By Jason Shetler
Prior to 2016, Ryan Vogelsong returned to the Pirates for a second go-around in the organization. This got me to thinking of other players who have done the same. So here are the Top 10 Pirates players to have played in Pittsburgh on more than one occasion.
10. Kevin Young: After a brief cup of coffee with the Pirates in 1992, Kevin Young split his time between first base and third base for them from 1993 to 1995, posting just a .623 OPS. The Pirates released him and he signed on with the Kansas City Royals in April of 1996. Young returned to Pittsburgh as a free agent in 1997, and spent the rest of his career with them until 2003 as the primary first baseman. He put up a .770 OPS his second time around.
9. Tommy Leach: The Pirates acquired outfielder Tommy Leach from the Louisville Colonels in a 15-player deal that also included Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke. From 1900 to 1912, Leach hit .271 and posted a 106 OPS+. He returned to the Pirates in 1918 where he had a .363 on base percentage.
8. Aramis Ramirez: In 1994, Aramis Ramirez signed with the Pirates as a highly touted amateur out of the Dominican Republic. He made his big league debut for them in 1998 as a 20-year-old. After struggling his first few seasons, Ramirez broke out in 2001 to the tune of 34 home runs, an .885 OPS and a 122 OPS+. Before being traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2003, he put up an OPS of .778. Ramirez was acquired by the Pirates from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015 following an injury to Josh Harrison, and had .712 OPS in 56 games played.
7. Rocky Nelson: Rocky Nelson was acquired by the Pirates from the St. Louis Cardinals in May of 1951. That season, he posted only a .661 OPS. In 1958, the Bucs selected Nelson in the Rule 5 Draft. From 1959 to 1961, Nelson performed much better the second time, posting a .786 OPS along with a 111 OPS+, and was the first baseman on the Pirates 1960 World Series championship club.
6. Joe Gibbon: Perhaps one of the more underrated pitchers in Pirates history is Joe Gibbon. He posted a 3.75 ERA with the Bucs from 1960 to 1965. Prior to the 1966 season, Gibbon was traded to the San Francisco Giants in a deal for Matty Alou. The Giants dealt him back to Pittsburgh in June of 1969. Gibbon spent the 1969 and 1970 seasons pitching exclusively as a reliever for the Pirates, posting an ERA of 3.38.
5. Manny Sanguillen: Manny Sanguillen is of course one of the greatest catchers in the long history of the Pirates. The three-time All-Star spent his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh, as he batted .300 and posted a 106 OPS+. The Pirates traded Sanguillen to the Oakland Athletics prior to 1977 in exchange for manager Chuck Tanner. Sanguillen returned to the Bucs a year later, and played three more seasons with them, hitting .247. He’s one of only a few players to be on both the 1971 and 1979 Pirates World Series teams.
4. Lloyd Waner: From 1927 to 1941, Lloyd Waner dawned a Pirates uniform. The younger brother of Paul Waner compiled a .312 average and was the National League hits leader in 1931. In May of 1941, he was traded to the Boston Braves. Waner came back to the Pirates in June of 1944 shortly after being released by the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1944 and 1945, he batted .310 in a total of 42 games. Waner was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1967.
3. Dock Ellis: Dock Ellis was a vital part of the Pirates World Series title run in 1971. He spent his first eight years in Pittsburgh from 1968 to 1975, posting a 3.13 ERA with an ERA+ of 111. Ellis had his most memorable moment in 1970 when he pitched a no-hitter while being on LSD. In December of 1975, he was dealt to the New York Yankees. Ellis returned to the Bucs in September of 1979 after being obtained from the New York Mets. He pitched just three games his second time around.
2. Richie Hebner: The Pirates chose Richie Hebner with their first round pick in the 1966 MLB Draft. Hebner put up solid numbers as the Pirates third baseman, as he posted a .350 OBP along with a 123 OPS+ from 1969 to 1976. Prior to 1977, he decided to go across the state by signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. In August of 1982, the Pirates acquired Hebner from the Detroit Tigers. He spent the rest of 1982 and 1983 in a utility role with the Bucs, putting up an OBP of .340 and a 104 OPS+.
1. John Candelaria: During his first 11 seasons in Pittsburgh from 1975 to 1985, John Candelaria was one of the best pitchers in the National League. Known affectionately as “The Candy Man”, he put up a 3.16 ERA and had an ERA+ of 120. Candelaria’s best season came in 1977 when he posted an NL best 2.34 ERA along with a 7.4 WAR and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting. He returned to the Pirates as a reliever in 1993 where he had an ERA of 8.24 in 24 appearances. Even with the bad second stint, Candelaria remains the greatest left-handed starting pitcher in franchise history.