’79 Champs Witness Bucs Rise to 5th Place

I was supposed to be in the audience tonight. But a business trip looms tomorrow. Thusly, I witnessed the game courtesy of Fox Sports Ohio. 22 members of the 1979 World Series champs were honored before the game and they got to watch Zach Duke, Ryan Doumit and Garrett Jones pitch and pound the Reds into submission. And into the cellar.

The Pirates took over 5th place with their fifth straight win. Duke allowed two runs on eight hits and no walks in seven innings. The Pirates got on Justin Lehr in the first inning with three runs. Doumit was in the middle of it. With the Pirates already up 1-0, one gone in the first and Jones on third, Doumit hit a high bouncer back to Lehr. The Reds hurler wanted to get two and end the inning, but Doumit hustled down the line and was credited with a fielder’s choice RBI. He then swiped second based and scored on a single from Lastings Milledge.

Doumit hit a two run homer high into the seats in right in the fifth to make it 6-1. Jones added a two run double in next frame and the route was on. The Pirates added four more in the 7th. Steve Pearce had a two run single. Had it not been for an acrobatic stop by Brandon Phillips off the bat of Delwyn Young that Phillips helped turn into a double play, it could’ve been worse.

Lehr allowed six runs on 8 hits in five innings.

The Good

Five straight wins.

Fifth place.

Doumit had three hits, scored three times and drove in three.

Jones also had three hits and three runs knocked home.

Duke picks up win #10.

The Bad

Nothing at all, other than me not being in the Steel City tonight.

The Rest

The 19 players from the 1979 team on hand were:

Matt Alexander, Dale Berra, Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Mike Easler, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Lee Lacy, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno, Steve Nicosia, Ed Ott, Dave Parker, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett and Kent Tekulve. Chuck Tanner and coach Al Monchak were there along with trainer Tony Bartirome. Willie Stargell’s wife was also there.

Among the deceased in addition to Stargell are Bill Robinson, John Milner, Dave Roberts and Dock Ellis (not on post-season roster). Living players who did not come back were Jim Bibby, Doe Boyland (not on post-season roster), Joe Coleman (not on post-season roster), Tim Foli, Gary Hargis (not on post-season roster), Alberto Lois (not on post-season roster), Rick Rhoden (disabled most of the season), Enrique Romo, Frank Taveras (traded early on for Foli), Ed Whitson (traded for Madlock in June)

This was Doumit’s fifth career game with three runs scored. It was the third time he reached three RBI and three runs scored in one contest.

Jones has six RBI in the last two games.

Duke reached double figures in wins for the second time in his career.

Each of the starting 8 had a hit and scored a run.

Last five game winning streak was May 15 to 20th against Colorado and Washington. Each of the starters were the winning pitcher during the current winning streak.The bullpen picked up three wins during the earlier winning streak.

Luis Cruz got his third start of the year in place of Ronny Cedeno who has a fractured finger.

Welcome back Phil Dumatrait who pitched a scoreless inning, his first game since July 7, 2008.


Game #11 vs. Cincinnati

PNC Park | 7:05 | Snell vs. Bronson Arroyo | Box
I’m still waiting for the Pirates to play a clean game in which they either lose or win by a big margin. Those types of games have been few thus far in 2008.
It was another tight one and another win tonight for the Buccos. And it was far from pretty. The Reds made three errors, left 11 men on base, hit into a pair of double plays and had a runner thrown out at home.
Ian Snell benefited from the Reds inability to get runners home. He went 6-1/3 and gave up nine hits and three runs. Bronson Arroyo gave up two earned runs in five innings. Former Pirates Mike Lincoln was the loser in relief giving up the game winning run.
That run was scored by rookie Brian Bixler who reached base on his first MLB hit. He later scored when Xavier Nady poked one off the end of his bat and it dribbled into right field.
Nate McLouth and Nady had a pair of hits. Matt Capps finished up for the save.
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Game #11 vs. Cincinnati

PNC Park | 7:05 | Snell vs. Bronson Arroyo | Box
I’m still waiting for the Pirates to play a clean game in which they either lose or win by a big margin. Those types of games have been few thus far in 2008.
It was another tight one and another win tonight for the Buccos. And it was far from pretty. The Reds made three errors, left 11 men on base, hit into a pair of double plays and had a runner thrown out at home.
Ian Snell benefited from the Reds inability to get runners home. He went 6-1/3 and gave up nine hits and three runs. Bronson Arroyo gave up two earned runs in five innings. Former Pirates Mike Lincoln was the loser in relief giving up the game winning run.
That run was scored by rookie Brian Bixler who reached base on his first MLB hit. He later scored when Xavier Nady poked one off the end of his bat and it dribbled into right field.
Nate McLouth and Nady had a pair of hits. Matt Capps finished up for the save.
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Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 11

The last member of the 1979 post-season roster that was picked up via trade was Manny Sanguillen
The Trade
The Pirates acquire Sanguillen from Oakland on April 4, 1979 for Miguel Dilone, Mike Edwards and Elias Sosa.
The Background
Sanguillen was amateur free agent signing out of Panama, one of a host of players the Bucs signed from the Canal Country. He was a boxer in his youth and the speed and agility he learned while boxing suited him well as a catcher. One of my favorite things to do every year is to watch my VHS tape of the 1971 World Series highlights so I can hear Curt Gowdy (I think its Curt Gowdy) refer to him as the “smiling Panamanian.” He hit .379 in that Fall Classic. The free swinger helped the Pirates win division titles in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974 and 1975.
Sanguillen was among, along with Johnny Bench and Ted Simmons, the best NL catchers in the first part of the 1970s. Sangy made three All-Star teams and should’ve made the All-Star team in 1974. That contest was played in Three Rivers. NL skipper Yogi Berra chose his own catcher, Jerry Grote, over Sangy. He spent the first part of 1973 in right field following the death of Roberto Clemente.
He was nearing the end of his useful life as a catcher following 1976 when the Pirates traded him and $100,000 to the A’s for manager Chuck Tanner. Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh had retired following 1976 and would unfortunately die that off season. The Galbreath family felt the Bucs would be in good hands with Tanner and got him from Charlie Finley.
In his last season as a full time player, Sangy and Jeff Newman split catching duties with the A’s, with Manny also appearing numerous times as DH in 1977.
Before the start of the 1978 campaign, Sangy was reacquired by Pittsburgh. He was the third string catcher behind Ed Ott and Duffy Dyer. He appeared in 40 games at first, but was behind the plate in just 18 contests.
His role was more limited in 1979 as he was primarily a pinch hitter. He was in just 13 games in the field. He didn’t appear in the 1979 NLCS, but came up big with a game winning pinch hit in Game 2 of the 1979 World Series.
After 48 ABs in 47 games in 1980, Sangy was traded along with Bert Blyleven to the Indians in a disastrous trade. Sangy retired without appearing in a contest with the Tribe.
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Posted in Bert Blyleven, Duffy Dyer, Ed Ott, Frank Taveras, Manny Sanguillen, Miguel Dilone, Omar Moreno, TZPlayers - Pittsburgh Pirates - Past. Comments Off on Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 11

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 9

Did bad trades in building the 1979 team wreck the Pirates in the mid-80s?
Carrying on with the mysterious Enrique Romo.
The Trade
On December 5, 1978 the Pirates acquire Romo, Rick Jones and Tom McMillan from Seattle for Odell Jones, Mario Mendoza and Rafael Vasquez.
The Background
The Pirates bullpen, already a strength in 1978 (sub 3.00 ERA in almost 500 innings pitched), was about to get stronger. Vicente Romo, Enrique’s little brother, had bounced around the Majors for a couple of years. Soon enough, Enrique would be on the scene. The Mariners purchased his contract from the Mexico City entry in the Mexican League on 4/1/77. He had played in that league since he was 19 and went 20-4 with a 1.89 ERA in 1976. His totals included better than one whiff per inning pitched.
For Seattle he was almost exclusively working out of the bullpen. In the Mariners first year of existence (Romo’s “rookie year”), Romo saved 16 games. He saved another 10 the following year.
Then the trade to Pittsburgh, where he fit nicely with Kent Tekulve and Grant Jackson to give the Bucs three talented and rubber armed relievers. Each of the trio appeared in more than 70 games in 1979 and each checked in with an ERA on the good side of 3.00.
Romo pitched so-so in the playoffs and World Series. He got into four games and pitched 5 innings, allowing two earned runs.
Romo pitched fairly well in 1980 (he did hit a grand slam that year), but tailed off in 1981 and 1982. What happened after that remains something of a mystery. Romo failed to report to Spring Training in 1983 and hasn’t been heard from since. He doesn’t come back for reunions or autograph signing appearances. Nobody knows for certain why that is. I read somewhere (maybe the Pirates Encyclopedia?) that one story had it that Romo ran afoul of some connected men in the Pittsburgh area and was told to leave the country or else. At the end of this article is another take on why Romo left.
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Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 4

Among the reasons the Pirates were horrible in the mid-80s, poor trades made in an effort to build the 1979 team isn’t one of them.
Previous posts looked at the moves that brought Bert Blyleven, John Milner and Mike Easler to the Steel City. Both of those trades were good ones.
Up next is the deal that brought Tim Foli to the Pirates.
The Trade
On April 19, 1979 the Pirates sent Frank Taveras to the Mets for Foli and career minor leaguer Greg Field.
The Background
Foli was the first pick overall in the 1968 amateur draft by the Mets. He advanced quickly to the Majors, appearing in 5 games in 1979 as a 19 year old. The Mets traded him (along with Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen) to Montreal for Rusty Staub in 1972. The Expos and Giants swapped shortstops in 1977 with Chris Speier going to Montreal for Foli. The Mets purchased Foli following 1977 and he spent all of 1978 with them.
Despite being the first overall pick in the draft, Foli never established himself as a star. He was well known as a hot head and earned the nickname “Crazy Horse”. Up through 1978, he had shown virtually no long ball power, never hit above .270 and had only one season where his OBP reached .300. He was regarded as a good fielder, though he never won a Gold Glove as Dave Concepcion and Larry Bowa had a stranglehold on that award in the NL in the 1970s.
Foli was the Mets primary shortstop in 1978. Foli’s play was so uninspring/mediocre that the Mets decided to move Doug Flynn to shortstop in 1979. Flynn had been the club’s second baseman. Occupying 2B for the Mets on Opening Day in 1979 was rookie Kelvin Chapman. However, nine games into the season, both middle infielders were hitting less than .200. The Mets opted to trade their back up, Foli, to Pittsburgh for the Pirates starting shortsop, Taveras.
After the trade, Flynn was moved to second, while Taveras manned short. Chapman went to the bench, was sent down in May, was recalled in September and then didn’t get back to the Majors until 1984. He spent 1980-1983 in AAA. According to this link Chapman is currently the girls softball coach at Mendocino College in Ukiah, CA. (If you ever want to test how long somebody has been a Mets fan, casually mention any of the four players the Mets got when they traded Tom Seaver to the Reds. Flynn was one of them. If the Mets fan flinches or looks like he wants to punch something, then he’s a die hard. If he has no idea who you are talking about, he’s a band wagon jumper. And he should be openly mocked.)
Dominican Republic native Taveras was signed by the Pirates in 1968 as an amateur free agent. He became the Bucs primary shortstop in 1974. He set what was then the club record (in the 20th century) for steals in a single season with 70 in 1977, earning him the nickname “The Pittsburgh Stealer.” However, Taveras was among the easiest stolen base threats to catch stealing. Taveras ranks in the bottom third of all players who swiped 300 or more bases after WWII. The following table lists the 20 worst stolen base percentages for all such players, active players excluded. (Caught stealing data was kept sporadically by NL up until the 1950s. The AL had been noting it since the 1920s.) My buddy Steve Sax makes the list. Heh heh. Considering how adept he was at swiping home, I’m surprised Carew was as bad as he was overall. At the opposite end of the list, Tim Raines ranks first. More fodder for those who think Raines should get into the Hall of Fame (I’m one of them).

Player Steals Success Rate
Rod Carew 353 65.4
Brett Butler 558 68.5
Luis Polonia 321 68.9
Claudell Washington 312 70.0
Jose Cruz 317 70.0
Jose Cardenal 329 70.3
Billy North 395 70.9
Steve Sax 444 71.4
Vada Pinson 305 71.4
Tony Gwynn 318 71.8
Lonnie Smith 370 72.5
Omar Moreno 487 72.8
Bobby Bonds 461 73.2
Juan Samuel 396 73.5
Maury Wills 586 73.8
Frank Taveras 300 73.9
Dave Collins 395 74.0
Andre Dawson 314 74.2
Willie McGee 352 74.4
Freddie Patek 385 74.6

Taveras was coming off his best season in 1978, amassing 40 extra base hits for the first time in his career. However, the Pirates were leery of his erratic glove. Taveras had made three errors just 11 games into the 1979 season when the trade occurred.
Greg Field, a pitcher, was a fourth round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1975. In 1978 the Twins shipped Field and Jesse Orosco to the Mets for future 200 game winner Jerry Koosman.
The Data
The following table has Win Share data for Foli and Taveras for their whole careers.

Year Foli Taveras
1970 0
1971 4 0
1972 9 0
1973 6
1974 8 6
1975 9 7
1976 10 16
1977 7 14
1978 7 16
1979 17 12
1980 12 10
1981 5 3
1982 6 1
1983 4
1984 2
1985 1

The Conclusion
This was another strong trade. The Pirates got the best years of Taveras’ career and then got the two best years of Foli’s career in what was essentially an even up trade. Foli’s defense was considerably better than that of Taveras. In terms of career win shares, 72.4 of Foli’s 107 career win shares were defensive. For Taveras it was 38.5 defensive win shares with a career total of 85.
Foli’s 1979 season was by far his best season. He set career highs in batting average, on base percentage, hits, runs scored and RBI. He also collected 14 hits, scored 7 runs and drove in six runs in the post-season. In his most recent Historical Baseball Abstract Bill James rates Taveras as the 115 best shortstop ever and Foli ranks as the 125th best.
Foli was the Pirates regular SS in 1980 and 1981. He was traded to California before 1982 for Brian Harper and played for the Angels in all five 1982 ALCS games. The Angels traded him to the Yankees before 1984 and he became a part time player in the Bronx. Perhaps trying to recapture the spirit of ’79, perhaps being fearful of negative press from Dale Berra’s drug issues or perhaps just being stupid, the Pirates reacquired Foli prior to the 1985 season. The Bucs got a washed up Foli and a washed up Steve Kemp from the Bombers for Berra, pitching prospect Alfonso Pulido and Jay Buhner, who had spent just one year in the Pirate’s farm system. Foli’s career ended in June of 1985 when the Bucs released him. Sammy Khalifa manned short for the balance of the year.
Foli is one of a handful of post WWII players to collect 1,500 or more career hits and have an on base percentage of less than .300. The list has the player, career hits, career OBP and league adjusted OBP.

Player Hits OBP lgOBP
Aurelio Rodriguez 1570 .275 .328
Tim Foli 1515 .283 .333
Alfredo Griffin 1688 .285 .328
Ozzie Guillen 1764 .287 .333
Frank White 2006 .293 .329
Shawon Dunston 1597 .296 .337
Bill Mazeroski 2016 .299 .327
Larry Bowa 2191 .300 .335

Not surprisingly this list contains a lot of guys who were known primarily for the glove work. Rodriguez, a third baseman, was over shadowed in the AL for years by Brooks Robinson. White and Maz were probably the two best defensive second baseman of all-time. Of the players listed, only Foli and Dunston never won a Gold Glove.
Greg Field was traded to Atlanta for Buddy Solomon in March of 1980. Field never made the Majors. Solomon went 17-15 for the Pirates in 1980, 1981 and part of 1982 before being traded to the White Sox for Jim Morrison.
Taveras had a typical year in 1980 – some steals, no power and a .279 BA. He slumped badly in the strike year of 1981, hitting just .230. In the offseason, he was traded to Montreal for Steve Razter who never appeared in the Show with the Mets. Taveras was used sparingly by the Expos, backing up Speier at short and backing Flynn, Mike Gates and Raines at second. Yep, Raines played some second. He was hitting just .161 in 87 ABs when the Expos released him in August. That was it for him.

Posted in Bill Mazeroski, Brian Harper, Buddy Solomon, Dale Berra, Frank Taveras, Jim Morrison, Pirate History, Sam Khalifa, Steve Kemp, Tim Foli. Comments Off on Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 4

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 1

In 2006 I read the book When the Bucs Won it All by Bill Ranier and David Finoli. The authors suggest that the Pirates failings in the mid-80s were mainly due to the trades that took place putting the 1979 team in place. The authors stated:

Because he (GM Pete Peterson) no longer had the personnel to trade like he did when he first took over, Pittsburgh slid from the top of the rung all the way down to the bottom in the second half of 1981 and during the abysmal 1984 and 1985 seasons.

I disagree. Very much so. Peterson made a couple of bad trades, but the ones that hurt the most happened after the team won the World Series in 1979. In a series of posts I will look at why the author’s statement is untrue (think of it as a blog version of the FoxSports show “Top 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Blame Bad Trades on the Pirates Being Terrible in the mid-80s”)
First, let’s look at the players that were on the World Series roster and how they were acquired, in alphabetical order:
Matt Alexander – signed as a FA (free agent) on 9/1/78
Jim Bibby – signed as a FA on 3/15/78
Bert Blyleven – acquired via a four team trade on 12/8/77. The Pirates gave up Al Oliver and Nelson Norman. They got Bert and John Milner
John Candelaria – 2nd round DP (draft pick) in 1972
Mike Easler – acquired via trade from the Red Sox on 3/15/79 for two career minor leaguers (George Hill and Martin Rivas) and cash
Tim Foli – acquired via trade from the Mets on 4/19/79 for Frank Taveras. The Bucs also got career minor leaguer Greg Field
Phil Garner – acquired via trade from the A’s on 3/15/76 along with Chris Batton, who never played in the Show for the Pirates, and Tommy Helms, who was at the end of the line. The Pirates gave up several players in return. Dave Giusti, Doc Medich, Doug Bair, Mitchell Page, Rick Langford and Tony Armas all went to the A’s. Strangely enough, the A’s had acquired Helms from the Pirates for cash earlier in the same off season and then traded him back. The Bucs released him in June of 1977 and he was picked up by Boston, who released him the following Spring. And he was done.
Grant Jackson – acquired via trade from Seattle on 12/7/76 for Jimmy Sexton and Craig Reynolds
Bruce Kison – 14th round DP in 1968
Lee Lacy – signed as a FA on 1/19/79
Bill Madlock – acquired via trade from Frisco on 6/28/79. The Bucs got Madlock, Dave Roberts and Lenny Randle, who never appeared in a Pirate uni. They gave up Ed Whitson, Fred Breining and Al Holland.
John Milner – acquired in the same trade as Blyleven
Omar Moreno – signed as an undrafted FA in 1969. Omar is from Panama and wasn’t eligible for the draft
Steve Nicosia – 1st round DP in 1973
Ed Ott – 23rd round DP in 1970
Dave Parker – 14th round DP in 1970
Bill Robinson – acquired via trade from Philly on 4/5/75 for former All-Star pitcher Wayne Simpson. Simpson won 14 games and made the All-Star team as a 21 year old rookie for the Reds in 1970. He would win just 18 more games in his career
Don Robinson – 3rd round DP in 1975
Enrique Romo – acquired via trade from Seattle on 12/5/78. The Pirates gave up Odell Jones, Rafael Vazquez and Mario Mendoza. The Pirates also got Rick Jones and Tom McMillan, neither of whom ever appeared in the Bigs with the Pirates. Jones was called up late in 1979, but didn’t appear in a game
Jim Rooker – acquired via trade from KC on 10/25/72 even up for Gene Garber
Manny Sanguillen – acquired via trade from Oakland on 4/4/78. The Pirates sent Miguel Dilone, Elias Sosa and Mike Edwards to the A’s to get Sangy back. He had been traded, along with $100,000, before the 1977 season to the A’s for manager Chuck Tanner. No that isn’t a typo. My Dilone story. I was 14. It was 1985. Dilone was in his last season, hanging on with Montreal. They were in Cincy and I was at the ball yard with baseball cards trying to get autographs. When I asked Dilone in my typical polite way, he yelled back at me in anger the following (at least I think this is what he said): No tengo escribir mi nombre. Translated that means “I don’t have to write my name”. I didn’t argue with him.
Willie Stargell – signed as an amateur FA, before the draft was established in 1958
Rennie Stennett – exact same as Moreno. He was from Panama and was inked in 1969
Kent Tekulve – signed as an undrafted FA in 1969
Next time I’ll examine the trades the various trades that brought some of those players to the club.