1948 Pittsburgh Pirates
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 1948 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by Billy Meyer
 History, Comments, Contributions
After WWII, the Pirates settled into a rut that saw the team finish last or next-to-last an ugly 10 times in 12 seasons. The lone bright spot in this stretch, the single time the Pirates challenged for the pennant, was 1948.
It was something of a fluke season. As always in the late '40s, the Pirates offense was buoyed by slugger Ralph Kiner, who led the National League in home runs with 40 and was second in RBIs with 123. But this time Kiner got some unexpected offensive support. 37-year-old outfielder Dixie Walker came over from Brooklyn and hit .316; shortstop Stan Rojek and second baseman Danny Murtaugh each hit a career-high .290; and young center fielder Wally Westlake chipped in 17 homers and a .285 average.
An otherwise shaky pitching staff was steadied by 41-year-old Rip Sewell, he of the famous "eephus" or blooper pitch. In 17 starts, Sewell went 13-3. Only the much younger Bob Chesnes (14-6) won more.
The Bucs began the year playing far better than anyone had expected, posting winning records in both April and May before falling back to .500 by late July. Then the team caught fire, taking 22 of 31 games. On September 1st, the Pirates were just 1.5 games out of first, locked in a tight three-way race with the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers for the lead. Waterloo finally came in mid-September, when the Bucs were swept in key two-game series against both of their main competitors. The team finished in fourth place -- still a very respectable finish, a 21-game improvement over '47.
Rookie manager Billy Meyer was named The Sporting News' Manager of the Year for the turnaround. And the Bucs' attendance of 1.517 million set a team record that would stand until 1960.