The Pirates lost the first World Series

I loved 1979!

It occurred to me that this is the 120th anniversary of the Fall Classic. The Pittsburgh Pirates lost the first World Series to the Boston Americans, who would become the Red Sox, 5 games to 3 in a best-of-nine series in 1903. But in 1909, the Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 3. Fred Clarke was the Bucs’ manager in both series.

The Pirates also led the National League in 1901 and 1902 before the Series was initiated, their first two titles since joining the league in 1882 as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys; they became the Pirates in 1891.

The Bill McKechnie-led team of 1925 beat the Washington Senators, 4 games to 3. McKechnie was the first of only two managers to win a World Series with two different teams, also helming the 1940 Cincinnati Reds to the title. 

Donie Bush’s 1927 Pirates were swept by the 1927 New York Yankees, with  Ruth, Gehrig, and others of the Murderers’ Row.

The Pirates didn’t return to the Series until 1960 when Danny Murtagh led them to an exciting and dramatic win over the Yankees. Some claim Game 7 was the greatest ever played.

The Pirates won two Series in the 1970s over the Baltimore Orioles, 4 games to 3, in 1971 under Murtagh, and the exciting 1979 games when Chuck Tanner led them from a 3-1 deficit.

Downhill from there

They haven’t been to a World Series since. Of course, they have gotten to playoffs a few times with the ever-expanding playoffs. They lost the National League Championship Series in 1970 (to the Cincinnati Reds), 1972 (Reds), 1974 (Los Angeles Dodgers), and 1975 (Reds), all under Murtaugh, except 1972 when Bill Virdon led them.

Then they lost the NLCS when piloted by Jim Leyland in 1990 (Reds), 1991  (Atlanta Braves), and 1992  (Braves). I STILL remember former Pirate Sid Bream scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the 1992 series.

Since then, they’ve lost the NL Divisional Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, then were eliminated in the Wild Card game in 2014 and 2015 by the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Clint Hurdle was the manager.

Even those were the good old days. Since then, the team has had only one season above .500, in 2018 at 82-79, and lost over 100 games in 2021 and 2022. They were in first place in the NL Central in mid-June 2023, but they’re well under .500 again.  At least they can’t lose more than 95 games this season. 


Here are 13 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame who spent most of their careers as Pittsburgh Pirates. Every year, I hope the team does better. Alas, no.  

Also, “Kent Tekulve, the closer for the 1979 World Series champion Pirates, Elroy Face from the 1960 World Series team, and the late Bob Friend and Dick Groat were all inducted into” the Pirates’ Hall of Fame.

Finally, you can VOTE for the 2023 Roberto Clemente Award until October 1. It honors “the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy, and positive contributions, both on and off the field.”

Bob Clemente? Roberto Clemente Walker!

3000 hits

Bob ClementeOne of those arcane pieces of information is about the great baseball player Roberto Clemente. I was talking about one of my choir buddies, coincidentally named Rob, about the fact that the press tried to rename him. But he would have nothing to do with it.

As it turns out, the ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA had the story:

“While Clemente amassed a mountain of impressive statistics during his career, he was often mocked by the print media in the United States for his heavy Spanish accent. Clemente was also subjected to the double discrimination of being a foreigner and being black in a racially segregated society. Although the media tried to call him ‘Bob’ or ‘Bobby’ and many of his baseball cards use ‘Bob,’ Clemente explicitly rejected those nicknames, stating in no uncertain terms that his name was Roberto.”

Almost immediately, Rob found this card online. It’s from 1958. But even Roberto’s 1969 Topps baseball card listed him as Bob Clemente.

Fix that plaque!

“There was also confusion over the correct form of his surname. For 27 years the plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame read ‘Roberto Walker Clemente,’ mistakenly placing his mother’s maiden name before his father’s surname. Only in 2000 was it changed to its proper Latin American form, Roberto Clemente Walker.”

Roberto Clemente was a great ballplayer. He won four NL batting titles, 12 straight Gold Gloves in the outfield, and made the All-Star team 15 times. The man got exactly 3000 hits. “He inspired generations of Latino kids, particularly in Puerto Rico, to dream that they could make it in the big leagues one day.”

But he also was a great human being. I wrote about him several times, the first being Talk Like a Pirate Day in 2006. I noted this quote: “Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” I mentioned him most recently in 2018.

From his Hall of Fame page: “On Dec. 31, 1972, Clemente boarded a small plane en route from Puerto Rico to Nicaragua to assist with earthquake relief. The heavily loaded plane crashed just off the Puerto Rican coast, and Clemente’s body was never recovered.

“He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973 in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.”

Talk Like a Pirate Day triptych

‘Elitist’: angry book pirates hit back after author campaign sinks website

Michael Scott MooreFor this year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought I’d look at the word three different ways.

The first one is about “The Desert and the Sea” author Michael Scott Moore talking to The Daily Show Host Trevor Noah about being “a captive of Somali pirates for nearly three years, as he describes the dangerous cycle of hope and despair.” I think some of you folks outside of the United States might not be able to see the official video, but I hope you can access this YouTube piece, because it is a compelling story.

Also check out these NPR reports, What It’s Like To Be Held Hostage By Somali Pirates For 2 1/2 Years and the followup, Journalist Held Captive By Pirates Says Focus And Forgiveness Were Crucial.

The second topic I actually purloined from Arthur, who linked to ‘Elitist’: angry book pirates hit back after author campaign sinks website. This website was stealing writers’ works but it rightly got shut down. Some folks then were outraged, saying that it is “elitist” or worse, the very idea that authors expecting to be paid for their writings. What a load of…

The third topic, as is often the case, is about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, who are going through another mediocre year. but this story’s a bit older.

From The Greatest Forgotten Home Run of All Time: “What Roberto Clemente accomplished in Pittsburgh on July 25, 1956, stupefied the tobacco-spitting baseball lifers all around him precisely because it transcended baseball, entering the realm of pure theater and then myth.” You don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the subtext of this daring play.

I remember his early baseball cards referred to him as Bob Clemente, trying to Anglicize the Puerto Rican player. In 1972, my favorite player other than Willie Mays was 38. He had just hit his 3,000th major league hit, which surely qualified him for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Clemente did charity work in Latin American and Caribbean countries, hands-on stuff, during the off-seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. On the last day of 1972, he died in a plane crash while delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1973, “in a special election that waived the mandatory five-year waiting period.”

Pirate music throwback: We Are Family

Rodgers and Edwards suggested that they write and produce a song for the label’s least established act

The family was going to the movies. I got out of the car and walked a little bit ahead, hoping unsuccessfully to to exchange an old Spectrum Theatre card to get into the entity run by Landmark. They stopped taking them at the end of 2016, alas!

But the Daughter said that I had to wait. She asked, “And do you know why?”


“Because” – and then she sang “We are family.”

I asked her how she knew it; she’d heard it from some school mates. Did she know who sang it? “Sly and the Family Stone?”

“Sister Sledge. But a good guess, actually.”

I’m reminded of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, who used the song as the team’s theme song that season. It went to #2 pop and #1 r&b on the Billboard charts. It also went to #1 in Canada, and it was Top 6 in the UK, Italy, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

The Pirates had stars such as Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Bill Madlock. They got to the World Series but were down three games to one in a seven-game series. Then I did something uncharacteristic: I bet a couple dollars on the Pirates in Game 5, which they won. I did likewise for Game 6, in which they were likewise successful. But I chickened out on Game 7, when they won the Series.

From the Wikipedia:

“We Are Family” was the first song that Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards wrote for any other act than their own band Chic… Atlantic Records President Jerry L. Greenberg wanted the pair to write and produce for other acts on the label, which Rodgers and Edwards considered far too big and established, e.g., The Rolling Stones, Bette Midler… The pair suggested that they write and produce a song for the label’s least established act, and that if they got them a hit record, then they could take the challenge of writing for a bigger act.

There’s a We Are Family Foundation, which “amplifies the world’s most influential, creative young people who are positively affecting our planet to power their work and ideas forward.”

Listen to We Are Family here or here or here (12″ version)

Act like a pirate day 2015

andrew-mccutchenA heart condition hasn’t gotten in the way of Sean Campbell’s love of baseball. “He gets a day full of surprises from his favorite player, Andrew McCutchen.” The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder “has worked with Make-A-Wish previously, having teamed up with them to give 12-year-old Matthew Beichner a tour of the team’s home field last year, after he signed a one-day contract with the team.”

BTW, the Pirates have a very good chance of making it to the playoffs this year.

ARRRR at Saratoga

From Daily Kos, June 2015:

Iceland has long been one of the more right-leaning Nordic countries… [In 2013], the right-leaning Independence and Progressive parties regained power in a landslide.

So it comes as a massive shock that the last few months of polling has shown the incumbent coalition hemorrhaging support not to the center-left Social Democrats or to the left-wing Left-Green Movement, but to the nascent Pirate Party, which has surged into the lead in public opinion polls due to dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties…

Even though Iceland is a tiny country, if just one nation changes its copyright laws and tries to fight the international copyright regime, it could have significant consequences given the ways that the Internet has worn down national borders. This election isn’t until April of 2017 at the latest…
Muppet dramatic reading of A Pirate’s Life for Me.

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