Unsung Heroes in Pirates Postseason History

By Jason Shetler

When it comes to the baseball postseason, we tend to remember the most iconic moments from the years gone by. But sometimes there are moments that get overshadowed by others. The Pirates have captured five World Series titles, and while we certainly remember the great moments, there are some moments from players who don’t receive enough recognition. Here now are the unsung heroes from each World Series championship in Pirates history. 

Tommy Leach 1909: In December of 1899, the Pirates pulled off their greatest trade in franchise history when they acquired Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke from the Louisville Colonels. Another player who came to Pittsburgh in that deal was outfielder Tommy Leach. The 1909 World Series is remembered most for Wagner besting Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers, as well as Babe Adams pitching three complete game victories. One overlooked player in that series was Leach, as he batted .360 and posted a .949 OPS. 

Ray Kremer 1925: In Game 6 of the 1925 World Series, Ray Kremer pitched a complete game victory. Trailing in Game 7 to the Washington Senators, Pirates manager Bill McKechnie decided to have Kremer pitch in relief on just two days rest. Kremer was solid in his four innings of work, as he gave the Pirates the opportunity to rally from behind against one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, Walter Johnson. 

Hal Smith 1960: Perhaps the biggest underdog in any particular World Series was the 1960 Pirates. Despite being outscored by the New York Yankees 55-27, the Pirates won the series on a ninth inning, game-winning home run from Bill Mazeroski. What rarely ever gets mentioned however is what led to that moment. In the eighth inning, backup catcher Hal Smith came on as a pinch-hitter and delivered a three-run homer that gave the Pirates the lead. Because the Yankees tied the game in the ninth, Smith’s moment gets lost. Had the Pirates hung onto the lead, the first walkoff home run in World Series history would not have happened. 

Dave Giusti 1971: The Pirates acquired Dave Giusti from the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1970 season. The former All-Star closer was at his best during the 1971 postseason when he pitched a combined 10.2 scoreless innings along with a 0.75 WHIP in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants and the World Series versus the Baltimore Orioles. While the 71′ postseason were showcases for both Roberto Clemente and Steve Blass, Giusti’s performances don’t get enough attention. 

Phil Garner 1979: Phil Garner joined the Pirates in Spring Training of 1977 as part of a nine-player deal with the Oakland Athletics. The man affectionately known as ” Scrap Iron” was the Pirates third baseman when he arrived to Pittsburgh. During the 1979 season, the Pirates made a blockbuster trade by acquiring Bill Madlock from the San Francisco Giants. In the process, Garner moved over to second base. Willie Stargell was of course the Pirates team leader and the 1979 World Series MVP. His five home runs still remains a franchise postseason record. Although Stargell gets the most accolades from that postseason, and rightfully so, Garner was extremely productive as well, batting .417 with a 1.295 OPS versus the Reds and hit .500 with an OPS of 1.238 against the Orioles in the Fall Classic. 

 

 

 

 

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