Who are the top four players in Pittsburgh history?
Major League Baseball is promoting an effort to identify the best four players in each team’s history with their "Franchise Four." We selected our choices for Mt. Rushmores a few years ago. Here are updated versions for all 30 teams. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Pittsburgh Pirates Mt. Rushmore
The club's recent drought of 20 consecutive losing seasons seems like distant history now that the club has made a couple of postseason appearances the past two years. But overall, Pittsburgh's success has been spotty. The team made the playoffs six times in the 1970s, which was one more time than all of their previous history. I thought the Pirates’ group was fairly straightforward, but there’s certainly room for argument. It’s clear there isn’t a strong pitching history in Pittsburgh.
The greatest Pirate on and off the field. Clemente doubled off Jon Matlack of the Mets for his 3,000th hit in what would be the final regular season plate appearance of his career. In addition to his MVP in 1966 and his three batting titles, he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves and was World Series MVP in 1971.
The Hall of Fame shortstop was just 33 hits shy of 3,000 for the Pirates in 2,433 games. Wagner was the first baseball hero in the city of Pittsburgh starring for the Bucs from 1900 -17.
From 1926-40, Big Poison forged a Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh with a .340 batting average for the Pirates. He scored 1,493 runs and drove in 1,177 while with the team and amassed 2,868 of his 3,152 career hits.
Pops was the inspirational leader of the “We are Family” group that won the 1979 World Series, as well as the leader on the field, batting .415 with five home runs in the 10 postseason games. He also shared the NL MVP award that season with Keith Hernandez and was instrumental in the 1971 championship as well. From 1971-73 Stargell was in the top three in MVP voting and averaged .296-42-119.
Max Carey played in Pittsburgh for 17 seasons during the Dead Ball Era and had more than 2,400 hits for the Pirates with 688 stolen bases, leading the NL 10 times.
A well-timed home run in 1960 made Bill Mazeroski a legend as did his steady work around the bag at second. The argument over whether he truly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame will be reserved for another day.
For such an historic franchise, the Pirates are short on Mt. Rushmore-worthy pitchers. Wilbur Cooper, winner of 202 games with the team, is the closest pitcher — but not a serious threat to the honorees.
Hall of Fame shortstop Arky Vaughan played just 10 years with the Pirates, but would be a strong candidate to have his likeness carved into the mountain for many franchises. For Pittsburgh, he’s merely the second-best shortstop.
From 1946-52, his first seven seasons in the majors, Ralph Kiner led the NL in home runs each year (sharing the title on three occasions), averaging 42 long balls a season.
When Pie Traynor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948, All Simmons, Charlie Gehringer and Jimmie Foxx were among those not elected at that time.
Few current Pittsburgh fans know much about Carey, Traynor, Cooper, Vaughan and even Kiner. But all remember Dave Parker. The Cobra spent just 11 years in Pittsburgh but won the NL MVP in 1978 after finishing third in 1975 and ’77.
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is now the face of the franchise. The perennial MVP candidate should go down in history as one of the all-time greats in the Steel City.
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: