Late Dingers by Stones Turn the Tide

The Pirates held a nice 7-4 margin and needed just six outs. They got four outs, but allowed five runs in the process to lose the game.

Andrew McCutchen’s bases loaded triple in the seventh gave the Pirates a 5-4 lead. Nyjer Morgan followed with a single to make it 6-4 and Brandon Moss drove in a run in the 8th for the Pirates final tally.

But Colorado and Jim Tracy rallied. Chris Iannetta drilled a two out three run homer off of John Grabow in the 8th inning to tie it. Huston Street put two Pirates on in the 9th but emerged without a blemish. Then Jesse Chavez gave up a two run one out tater to Todd Helton in the 9th. Ball game.

Charlie Morton gave up two runs on five hits in five innings. Jason Hammel, who had won his last three starts, gave up five runs in six plus. Ian Stewart was the early hitting star for the Rockies. He drove in three runs with a double, triple and dinger.

The Good

Apparently angered by the comment made by Norris in yesterday’s summary, Nyjer Morgan had four hits and made a ridiculous catch of a foul ball.

Brandon Moss had three hits, including two doubles.

The Bad

The bullpen. Including Sean Burnett who relieved Morton, the Pirates bullpen gave up 7 runs in 3-1/3.

The Rest

Morgan’s only other four hit game came 9-23-08 in Milwaukee.

McCutchen already has four triples. The last Pirate rookie to record more was Jose Guillen with five in 1997. Last Pirate rookie with more than five were Gene Freese (8) and Roberto Clemente (11) both in 1955.

The Rockies are 17-5 under Jim Tracy. Last time the Pirates won 17 games in 22 contests? I have no idea and I’m too depressed to look.

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American Experience: Roberto Clemente

I hope everyone either watched, taped, TIVO-ed or DVR-ed last night’s PBS show “American Experience: Roberto Clemente”. Given the number of words committed to print about Clemente, there isn’t a whole lot that can be said in 60 minutes that hasn’t already been expressed in print. The result was a limited number of teammates were interviewed – Al Oliver, Steve Blass and Manny Sanguillen. The main advantage of TV vs. print is motion and I was impressed by some of the video footage that was part of the program.
Overall I thought the piece was good. There was only one statement that I took exception to and that was David Maraniss stating essentially that baseball was it for Clemente from a young age. While I wouldn’t disagree that Clemente began playing baseball at a young age – as a lot of kids do – to suggest that all he did was play that sport would be inaccurate. Most biographies discuss in depth his work ethic. In his elementary years he did a couple of odd jobs to earn money. Sometimes that money was spent on baseball supplies. Other times it would be spent getting to San Juan to watch the Winter League games. Additionally, Roberto was gifted at throwing the javelin in high school – no surprise given how well he threw a baseball. In some biographies, it is suggested that he would have been good enough to make it to the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki.
Osvaldo Gil gets the final word, as the Post-Gazette reports. One thing that isn’t noted in the program is that Clemente had asked Gil to accompany him on the fateful flight to Nicaragua. According to Maraniss’ tome, Gil agreed to go but then changed his mind when his wife balked at the idea.

RIP Bob Purkey

Former knuckleballer Bob Purkey has passed away. He was 73. Purkey was best known for his success with the Cincinnati Reds. He got his start in the Show with the Pirates, who traded him to Cincy following 1957 for pitcher Don Gross. While Purkey blossomed for the Reds, Gross was a semi-decent reliever for the Pittsburgh over parts of 1958, 1959 and 1960.
Purkey won 16 games for times for the Reds, including a career best 23 in 1962, finishing third in the Cy Young Award voting that year. Bill James takes some time in the Historical Baseball Abstract to explain while Purkey should’ve won the Cy Young in 1962 over Don Drysdale. He also saw action in the All-Star game in three years. Purkey was the tough luck loser of Game 3 of the 1961 World Series. Clinging to a 2-1 lead going into the top of the 8th, he allowed a solo homer to Johnny Blanchard in the 8th to tie the score. In the 9th, Roger Maris blasted a solo homer for the winning margin as the Yanks took the game and then took the Series in five contests.
In his career, Purkey dominated Roberto Clemente. The Pirate star was a mere 17-87 (.195) against Purkey.
Following his career, Purkey settled in the Pittsburgh area and opened an insurance agency.

Posted in Bob Purkey, Don Gross, Roberto Clemente. Comments Off on RIP Bob Purkey

The World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates by Dick Groat and Bill Surface

I picked up this book on ebay a couple of months ago for a pretty good price. The book dates back to 1961 and was published in the aftermath of the Pirates beating the Yanks in the series. It was the only book written about the 1960 Pirates (that I’m aware of) until longtime Pittsburgh sportswriter Jim O’Brien began his “Pittsburgh Proud” series and penned one called Maz and the ’60 Bucs back in the mid-1990s. Can you imagine if there had only been one book published about the 2004 Red Sox? I specifically wanted to read this before tackling the much more recent The Best Game Ever by Jim Reisler, which I just got for Christmas.
At any rate, Surface was apparently a sports writer of the time, though I’m not familiar with him and the book doesn’t have an “about the author” section. So, I might be mistaken on his credentials. Groat, as you all know, was the Bucs SS and the 1960 NL MVP and batting champ. But, when I read this book, I don’t see much of Dick Groat and my assumption is that this was largely ghost written by surface.
There are a couple of chapters in the beginning of the book devoted to a brief history of the Pirates, from their inception to the birth of the nickname Pirates, to the Honus Wagner years through the Branch Rickey disaster in the early ’50s. No problems with that part of the book. But I doubt that any of those words belong to Groat.
After that you have a breakdown of the team, starting with the front office. Here we get into a little “gee whiz” journalism. Here’s a quote from the section on GM Joe L. Brown

The players know you can’t find a nicer guy, or better baseball man to have in the clubhouse, than Joe L. Brown.

Wow. He sure seems like a swell guy.
After that, it is a rundown of the players on the team in a fairly straight forward manner. Couple of interesting things:
1. Danny Murtaugh was originally second choice to take over for Bobby Bragan when the latter was axed in 1957. Clyde Sukeforth turned down the job, according to the book. Also, the job was originally Murtaugh’s on an interim basis only. However, the club which had been the laughingstock of the NL for the previous couple of seasons, played .500 ball over the last third of the season.
2. Roberto Clemente is referred to as Roberto and not “Bob”. It was right around this time that his name began getting more Americanized. But for the most part, people refer to him as Roberto in this tome.
3. There is no mention of any of the strategic controversy in the Series. No mention of Art Ditmar getting the nod in Game 1 over Whitey Ford. No mention of Stengel letting Bobby Shantz hit for himself in the 7th game with two outs and two on in the top of the 8th with the Yanks up 7-4. No mention of not pitching Ryne Duren or Luis Arroyo at all in the 7th game.
This is a whimsical quick read. I learned some new stuff and had a couple of good laughs. Well worth the money I paid and I’m sure I’ll read it again.
Other books on my shelves that I hope to tackle in 2009:
Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball by Ellis and Donald Hall
Roberto Clemente: Batting King by Arnold Hano
Branch Rickey in Pittsburgh by Andrew O’Toole
The Pirates Reader edited by Richard Peterson
Making Airwaves by Milo Hamilton
Hardball by Bowie Kuhn
Shortened Seasons by Fran Zimniuch. This is about players who died while still essentially pursuing a career in baseball. There is, of course, a chapter on Roberto.

Posted in Book Review, Roberto Clemente. Comments Off on The World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates by Dick Groat and Bill Surface

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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Game #152 at San Diego

Petco Park | 10:05 | Snell vs. Chris Young | Box
Matt Capps has been pretty reliable this season. Not so much tonight. Nursing a one run lead, Capps was brought in with two down in the 8th and the tying run on third in the person for former Bucco farmhand Craig Stansberry. Capps whiffed Morgan Ensberg to end the inning. But he ran into trouble in the 9th. Adrian Gonzalez doubled with one gone. One out later, Kevin Kouzmanoff walked on a full count. Scott Hairston delivered a walk-off three run bomb.
It looked dicey early on. The Bucs actually got to (kind of) Chris Young. Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a triple and scored on a sac fly from Nate McLouth. Ian Snell allowed a lead off double to Brian Giles. One out later Giles moved up on a passed ball and Mike Cameron walked and stole second. Gonzalez singled in both of them.
The Pirates took back the lead on an RBI double by McLouth and a SF from Freddy Sanchez. And that was it. The Bucs had runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, but Young retired Sanchez and Adam LaRoche without any damage.
Snell went seven innings and allowed just one earned run. He struck out five, walked two and allowed four hits. Young had a similar line. Five walks and two K’s but in six innings of work with three earnies.
The Bucs have dropped five in a row. Does it matter? No, not really.
Speaking of Stansberry, here’s a nice piece on him from OregonLive.com. Note that the Beavers manager is former Pirate first round pick Rich Renteria. Only now he goes by Rick Renteria.
Recaps
AP recap at Yahoo! Sports
Padres Official Site
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Pirates making home run history

It is widely known that the Pirates set a team record with 45 home runs in the month of August. It was a fun time to watch Pirate baseball, as the team seemingly scored at will. However, even with that eruption of power, the Bucs are currently tied for 20th in Major League Baseball with 135 home runs. Overall, it does not seem like a historically significant season. But take a look at the team’s individual leaders in home runs:

  • Adam LaRoche – 21
  • Jason Bay – 20
  • Xavier Nady – 17
  • Jose Bautista – 14
  • Nate McLouth – 12
  • Freddy Sanchez – 11
  • Ronny Paulino – 10
  • Jack Wilson – 9
  • Ryan Doumit – 9

What is noteworthy about these numbers? This is only the third team in the history of the franchise that has boasted seven players with ten or more home runs. If Wilson can hit one more in the final few weeks, it will be the first to have eight. The other two occasions in which seven players achieved the feat were in 1973 (Willie Stargell-44, Richie Hebner-25, Al Oliver-20, Bob Robertson-14, Manny Sanguillen-12, Rennie Stennett-10, Richie Zisk-10) and 1964 (Willie Stargell-21, Jerry Lynch-16, Roberto Clemente-12, Donn Clendenon-12, Bob Bailey-11, Bill Mazeroski-10, Jim Pagliaroni-10).
Keep in mind that these numbers do not indicate that the Pirates are developing into a powerful lineup. The fact that this has occurred only three times in the team’s history simply highlights the Pirates’ consistently feeble offense during Major League Baseball’s power explosion over the past 20 years. In fact, having seven or more players reach double digits in home runs is fairly common among the rest of the league. Taking a quick look around the league, I counted ten other teams that have accomplished the feat in 2007 alone. The New York Yankees have achieved the mark every year since 1996.
So let us enjoy watching this edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates make franchise history. However, as we are conditioned to do as Pirate fans, we must keep the feat in perspective. We are still taking baby steps when compared with the rest of the league.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference Play Index