By Jason Shetler
The Pirates are just a few teams in baseball that can say they’ve been around for more than a century. Obviously, that comes with a long list of managers in that time. So who were the most notable? – Here now is a list of the Top 10 best managers in Pirates history.
10. Pie Traynor: While most associate Pie Traynor as the greatest third baseman in franchise history, it’s easy to forget that he also managed the club at one point. Traynor took over the Pirates in 1934 and managed them until 1939. He held his own as a skipper, compiling a .530 winning percentage.
9. George Gibson: The Pirates hired George Gibson as their manager in 1920, making him the first and only Canadian born manager in club history. He was let go after the 1922 season. After spending several years as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, Gibson was brought back by the Pirates in 1932. He managed six seasons altogether in Pittsburgh, and had a winning percentage of .549.
8. Al Buckenberger: The best Pirates manager pre 1900 was Al Buckenberger. He managed only three seasons from 1892 to 1894, but did compile an impressive .565 winning percentage. Buckenberger was also the team president at the time.
7. Donie Bush: In his first season as Pirates manager in 1927, Donie Bush led the Bucs to a National League pennant. Unfortunately for Bush and the Pirates, they were swept by a much more talented New York Yankees team, most famously known as “Murderer’s Row”. In three seasons with the Pirates, Bush posted a .580 winning percentage.
6. Clint Hurdle: Following the firing of John Russell in 2010, the Pirates brought in Clint Hurdle. 2011 and 2012 began promising, but both ended in second half collapses. Hurdle and the Pirates put it altogether in 2013 by winning 94 games, and snapping the streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons. He was given the NL Manager of the Year award for his efforts. After making the playoffs in 2014 with 88 wins, Hurdle led the Bucs to a 98-win campaign in 2015 and a third straight playoff appearance.
5. Jim Leyland: Prior to the 1986 season, the Pirates named Jim Leyland as their manager. It took a few years, but he got the Bucs to be a real power in the early 90’s, as they won 95 games in 1990, 98 games in 1991 and 96 games in 1992 while capturing the NL East division title each time. Leyland was a two-time NL Manager of the Year recipient in 1990 and 1992.
4. Chuck Tanner: A native of New Castle, PA, Chuck Tanner got to manage his hometown club prior to 1977 when he was acquired from the Oakland A’s for Manny Sanguillen. The Pirates won 96 games in Tanner’s first season. In 1979, Tanner led them to a 98-win season, which included an NL pennant, and of course, their fifth World Series title in franchise history.
3. Bill McKechnie: In 1922, Bill McKechnie was brought in to manage the Pirates. During his four seasons as their skipper, he compiled an excellent .583 winning percentage while winning the 1925 World Series. McKechnie managed a total of 25 seasons, and in 1962, was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee.
2. Danny Murtaugh: Danny Murtaugh was hired to take over the Pirates in 1957. He guided the Bucs to an improbable World Series championship in 1960 over the heavily favored New York Yankees in seven games. Murtaugh was named the NL Manager of the Year that season. After stepping down a couple times due to health reasons, he managed the Pirates to another World Series victory in 1971, making him the first manager in franchise history to capture two World Series titles. During his 15 seasons in Pittsburgh, Murtaugh won 1,115 games along with a winning percentage of .540. He’s certainly one of the greatest managers in baseball history not to be in Cooperstown.
1. Fred Clarke: Prior to 1900, the Pirates obtained two noteworthy players from the Louisville Colonels. One was Honus Wagner and the other was Fred Clarke. Clarke managed the Pirates, which made him the first ever player/manager in club history. He led the Pirates to a 102-win season in 1902, and in 1903, guided them to the very first World Series, in which they lost to the Boston Americans. Clarke however guided them to their first World Series crown in 1909 by defeating the Detroit Tigers. The Pirates won 110 games that season, which still remains the franchise record. Clarke compiled a team record 1,422 victories with a .595 winning percentage in his 16 seasons with the Pirates. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Old Timer’s Committee in 1945.