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The 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates

by Michael Aubrecht
Excerpts from World Series and Year In Review written for and The Highlander's '79 Pirates 25th Anniversary Sources: Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia, The Bucs (The Story of the Pirates), Post Gazette, Sporting News Vault, Baseball-Almanac, The Baseball Timeline, The Baseball Library, The Baseball Chronicle,,

1979 World Series : Pittsburgh Pirates (4) vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)
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Phil Garner is one of only two players in history to appear in all seven games of a World Series and bat a record .500. Baseball Almanac Fast Facts

As the 1970's came to a close, "Pops" and his "Family" reunited for the Fall Classic and brought fun back to baseball. Willie Stargell had labored long and hard throughout the decade trying to restore a sense of enjoyment and pride that had been missing in the Pittsburgh clubhouse since the untimely death on Roberto Clemente in 1972. The fun-loving, captain/1st baseman had built a close relationship with his fellow teammates and the new "Bucco" philosophy was noticeable both on and off the field. Stargell had taken a few pointers from college football coaches (who were known as great motivators) and instituted his "Gold Star" program that awarded players with a prestigious star on their hats after a particularly good outing. At the time, the Pirates wore "Cuban-style" caps with gold bans around them and the players raced each other on the field and at the plate to see who could fill up more rows. It was a simple, almost child-like incentive, but it seemed to work as Pittsburgh captured the NL East Championship on the final day of the season.

Stargell had certainly owned his own stars as the 38 year-old veteran slugged 32 homers for "Family" patron and manager Chuck Tanner and almost single-handedly swept the Reds in the NL Series with a .455 average (2 homers, 6 RBIs). In a classic re-match of the '71 Classic, Pittsburgh and Baltimore found themselves facing each other for baseball's most prestigious title. The Orioles came out strong in Game 1 with 5 runs in the 1st-inning including a 2-run blast courtesy of Doug DeCinces. Pitcher Mike Flanagan made the numbers stand despite the best efforts of the "Bucco's" line-up. Phil Garner and Stargell (a 2-time NL home-run champion with 461 total) each collecting 2 RBIs and "The Cobra" Dave Parker finishing with 4 hits. "Pops" accounted for the game's final run with a clutch 8th-inning homer, but the "Blackbirds" held on for a 5-4 opening victory. Longtime teammate Manny Sanguillen gave Stargell and the Pirates a lift in Game 2, delivering a 9th-inning single that broke a 2-2 tie and enabled Pittsburgh to beat ace reliever Don Stanhouse. As the Series moved on to the "Steel City", home field advantage proved not to be a factor. As both teams took the field at Three Rivers Stadium, Baltimore's Kiko Garcia embarrassed the Pirates rotation in front of the home crowd. The shortstop tallied 2 singles, a double and a triple for a total of 4 RBIs. Teammate Benny Ayala shined as well and hammered a 2-run homer deep into the cheap seats as the visiting AL champions prevailed, 8-4.

Game 4 first appeared to put the Pirate's ship back on course, but pinch-hitters John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley both knocked 2-run doubles in the 8th for a miraculous 9-6 comeback. Now down 3-games-to-one, Stargell had to rally his fellow players as they prepared to go against the 1-0 Flanagan in Game 5. Newly adopted "Family" members Bill Madlock and Tim Foli both stepped up as the 3rd baseman went 4-for-4 and the former Mets shortstop drove in 3-runs for a 7-1 Baltimore setback. Bert Blyleven, arguably the greatest curveball thrower in the league, worked 4 scoreless innings of relief to seal the deal. Jim Rooker, who had won only 4 games during the regular season, was given the controversial start for Game 5 and performed beautifully with an unfamiliar 3-hitter over 5-innings. On the heels of Rooker's turnaround outing, "The Candy Man" became the obvious choice for Game 6. Despite his modest victory total (10th on Pittsburgh's rotation) John Candelaria combined with side-armed reliever Kent Tekulve to hold the Orioles to 7 meaningless hits for a 4-0 shutout. All 3 pitchers had risen to the occasion and evened the contest while earning their strips and their "stars".

Pittsburgh's Jim Bibby and Baltimore's Scott McGregor went head-to-head for the grand finale that would crown the last world champion of the 1970's. Rich Dauer was the first to score with a 3-inning homer and the numbers remained unchanged until the 6th. After striking out Parker, McGregor surrendered a single to Bill Robinson and Stargell brought them home with a spectacular "tape-measure" homer over the right-field fence. After going through 5 Oriole pitchers for 2 more runs in the 9th the Pirates cruised to a 4-1 victory and another World Series title. Pittsburgh became the 4th team in history to comeback from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to win a best-of-7 Classic and their final statistics told the tale. The "Family's" pitching staff had held the Orioles to an embarrassing 2-runs in the final 28 innings of the contest. 5 Pirates totaled 10 or more hits with Garner (who finished with a .500 average) and Stargell getting 12 each, Omar Moreno (11) and Parker and Foli (10). It was no surprise to Pittsburgh fans that "Pops" had led the way with a .400 average, 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. A few months later, the equally dominant Pittsburgh Steelers went on to win another Superbowl crowning Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as "The City of Champions". As a result, Stargell and quarterback Terry Bradshaw were both selected as the first "duel" Sportsmen of the Year in the Sports Illustrated annual.

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All essays researched and written by Michael Aubrecht.
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