Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Shaking Off A Bad Season to Rebound - 1962 Pirates


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Scott Hitchcox of Portage, MI, who correctly identified Dooley Womack as the former Yankee who was traded in a deal for Jim Bouton. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

NEW TRIVIA CONTEST:  By answering the TRIVIA QUESTION CORRECTLY you are automatically entered into a weekly drawing for a Starbucks Gift Card.  YOU MUST ENTER VIA THE EMAIL AT THE END OF THIS COLUMN. Don't forget to put your mailing address in with the answer so if you win we can send you the gift card in the mail.

ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column:  Dooley Womack was the other Yankee player who was traded in a deal for Jim Bouton. 

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Which three members of the 1960 Pirates played in at least two World Series against the New York Yankees?

Just two years post their World Championship year and one year after faltering to sixth place in an eight team league, the Pittsburgh Pirates were on the rebound. As strange as it was, aside from a few new faces who didn't contribute much, they had the same line-up which won the World Series two seasons earlier. However, by the end of 1962 the club would see key faces gone.

The line-up of Bill Virdon in center-field, Roberto Clemente in right and Bob Skinner in left was in tact from 1960 along with an infield of Don Hoak at 3rd, Dick Groat as SS, Bill Mazeroski at 2b and Dick Stuart at 1b (and a challenger). Smokey Burgess and four others handled the catching but not 1960 hero Hal Smith who was gone after 1961. Dick Schofield also played some shortstop as he did in 1960. Most of the bench players were gone.

The pitching was handled by sturdy Bob Friend, Vern Law, Harvey Haddix and Roy Face for the most part. The rest faded or retired including Vinegar Bend Mizell.

But the Bucs had something on this 1962 roster which would shape them through the 1960s and while they didn't contribute much to the team's rise back to 4th place and 93 wins in 161 games, fans saw what was coming, and who was going. 

Donn Clendenon had the biggest impact. With part time first baseman Rocky Nelson gone and Stuart struggling to hit .228 with 16 home runs, the versatile Clendenon hit .302 with seven homers in 80 games. While Burgess, Skinner and Clemente each batted over .300, Groat was right behind at .294. Bob Bailey and Willie Stargell only played in 24 games between them and did not do well, but they would form a nucleus of Buc Batters by 1965. 

On the mound Alvin McBean came alive to win 15 games, 26 year-old rookie Bob Veale made his debut and so did 20 year-old Tommie Sisk. They only tossed 60 innings between them but fans saw something in the future. Earl Francis became a starter and ate some innings.  

By the start of the 1963 season Groat was gone to St. Louis and Stuart to Boston while Hoak was sent to the Phillies. Bailey took over at 3b, Schofield at SS, Jim Pagliaroni who was acquired in the Stuart trade split the catching with aging Burgess and Clendenon was the new first sacker. Jerry Lynch shared left with Stargell with Skinner relegated to the bench. Gene Alley arrived on the scene and would become the regular SS in 1964. Manny Mota came up that year as well. On the mound Joe Gibbon and Don Schwall joined the rotation going 11-24 between them. 

It was said by some fans the club traded Stuart and Groat too soon. Clendenon's fine season of 17 homers and .275 did not match what Stuart did in Boston. Stuart belted 42 homers and drove in 118 and followed that up with 33 and 114. Of course, Clendenon didn't have Boston's Green Monster which favored the long ball hitting Dr. Strange Glove. Groat led the NL in doubles with 43 and batted .319. The following season he helped St. Louis win the World Series. Hoak, who was sent to Philadelphia for bench players Ted Savage and Pancho Herrera, had a lackluster season and then retired.

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