’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.



Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 12

In the previous posts I’ve made the case that the Pirates collapse in the mid-80s was not the result of trades made to acquire the players that appeared on the 1979 post-season roster. Here’s a brief rundown of some other trades in the 1970s in which the Bucs didn’t acquire a member of the 1979 post-season roster. I’m examining trades that resulted in the Pirates losing a player who was active during the 1984 to 1986 time frame. Other trades are inconsequential to this discussion. Players are listed in alphabetical order:
Kurt Bevacqua
Bevacqua was never much more than a bit player, yet he had a long career. In 15 seasons he had more than 250 plate appearances just four times. He never reached double digits in homers and never scored or drove in 50 runs in a single season. It wouldn’t be unfair to call him a journeyman. He played everywhere except pitcher and catcher in his career. I remember him for two reasons. First, he won the bubble blowing contest in 1975 when MLB held the event every year and was immortalized on a 1976 Topps baseball card. Second he got into a verbal spat with Tom Lasorda, causing Lasorda to describe Bevacqua’s lack of ability by saying he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
The Pirates acquired him in 1973 in a trade that saw Nellie Briles go to KC. In the middle of 1974, KC reacquired Bevacqua for a minor leaguer and cash. He had less than 40 ABs for the Bucs at the time of the trade. After much travel, the Bucs traded Luis Salazar and Rick Lancellotti to San Diego for Kurt and Mark Lee down the stretch in 1980. Between 1980 and 1981, Bevacqua was just 14 for 70 for the Pirates. He was released following the 1981 season and picked up by the Padres.
Bevacqua had his moment in the sun in the 1984 World Series. He had seven hits, including two homers and two doubles in a losing effort for the Friars. He served as DH for San Diego as this was when the use of the DH in the World Series was alternated every year – one year on and one year off. He was free agent following 1985 but never appeared in another ML game.
Quite obviously, the presence of Kurt Bevacqua on the Pirates in the mid-80s would not have prevented the ship from sinking.
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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 6

Onward with analysis of the trades that brought in members of the 1979 Pirates.
The Trade
On December 7, 1976 the Pirates sent Craig Reynolds and Jimmy Sexton to the Mariners for Grant Jackson
The Background
Bob Moose, who had both started and relieved in his career, pitched primarily in relief in 1976. He was killed in a car accident that off season, leaving the Pirates both saddened and in need of relief help. Enter Grant “Buck” Jackson. Additionally, three days after getting Buck, the Pirates traded for Goose Gossage and Terry Forster.
Jackson was signed by the Phillies in the days before the free agent draft was instituted. After a couple of seasons spent mostly in relief, Jackson became a Phillies starter in 1969 and had a pretty good year (14-18 with an ERA+ of 107). He made his lone All-Star game appearance that season while toiling for a club that lost 99 games. Jackson got off to a terrible start in 1970. Headed in to the All-Star break he was 1-7 with a 6.51 ERA. The Phillies sent Jackson and two guys I never heard of (Jim Hutto and Sam Parrilla) to Baltimore for Roger Freed. Jackson became almost exclusively a reliever for the rest of his career.
That role suited Jackson very well as he was effective for the O’s, especially in 1973 when he posted a sub 2.00 ERA, until 1976. After struggling early, the Orioles sent Jackson and some other veterans (notably Doyle Alexander, Ken Holtzman and Elrod Hendricks) to the Bombers for some young guys – Scott McGregor and Rick Dempsey among others. Jackson was brilliant in NY, going 6-0 with an ERA of 1.69 in 58-2/3 innings pitched.
After the Bombers were swept by the Redlegs in the World Series, Jackson was left unprotected in the expansion draft and he was nabbed by the Mariners, who dealt him to Pittsburgh the next month.
In Pittsburgh Jackson continued to excel, never posting an ERA worse than league average in four plus years. He became part of a rubber armed trio with Enrique Romo and Kent Tekulve that helped the Fam-A-Lee win the Series in 1979. Jackson was the winner in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series and didn’t give up a run in 4-2/3 inning against the Orioles that year.
Jackson was still pitching well in 1981 at age 38 when the Expos acquired him for $50,000 from Pittsburgh. He didn’t pitch well for Montreal and was traded to the Royals for Ken Phelps. He continued to struggle for KC and was released. The Pirates signed him down the stretch in 1982 and he pitched in one game for the Bucs (his final ML appearance) on 9/8/82. Since retirement, Jackson has worked as a minor league pitching coach for a number of teams.
As I recall, Jackson had a nice, easy throwing motion. A couple of guys that came up in the late 1980s, like Mitch Williams and Rob Dibble, looked like they were throwing so hard there arm was going to detach at the shoulder. But Buck always seemed like he was playing catch with his backstop. Very smooth. And very effective.
Reynolds was the Pirates first round pick in 1971. Primarily a shortstop, he hit pretty well in every stop in the minors and had brief looks in Pittsburgh in both 1975 and 1976. After the trade to Seattle, he was the Mariners starting shortstop in their first game ever. He hit .292 in Seattle in 1978 and was an All-Star. The Mariners traded him to Houston after that year for Floyd Bannister. Reynolds continued to play pretty well, making the All-Star team for the Astros in 1979. But his batting average began to tail off and by 1982 Dickie Thon had taken over as the starter in Houston. Reynolds played utility infielder role until 4/8/84 (my brother’s birthday) when Thon was beaned by Mike Torrez. Reynolds yielded to Thon when he returned and then to Rafael Ramirez later in his career, becoming the Astros infield version of Terry Puhl, who was their longtime fourth outfielder.
Sexton was a free agent signee of the Pirates in 1970. He worked his way up the farm system as a shortstop. He had his best year in 1976 when he hit .324 in Shreveport. In the Show he never hit much, compiling a .218 BA in 372 ABs. He bounced from Seattle to Houston to Oakland to the White Sox to the Cardinals.
The Data
Like the Phil Garner trade, this trade is a bit tough to justify based on the data alone. Jackson pitched like a rubber armed stud in 1979 and was especially stellar in the post-season. The Pirates traded a lot more Win Shares than they received. But, I say it was worth it.

Year Jackson Reynolds Sexton
1977 6 6 0
1978 6 17 3
1979 10 17 1
1980 8 8
1981 3 10 0
1982 4 5
1983 1 0
1984 16
1985 14
1986 7
1987 8
1988 4
1989 2

The Conclusion
Like I said, it is tough to call this a good trade, but it is also difficult to say this is a bad trade. Ultimately both teams were helped. The Bucs won the World Series and the Astros made the playoffs twice with Reynolds on the squad.
Bill James made the point in the most recent Historical Baseball Abstract that the Pirates had a great run of second baseman between Bill Mazeroski and Johnny Ray with every regular second sacker for the Pirates during that time frame ranking in his Top 100 second basemen of all-time. The same could nearly be said for Pirate shortstops from the time of Dick Groat (1955) until the end of Tim Foli’s first tenure (1981). Groat, Gene Alley, Freddie Patek, Frank Taveras and Foli all rank in James’ top 125 shortstops. All that’s missing is a couple of years of Dick Schofield and one season of Dal Maxvill.
During that time the Pirates drafted both Reynolds and Dale Berra. Having Reynolds at shortstop between the end of Foli’s first stop in Pittsburgh and the beginning of the Jay Bell era would’ve been great. But, Reynolds, like my man Johnny Ray, wasn’t the type of player to lift a team on his back and carry them to glory. He could make a good team better, but he wasn’t going to make a bad team good. So, Reynolds or no Reynolds, the mid-80s Pirates were going to stink.
Players who started at least one game at short in Pittsburgh between 1982 and 1988:
Jim Smith
Nelson Norman
Rafael Belliard
Jim Morrison
Ron Wotus
Denny Gonzalez
Tim Foli
Jerry Dybzinski
Sammy Khalifa
Billy Almon
Johnnie LeMaster
U.L. Washington
Al Pedrique
Felix Fermin
Houston Jimenez
Quite a list of marginal Big Leaguers and weak hitters. Then, unsure about Bell, the Bucs acquired Rey Quinones in 1989. He, too, didn’t work out.

Posted in Craig Reynolds, Grant Jackson, Pirate History. Comments Off on Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 6

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.