Today marks the anniversary of the Pittsburgh Pirates retiring Willie Stargell’s #8 jersey. On September 6th, 1982, Three Rivers Stadium hosted its highest attended game of the season when the Bucs squared off against the New York Mets. Despite it being a Monday night game and both teams being on the bottom end of their division, over 38,000 fans crammed into Three Rivers Stadium to watch the retiring of one of their team’s most decorated players. The packed house also help the Pirates beat the Mets 6-1 .
Stargell, aka “Pops”, still holds the Pirates record for most home runs, runs batted in and extra base hits for a career. The left-handed Stargell hit 475 home runs with the Pirates, but that number could have been significantly higher if he didn’t play his first 9 seasons at Forbes Field, which housed a left-center wall that measured 457 feet from home plate. In addition to leading the club in HRs, RBIs and extra base hits, Stargell is in the organization’s top ten of basically every other offensive category, including total games played and at-bats. He won two World Series rings with the Pirates, one in ’71 and another in ’79. Ironically, despite playing his entire twenty one season career (‘62 – ’82) with the Pirates, upon retiring, Stargell took a job with the Atlanta Braves as the team’s Manager.
In 1988, Eight years after the Pirates retired his number, Willie “Pops” Stargell was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Matty Alou, a former MLB batting champion, passed away yesterday at the age of 72. Alou played in the majors from 1960 - 74, primarily with the Giants and Pirates. He had a career batting average of .307 with his strength being as a singles hitter. Starting his career with the Giants, Alou was primarily a bench player. Matty and his brothers Felipe and Jesus made history with the Giants when in 1963, all three brothers played in the outfield at the same time.
Alou was traded to the Pirates prior to the 1966 season. In his first year in Pittsburgh Alou finished the season with a .342 batting average, which was enough to win the batting title. Alou's brother Felipe finished second to his younger brother with an average of .327. After five successful seasons in Pittsburgh, two of them being All Star years ('68 & '69), the Pirates sent him to St. Louis before the 1971 season. He played for four more years before finishing his career in 1974 with the Padres.
Today marks the 90th anniversary of baseball’s first radio broadcast. Way back on August 5th, 1921, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Philadelphia Phillies at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. On any ordinary day, this particular game would not have been a hot topic in the world of sports. The Pirates were sitting atop the National League with a record of 64-35, while the Phillies sat in the basement of the National League with a record of 30-68. But this was no ordinary day.
For the first time in Major League Baseball history, baseball enthusiasts would be able to follow their favorite team without actually attending the game. The broadcast was put together by the local radio network KDKA, and the game was called by KDKA staffer Harold Arlin. While the matchup was not ideal for this historical broadcast, the game proved to be very entertaining. The Phillies and Pirates would change leads 3 times and take a tied game into the bottom of the 8th inning. The home team would score 3 runs in the bottom of the 8th, however, and the Pirates ended up winning the game 8-5. KDKA proved to be a pioneer for sports radio broadcasting. It would also broadcast the first on air boxing match (Johnny Dundee vs. Johnny Ray in April) and college football game (Pitt vs. WVU in October) that same year.