One of the oldest teams in professional baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been defined by runs of glorious highs mixed with staggeringly long periods of failure and consistent losing. The Pirates began in the town of Allegheny, which has now been annexed into a part of Pittsburgh itself. In 1887, the club joined the National League and became known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Over the next several years they changed their name first to the Innocents and then to the Pirates in 1891, which they remain to this day.
The Pirates first success came at the turn of the 20th century, when they won 3 straight National League Pennants between 1901-1903. Key players during this period included Honus Wagner, Deacon Phillippe, and player/manager Fred Clarke. In 1903, the Pirates played in the first ever World Series, but would eventually lose to the Boston Americans.
But in 1909, Pittsburgh would taste the ultimate glory in baseball, as they managed to defeat the Detroit Tigers and claim their first World Series championship! Through the 1910’s the Pirates would slump and lose their momentum, but the roaring 20s would bring about more success. In 1925, the Pirates won their second World Series behind stars like Kiki Cuyler, Pie Traynor, and Max Carey. They would almost win another in 1927 but the team was swept by the New York Yankees.
The Pirates would then fade for several decades, unable to compete against the many new clubs that were rising and playing strongly as well. But with new ownership in the 50s, Pittsburgh began to assemble a young and capable squad. It culminated in a 1960 World Series title, in which the team got revenge on the Yankees, besting them in a famous 7-game Series.
The Pirates boasted a remarkable pitching staff led by Bob Friend and Vern Law. Meanwhile, their lineup was consistent throughout and featured several players capable of hitting home runs like Roberto Clemente, Dick Stuart, and Bill Mazeroski. Game 7 was an incredible game that see-sawed back and forth before Mazeroski hit the World Series clinching home run in the bottom of the 9th, which remains to this day the only World Series that has ended by a home run! While the core of this team remained for the decade, they failed to reach such heights until 1970.
Players like Willie Stargell and Steve Blass helped the team earn a series of NL East division titles culminating in a World Series win in 1971. However, tragedy would soon strike when Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash. Meanwhile, Blass’ career took a remarkable downturn and he would soon retire. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh remained decent throughout the decade, and they were able to grab another World Series title in 1979 with heroes like Stargell, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno, Dave Parker, Bert Blyleven, and John Candelaria under the theme of “We Are Family”, the hit disco song at the time!
While that title would be their most recent, a strong period in the early 1990s led by Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla would bring winning baseball back to Pittsburgh despite repeated postseason failures. The team would then enter a horrendous stretch of 20 years without a winning season until 2013, when Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez helped the team contend again and reach the postseason. While that outing eventually ended in the NLDS, the Pirates could certainly build upon their new winning ways to possibly claim a World Series title. With a young and talented squad back in the fold, the sky is the limit!
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