles is probably my favorite unsung should be in the HOF player, so I’m glad you mentioned him.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@44/Joseph;

As much as I like Nettles, I’d put Edgar Martinez (if you call him a 3Bman), Ken Boyer, and Dick Allen in the HOF ahead of Nettles.

Joseph
Guest
Here’s the thing about Nettles (or things): In the history of the game, only three 3B players have over 50 oWAR and 20 dWAR. Nettles is one of them. During the 70’s, he was sixth in HR and second in dWAR. He was the only player in the 70’s to have both >30 oWAR and >20 dWar. He was fourth in WAR for the decade. Based on these stats, you could make an argument, that he was in the top 4 or 5 “all around” players in the decade and one of the top all around third basemen of all… Read more »
Joseph
Guest

And this thread is about Pirates. Which I think Nettles was never one.

Joseph
Guest

And this thread is about Pirates. Which I think Nettles was never one. Sorry for hijacking–I started out with Traynor–who was a Pirate.

Brent
Guest

From 1932 to 1937 half their daily lineup was made up of Hall of Famers. Not one pennant in that span. That leads one to conclude that either:

1) Some of the 4 players involved were not really that good (we know that is in part true)
2) They didn’t have a lot of pitching in that era.
3) or some of both.

My votes were for Wagner, Waner, Clemente and Stargell.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
You could make the same argument about the 1929-1935 Yankees, who won only one pennant/WS despite: – Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig together for all but 1935 – other HOF position players in Tony Lazzeri, Earl Combs, and Bill Dickey that whole period – HOF pitchers Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing, and Lefty Gomez for much of that period Looking at the four HOF Pirates from 1932-27: – ARKY VAUGHAN: Solid HOFer overlooked by the BBWAA// in his prime during all this period – PIE TRAYNOR: Very good player but vastly overrated, doesn’t belong in the HOF but see my #40… Read more »
wlmclc
Guest

Honus Wagner 24.54% (120 votes)

Roberto Clemente 24.34% (119 votes)

Who didn’t vote for Clemente?

bluejaysstatsgeek
Guest
Pardon my ignorance, but I don’t know how to register my vote! The Pirates were my favourite team before the Expos came along and I went back to them as soon at the Expos left Montreal. My choices: I don’t think any of the pitchers are among the four most iconic Pirates. Wagner – Fairly obvious Clemente – He was a hero on and off the field and one of my favourite all-time sports personalities. I’m getting a Clemente 21 shirt for my grandson. Stargell – I will admit to some generational bias, but I include Wilver Stargell for two… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

There is a poll at the top of the page. You just havr to click your four choices, then click the “Vote” button.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Guest

I’m not seeing a poll, just an empty grey box. Could it be a browser setting that is preventing me from seeing it?

Matt
Guest
Lifelong Pirate fan here. To me, Wagner, Clemente, and Stargell are automatic (though I never realized how low Willie is viewed by WAR, at least compared to how fans here in Pittsburgh still idolize him even now. The fourth slot was unexpectedly difficult for me to choose… It seems like the Pirates had a number of really good players in the early decades of the 1900’s who had long careers with the club. Most of them are long-forgotten now, but strictly from a statistical viewpoint, they rate higher than most guys from more recent times. I can’t see voting for… Read more »
bluejaysstatsgeek
Guest

I agree. Mount Rushmore is not the HOF. That HR was one of the most significant plays the game has ever seem and that alone qualifies him. What Maz did defensively makes his inclusion even more imperative.

Phil
Guest

Wagner, Clemente, Stargell, McCutchen.

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