’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 16

The Buccos were in it in 1982. They didn’t win it, but they played meaningful games in September – something that the club has failed to do in recent times. And as Willie Stargell once said, “I love September, especially when we are in it.” Pops retired following 1982. With a strong offense (2nd in the NL in runs scored) and a decent pitching staff in place (John Candelaria, Larry McWilliams and Rick Rhoden were slated for the rotation), what were the Bucs looking for heading into 1983?
After the jump you have more than 4,000 words including over 1,000 on Lee Mazzilli.
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Trench Davis

In the off season, there just isn’t much to talk about. Well, okay. The Bucs have a new GM and are on the prowl for a new skipper. So, perhaps that is more than normal. But, in order to take a break from such topics, I plan on writing about players from the past. I like obscure guys. So, I’m going to stick with guys that don’t have much written about them on the WWW. Today’s topic is Trench Davis. There isn’t much out there about Mr. Davis in terms of biographical info. His given name is Trench Neal Davis. I’m assuming that Trench is a family name, but who knows. He was born in Baltimore in 1960 and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Pirates in 1980 out of an open tryout camp.
Davis’ biggest strength was his speed. But he fared pretty well with the bat in the low minors. After hitting .298 at A Greenwood in 1981, Davis jumped to AAA in 1982. Pitchers there adjusted to him. His BA dropped 30 points and he was caught stealing 22 times in 64 attempts. He got off to a slow start at AAA in 1983 and was demoted to AA mid-way through that season. It was more of the same in 1984. His batting average was a mediocre .259. But he stole 53 bases and struck out just two more times than he walked.
1985 was following along the same lines, though he was walking less. He was recalled in June and appeared in two games before being sent back down. He spent his biggest chunk of time in the Show the following year. He was brought up in May when Steve Kemp was released and played in 15 games.
After the 1986 season he was granted free agency and signed with the Atlanta Braves and former Pirate skipper Chuck Tanner, joining a host of other Pirates who played in Atlanta under Tanner after leaving the Steel City. That list includes Omar Moreno, Larry McWilliams and Jim Morrison.
After a brief stint with the Braves, Davis was done in the Majors. For his ML career he was just 4-33 with no extra base hits. He stole 283 bases in his minor league career. I have no record of him after 1987.
First game – 6/4/85 in Cincinnati. Interestingly enough, I was in the house for that game and that is probably why I remember Davis so well. I was there early enough to get autographs and I think I completely caught him off guard when I asked for his signature and called to him by name. I think he figured nobody would know who he was. But he was wrong.
First hit – 6/4/85. A single off Mario Soto. He singled in the 7th and then swiped second off of Alan Knicely and Soto.
Last game – 7/3/87. Struck out as a pinch hitter when facing Bob Forsch of the Cardinals.
Brush with greatness – Davis was the player the Pirates demoted in order to bring Barry Bonds up to the big club in 1986. One problem – Davis was out of options. So, Bonds had to cool his jets while Davis cleared waivers. Bonds’ ML debut came three days after Davis’ last game for the Pirates in the Majors.
Brush with greatness redux – three of Davis’ four career hits came off of pretty good hurlers. In addiition to Soto, he collected knocks off of Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott. The other hit came off of Scott Terry.

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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 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 2

The authors of the book When the Bucs Won it All state that the Pirates plunge into last place in the 1980s was due to the poor trades that were made to acquire the players on the 1979 club. I disagree.
In part 1 of this series, I looked at how the World Series roster was put together – which players were acquire via trade, draft, and free agency. In the next several posts, I’ll analyze the trades that brought the members of the team to Pittsburgh. Going alphabetically, the first player on the 1979 post-season roster acquired in a trade was Bert Blyleven.
The Trade
After a season and a half pitching for the Rangers, Blyleven was involved in a mammoth four team trade on 12/8/77. Blyleven was dealt to the Pirates. The Braves sent Willie Montanez to the Mets. Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller went to Atlanta from Texas. The Rangers sent Ken Henderson and Tom Grieve to the Mets. The Bucs dealt Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to Texas. The Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Rangers. John Milner went from the Mets to the Pirates.
From the Pirates perspective, this boils down to Oliver for Blyleven and Milner. Norman’s career was inconsequential as he amassed just a single win share in the Show.
The Background
Oliver was a star, an outstanding hitter and a player capable of playing multiple positions. His career totals fall a touch short of serious Hall of Fame consideration, in my opinion. He hit .308 with 19 homers and 82 RBI in 1977. However, in that season, Willie Stargell was injured, leaving Bill Robinson as the Pirates primary first baseman. Robinson, finally living up to the billing given to him as a prospect, hit .304 with 26 taters and 104 RBI. A couple of things made Oliver expendable. Stargell was presumably healthy and the Pirates were most likely looking to keep the slightly more potent (and slightly more aged) bat of Robinson in the lineup. Stargell was only capable of playing first at this point in his career, which meant Robinson would go to the outfield. Fleet footed Omar Moreno manned center field. Though not as skilled a hitter as Oliver, his speed gave him range in center matched only by Garry Maddox in Philly. Moreno led all NL outfielders in put outs both in 1979 and in 1980. Dave Parker, a budding superstar, had a justifiable stranglehold on right field. Additionally, the rotation was a bit suspect. The pitching staff posted the third best ERA in the NL in 1977, but two of the four starters (Jerry Reuss and Bruce Kison) posted an ERA+ of less than 100. The fifth starting spot was manned most often by Odell Jones who posted an ERA above 5.00 in 34 appearances (15 starts).
For Oliver the Pirates acquired a pitcher with a track record for being a workhorse (no fewer than 230 IP in every season since he was a 20 year old rookie in 1970) and for being hard to score on (his career worst ERA+ was 117 in his rookie season). They also got Milner, a capable home run hitter who could (and would) spell Stargell at first and Robinson in left.
The Data
The following table has win share data for the primary players involved for 1978 to the end of their careers. I’ve included Robinson’s numbers here for comparison’s sake since he became the primary left fielder in Oliver’s absence.

Year Blyleven Milner Oliver Robinson
1978 16 10 22 14
1979 13 13 18 12
1980 9 7 21 7
1981 14 4 13 0
1982 1 2 26 4
1983 10 14 0
1984 20 8
1985 23 2
1986 18
1987 18
1988 4
1989 22
1990 3
1991 DNP
1992 5

The Analysis
In the short term, this was a good trade for the Pirates. Blyleven continued his solid pitching and Milner and Robinson proved to be capable players for the immediate future. However, Blyleven bristled at the frequency in which he pitched (he preferred a 4 man rotation) and the quick hook delivered by skipper Chuck Tanner. The Dutch Master felt that he pitched better when his arm was a little tired. The Pirates felt compelled to trade him following the 1980 campaign and got little in return. Robinson and Milner (and Stargell) declined quickly after 1979, while Oliver had perhaps his best season in 1982 when Milner and Robinson were bit players in the Show.
Overall, this was a good trade. Blyleven helped the Pirates win the 1979 World Series. He pitched the clinching game in the 1979 NLCS. Robinson and Milner played big roles that season, as well. The combination of Blyleven and Milner provided more win shares in both 1978 and 1979 than Oliver did. The trade went sour after 1980 when Blyleven was unloaded for a package of players that didn’t pan out. But that is the subject of a future post.

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.