By Jason Shetler
With the MLB All-Star Game coming up on Tuesday, I thought I’d put together a countdown of the ten best All-Star Game performances by Pirates players, since the Midsummer Classic first took place in 1933.
10. Andrew McCutchen 2015: The 2015 season marked the fifth time in Andrew McCutchen’s career that he was named an All-Star. McCutchen has hit his fair share of long balls at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, and the All-Star Game that year was no exception, homering off Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays.
9. Ralph Kiner 1949: To the way back machine we go and it’s the first true power hitter in Pirates history, Ralph Kiner. The 1949 season was Kiner’s best, blasting 54 home runs, a record that has yet to be matched since. He made his presence felt in the 1949 All-Star Game, as he hit a two-run homer off Lou Brissie of the Philadelphia Athletics.
8. Roberto Clemente 1962: By 1962, Roberto Clemente was entering the prime of his career. That year, Clemente made the second of his franchise record 12 All-Star appearances. His hitting was on the display in that game, as he recorded three hits, including a double off Hall of Famer Jim Bunning.
7. Vince DiMaggio 1943: While it’s obvious who Joe DiMaggio is, his younger brother Vince DiMaggio played five seasons as a member of the Pirates. He made his first All-Star squad with them in 1943, and certainly made the most of the opportunity, collecting three hits, one of which was a home run off Boston Red Sox pitcher Tex Hughson.
6. Willie Stargell 1965: Willie Stargell played all 21 seasons in a Pirates uniform, with seven of those being All-Star campaigns. The 1965 Midsummer Classic was Stargell’s second, as well as his personal best, hitting a two-run home run against Mudcat Grant of the Minnesota Twins, which helped the National League become victorious that year.
5. Ralph Kiner 1950: After homering in the 1949 All-Star Game, Ralph Kiner outdid himself the following year in 1950, as he connected on a game-tying homer in the ninth inning off Art Houtteman of the Detroit Tigers. The NL would go on to win the game by a final of 4-3 in 14 innings.
4. Roberto Clemente 1961: Roberto Clemente virtually accomplished everything you could think of, such as a batting title, Gold Gloves, an MVP, and a pair of World Series titles. One accolade that never really gets mentioned was what he did in the 1961 All-Star Game, and that was delivering a game-winning RBI single off Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm to give the NL a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
3. Bob Friend 1956: Regarded as one of the better starting pitchers in Pirates history, Bob Friend made his first All-Star team in 1956. In that game, he put together the best performance ever by a Pirates pitcher, as he pitched three scoreless innings, while striking out three. Two of the batters he struckout were Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.
2. Dave Parker 1979: Before helping the Pirates capture their fifth World Series championship in 1979, Dave Parker played a vital role in the All-Star Game that year. Although Parker had just a sacrifice fly RBI on the offensive side, he displayed the greatest defensive performance in All-Star Game history, recording not one, but two outfield assists. The first was throwing out Hall of Famer Jim Rice at third base, while the other helped preserve a tied game, as he threw a perfect strike to Gary Carter to nail Brian Downing at home plate. For those efforts, Parker was named the 1979 All-Star Game MVP.
1. Arky Vaughan 1941: The single greatest All-Star performance ever by a Pirates player goes to Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan. During the 1941 All-Star Game, Vaughan became the first and only Pirate to homer twice in a Midsummer Classic. His first was a two-run homer off Sid Hudson of the Washington Senators, while the second was also a two-run blast against Eddie Smith of the Chicago White Sox.