1972 Pittsburgh Pirates
1972 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Record: 96-59, Finished 1st in NL Eastern Division (1972 NL)
Managed by Bill Virdon
Coaches: Don Leppert, Joe Morgan, Frank Oceak, Don Osborn and Dave Ricketts
Ballpark: Three Rivers Stadium
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1972 Pittsburgh Pirates - not their 1971 or 1979 world champion counterparts - were the best Pirate team of the 1970s, and that's saying something. Not even the extended absence of Roberto Clemente (who missed 53 games) could slow down this team, which boasted five solid starters, five .300 hitters, and a tag-team bullpen of Dave Giusti and Ramon Hernandez, who combined for 36 saves and a 1.82 era. The 1972 Bucs ran away with the National League East title, finishing 11 games ahead of the Chicago Cubs, and won a major-league leading 96 games in a season slightly shortened by a players' strike.
The 1972 Pirates had five All-Stars with Willie Stargell, Clemente, Manny Sanguillen, Al Oliver and Steve Blass, the largest contingent they would send until 2013.
Unfortunately, several of the Bucs regulars slumped badly in the League Championship Series against the Cincinnati Reds. First baseman Stargell had the worst postseason of his career, going 1 for 16 with no RBI. Shortstop Gene Alley went him one better (worse?) with an 0 for 16 performance. Good pitching kept the Bucs in the series, and they had a chance to win, entering the 9th inning of Game 5 with a slender 3-2 lead. But the Reds' Johnny Bench tied the game with a leadoff home run off Giusti. Minutes later, with George Foster on third base, reliever Bob Moose threw an errant pitch that bounced over catcher Sanguillen's head, allowing Foster to score the winning run.
The gloom in the Pirates' clubhouse after the game foreshadowed what would transpire over the next year. First, Clemente died in a tragic New Year's Eve plane crash while trying to deliver humanitarian supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Then, pitching star Blass lost his ability to throw strikes, leaving a gaping hole the Pirates' rotation (and ending Blass's career shortly thereafter). A clearly lost Pirates team would stumble to a third-place finish and sub-.500 record in 1973.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Steve Blass, Roberto Clemente, Al Oliver, Manny Sanguillen and Willie Stargell
- NL Gold Glove: Roberto Clemente (OF)
NL Championship Series (3-2) Reds over Pirates
World Series (4-3) Athletics over Reds
AL Championship Series (3-2) Athletics over Tigers
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