Saturday, October 8, 2011

1977 Pittsburgh Pirates

If 1977 were 2011 the Pirates would have been a wild card team.  Instead they won 96 games and still finished 5 games out of the money behind a 100+ win Phillies squad.  Credit Chuck Tanner for keeping the Bucs in the pennant race by transitioning the "Lumber Company" to the "Runner Company".  In the early 70's the Bucs were know for their big bats.  By '77 Tanner had them leading the league in stolen bases and 2nd in batting average.  That's not to say that they didn't have long ball capabilites.  Bill Robinson had 26 homers and 104 RBI's with a .304 average.  The "Cobra", Dave Parker hit 21 long balls along with a massive .338 batting average.  As usual, "Scoops" Al Oliver hit .300 with double digit homers, but the real story was the lack of health for "Pops" Stargell.  Tanner only had his future HOF slugger for 63 games, yet he was still able to cobble together a winner.  Pure genius.  Every regular had double digits in stolen bases, if you count Dyer and Ott splitting time and combining their output.  Tanner had a 22 year old speedster named Miguel Dilone on the bench to pinch run.  Dilone went a perfect 12 for 12 in thefts.  If he could have stolen 1st base this team would have walked away with the division.  On the hill, 23 year old Brooklyn lefty John Candelaria was 20-5 with a 2.34 ERA.  Call the 6'7" giant the ace and you would have no detractors.  Jim Rooker's 14-9, 3.08 made him an able bodied #2 guy for sure.  The problem was the 3 and 4 guys (Reuss and Kison), who both had sub par and sub .500 years.  Tanner relied heavily on a bullpen that had a 10-1 Kent Tekulve as the setup man who held the game close and benefited from late inning ralies.  His closer was future HOF'er Rich "Goose" Gossage who won 11 and somehow lost 9 with a 1.62 ERA and 26 saves.  Goose threw bullets and notched 26 saves.  Grant Jackson and Terry Forster also pitched in.

To finish off the Pirates 1977 Topps Set I had to create 20 new cards.

Holland was a 24 year old rookie who got into 2 games and posted a 7.71 ERA in 2 1/3 innings of work.  his best years would come after he was dealt in 1979 to Giants.  The Pirates couldn't feel bad about losing this future 20+ save closer, because in the deal with San Fran they would net Bill Madlock, who was the final piece to their 1979 Championship puzzle.  This 8x10 glossy being sold on ebay shows Al in some sort of zen trance trying to channel his mind with Walt Clyde Frazier who's muttonchop/mustache look he so blatantly stole.  This shot was taken @Wrigley.
Yogi's son was known in the Big Apple as "Boo-boo".  In 1977 he was a rookie infielder trying to win the third base spot vacated by Richie Hebner, who signed with the Phillies as a free agent.  At the tender age of 20 Berra was rushed to the big leagues and it had adverse affects on his career.  Instead of learning in the minors he was forced to learn on the job.  He hit .175 in 40 AB's in '77.  In '78 he joined the big club for good, but was never able to .263 in a single season.  A lifetime .238 hitter in 8 seasons in the Steeltown before being dealt to the Yankees to play for his dad who was managing the team.  He was hitting .380 for his HOF dad, but then plummeted back to his normal .230 after Yogi was fired.  His career was blotted with drug busts, which included being a key witness in the Pittsburgh Drug trials of the early 80's.  Even with the Yanks he had trouble righting his ship.  As comical as it sounds he and an young Don Mattingly got busted for peeing on a runway while waiting for a charter flight.  The Yanks had enough and he was released.  He wound up in the minors in the Astros chain and got the call back up after his dad was coaching there.  He hit under .200 and was released.  This card was made from a photo that he took in spring training during his rookie years.  Cut out of the photo is his HOF dad, who's pinstripe jersey sleeve is on the left side.

Joined the Bucs on July 27th when the Mariners shipped him to Pittsburgh for a young lefty named Rick Honeycutt.  Guess who got the better end of this deal ?  After posting a 6.14 ERA in 24 games Pagan knew he was not going to be in Seattle's long term plans.  He got into only 1 game for the Bucs and pitched 3 scoreless innings and that would be the final chapter on his 5 year mediocre career.  This is a rare photo taken in a Pirate uniform.  I found it while searching google.

1977 say a 22 year old rookie named Eddie Lee Whison make his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He would go 1 with a respectable 3.45 ERA in 15 2/3 innings of work.  Whitson would see more time the following season and improve all around.  In '79 he was included in the blockbuster trade that netted Bill Madlock.  He would have some decent years in SF, but his best years would occur in San Diegeo, where in 8 years, crossing 2 tours of duty he would go 77-72 with a 3.69 ERA.  His most troubled time would occur in his miserable season and a half in the Bronx where the only opponent he punched out was his manager Billy Martin.  This card was created by a signed 8x10 glossy found on ebay.

Gonzalez made his major league debut in Pittsburgh in 1972.  He would return for more action with the big club in '73 before moving to KC and then to the Yankees.  1975 and 76 saw him return to the Pirate chain and spent time with their Charlestown AAA affiliate.  He returned to Three Rivers in '77 and hit .276 win 281 AB's and played every position but, CF, 1B and C.  '78 saw him return to the minors only to be released.  San Diego would pick him up and he would spend 2 years with them in the majors.  I used his '78 Topps card, taken @The Stick, for this updated card.

After 13 seasons, primarily with Philly and Baltimore, Jackson found his way to Pittsburgh.  He was 34 years of age and was showing no sign of slowing down whatsoever.  He would log 91 innings and post a 5-3 record with an ERA of 3.86, which was 40 points higher than his career average.  Nobody in Pittsburgh was alarmed, especially after he rebounded to have 4 more above average seasons as the anchor of their pen.  In total he would have a rock solid 18 year career making over 600 relief appearances.  This card photo was found while searching google.  It was on a Pirate fan site.

Arguably the best shortstop in the AL during the 1960's, Fregosi was a 6 tie All-Star during that era.  He even won a gold glove in 1967.  After 12 seasons with the Angels he was dealt to the Mets for Nolan Ryan.  That's when his career starting going downhill.  Injuries and ineffectiveness began to take their toll on his ability to produce and stay on the field.  After 4 1/2 decent seasons in Texas as a platoon player he found his way to Pittsburgh via a tradedeadline swap that sent Ed Kirkpatrick to the Rangers.  In 36 games he would hit .286 and be a key bench player for the Bucs.  He would return in '78 for his 18th and final season and hit .200 in 20 games then call it quits.  I used his 1978 Topps card photo for this one.

Macha played sparingly over the course of 3 seasons with the BUcs peaking in '77 with a .274 average in 101 plate appearances.  Macha would play all 4 corner positions, but hit with absolutely no power at all.  1 career homer in 380 career at bats will not secure you a place at the corners.  Macha would hit .212 the following season and would be shipped off to Montreal where he posted a similar resume.  After hitting .200 in 181 for the Blue Jays his career was finished.  He would later resurface as a major league manager. I used his 1978 Topps card, taken @the Stick, for this updated card.

Mendoza spent 5 seasons (1974-78) with the Bucs as a utility infielder, who had an above average glove and a below average bat.  Years later he would come to fame for being the litmus test for hitting above or below .200.  The phrase, "The Mendoza Line" refers to players who hit at or below .200.  5 of his 9 major league seasons, including 1977 (.198), were under the "Mendoza Line".  Interestingly his career average (.215) was definitely north of the famous baseball landmark.  This photo was taken from his 1975 Topps card.  I found a great photo that Topps was going to use for his '77 Card that was never created, but it had a TOPPS watermark on it.  I chose not to use it because of the watermark and all the work that it would have taken to airbrush it out.

22 year old Dilone hit .136, but his true value would be as a pinch runner and late inning defensive replacement.  This young man can run like the wind.  Eventually the Bucs would give up on him and ship him to Oakland to re-acquire catcher Manny Sanguillen.  He would wind up in Cleveland after a year in Oakland and have a monster 1980 hitting .348 and stealing a ton of bases.  After that he would settle into a mediocre career that spanned 12 seasons.  The photo used here is his 1978 Rookie Panel card photo.

It took the "hit man" a long time to figure out how to be a major leaguer.  From 1973-79 he was nothing more than a late season call up.  In '77 he got 18 AB's and hit a robust .444 with 1 homer.  The Bucs must have thought he was purely an outlier, because he spent the whole '78 season back on the farm. He resurfaced in '79 to get 54 AB's and hit .278 as a fringe player on their championship squad.  Then at the age of 29, in 1980, he became a regular and began hitting the cover off the ball.  From 1980-87 Easler would hit .295 with 115 homers and 502 RBI's.  He could flat out hit.  In '87 he retired at the age of 36 at the top of his game.  This photo comes from an 8x10 autographed glossy taken @Wrigley.

Jones was one of those guys who had AAAA stuff.  Too good for the minors, but not good enough for the show.  He went 3-7 with a 5.08 ERA in 34 games during the '77 season.  He ate up 108 innings half in relief and half as a spot starter.  His up and down career would end after the '88 season.  He missed 7 years in the middle of his career being farmed out, but somehow he would come back to life for a season or two before being sent back down.  Call him persistent.  His final line over 9 years:  24-35, 4.42.  This photo is from his 1978 Topps card.

"Scrap Iron" had the bad luck of joining the dynasty A's the year after the championships stopped.  He spent two full seasons w/Oakland before being dealt to Pittsburgh in a deal that moved a lot of players with the key two being Garner to Pittsburg and Tony Armas to Oakland.  The 28 year old Garner hit .261 with 17 homers in 153 games for the Bucs.  He would be a key contributor to the 1979 Championship team as well as the '86 Astros AL Divisional champion.  In total he would play 16 major league seasons at 2nd and short and hit an even .260.  A three time All-Star who was a clutch post season performer with a .309 average.  I used an 8x10 photo that was scanned and posted on Google for this card.

For just 1 season the Goose was loose in Steeltown.  Chuck Tanner, who managed Goose in Chicago realized that it was a mistake for the Chisox to convert him into a starter, so he acquired him for Richie Zisk and put him back in the pen.  Goose responded with an All-Star season and an amazing 1.62 ERA in 133 innings of relief.  Unfortunately he would play out his contract and wind up in New York as a free agent.  On his way to Cooperstown, Goose was a 9 time All-Star, who finished in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award 5 times.  He saved over 300 games in an era where saves usually occurred with 2-3 innings worth of relief work.  I found a mini-photo of Goose on Google.  It was signed just after he was inducted into Cooperstown as you can see it says "HOF 2008".

If you're only going to get to play in a handful of games during 1 season, you want to have the numbers Tim Jones had.  Going 1-0 in 3 games in a total of 10 innings and not allowing a run is a pretty darn good final tally.  It also makes one question why we never saw him again.  That question is easily answered when you look at his minor league numbers at Denver, Montreal's AAA affiliate in 1978.  Jones went 1-11, with a 6.35 ERA then went bye-bye.  Topps did issue a Rookie Panel card with Jones, which is where I found the pictured for the updated card.

Helms, the 1966 Rookie of the Year with Cincy, was at the end of the road in 1977.  In 15 games he had 12 AB's and not a single hit.  By June 14th he was released.  He wound up in Boston for the rest of the year then retired.  He as a 2 time All-Star and a 2 Time Gold Glover at 2nd.  He finished with a .269 career average and 1,342 career hits.  No too many photos of a guy who spent barely a half season with an organization, so I was shocked to find this shot on ebay.  It was taken @Wrigley.

 After spending time as the 4th outfielder on two Cardinal pennant winners in 1967 and 1968 Tolan was traded to the Reds along with Wayne Granger for a fast fading Vada Pinson.  Tolan had tow All-Star caliber years in 1969 and 1970, where he hit .305 and .316.  He would miss all of 1971 due to injury and by the time he returned in '72 he lost almost all of his power and some of his speed.  He next bounced to SD then Philly before ending up in Pittburgh for the 2nd half of the 1977 season.  Tolan played first and left in 49 games, but hit a Mendoza-like .203 with just 2 homers.  The Bucs dumped him at the end of the season and he actually wound up out of baseball in '78, then returned for 22 games with the Padres in '79 before calling it quits at the age of 33.  Since there were no known pictures of him in a Pirate uni, I took his 1976 Hostess Card and airbrushed in the Pirate colors and then pasted a new cap on.

How many major leaguers can say that they got their nickname for David Letterman ?  In 1985 when Forster's weight ballooned close to the 300lb mark, the late night TV talk show host gave him his nickname.  Forster didn't mind and actually appeared on the show and cut a single called "Fat is In".  In '77 Forster had a decent year out of the pen going 6-4, 4.43.  He had an even better year with the stick hitting .346 in 26 AB's.  His lifetime .397 average in 78 AB's is the career best for pitchers with over 50 AB's.  This photo was a team issued 8x10 Black and White Glossy.  Since he only spent one season in Pittsburgh (1977) it was almost impossible to even find this shot.  I colorized it and used it for the updated card.

Edwards would go on to have 2 decent seasons in Oakland in a 3 year career.  He would get into 7 games for the Bucs in '77 and not get a hit in 6 AB's.  He was the player to be named later in the Sanguillen trade on April 7th, 1978.  This photo came from his '78 record card from Topps while in a A's uniform.  I airbrushed out the A's logo and green colors and dropped Duffy Dyer's batting helmet on his head.

On June 13, 1977 the Pirates purchased Hairston's contract from the Chisox.  At the time he was hitting .308.  In 51 games with the Bucs, mainly as a pinch hitter, he went 10 for 52 for a .192 average.  His punishment for such a poor half season ?  Banishment for 3 years to the Mexican League.  In 1981 he returned to the Chisox for 9 seasons as a PH/DH.  He presently has 2 sons (Jerry & Scott) playing in the majors and his dad (Sam) had a cup of coffee with the White Sox in 1951. There were no photos or cards of Hairston for his half season in Pittsburgh.  I took an 8x10 Black and White glossy photo issued by the Chisox in '77 and colorized it and pasted a "P" on the cap to give it a Pirate look and feel.  I was going to cut and past a bi-centennial Pirate cap, but that entailed too much work for a guy who didn't contribute all that much :) !

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