1979 World Series
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1979 World Series (4-3)
The 1979 World Series matched the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64) against the American League's Baltimore Orioles (102-57), with the Pirates coming back from a 3 games to 1 deficit to win the Series in seven games. The Pirates were famous for adopting Sister Sledge's hit anthem "We Are Family" as their theme song.
These same two teams had met at the beginning of the decade, in the 1971 World Series, Pittsburgh coming out on top. Earl Weaver's Orioles had won the first two games of that series only to lose to Danny Murtaugh's Pirates in seven. This time, Pittsburgh manager Chuck Tanner was looking to win a Series of his own. Gone were the likes of slugger Boog Powell and defensive wizard Brooks Robinson - shortstop Mark Belanger and pitcher Jim Palmer were the only two remaining players from the Orioles' 1971 roster. A young (23-year-old) "Steady Eddie" Eddie Murray was a staple at first base and an emerging superstar. The only other real "star" hitter on the team was right fielder Ken Singleton who set career highs in home runs, 35, and runs batted in, 111, in the regular season. Center fielder Al Bumbry provided the speed, 37 swipes, and outfielder Gary Roenicke and third baseman Doug DeCinces provided some additional power. The talented pitching staff was captained by veteran catcher Rick Dempsey. The starters were led by 1979 Cy Young Award winner, Mike Flanagan (23-9, 3.08), Scott McGregor (13-6, 3.35), Steve Stone (11-7, 3.77) and Jim Palmer (10-6, 3.30). The bullpen helped with 30 wins against only 13 losses led by Don Stanhouse (7-3, 21 saves) and Tippy Martinez (10-3, 2.88). The Orioles won the American League East rather easily, finishing 8 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee Brewers.
On the other hand, these Pittsburgh Pirates struggled early in the season eventually winning the National League East by just 2 games over the Montreal Expos. Only after getting infielders, Tim Foli (from the New York Mets) and Bill Madlock (from the San Francisco Giants), did the Pirates start winning consistently. The great Roberto Clemente had inspired the 1971 team toward the title and the key ingredient to this team was his successor and spiritual leader, 38-year-old Willie "Pops" Stargell. His clubhouse demeanor, a simple good-heartedness and friendly manner, helped keep the Pirates loose during a tight divisional race with a surprise sweep of the always powerful Cincinnati Reds in the divisional playoffs.
The Bucs lineup featured the National League leader in stolen bases, Omar Moreno with 77; team runs batted in leader, Dave Parker with 98, and two-time batting champion, Bill Madlock (1975, 1976). Madlock would add two more batting titles in 1981 and 1983. The pitching staff was a ragtag bunch led by the "Candy-Man", John Candelaria's 14 wins (9 losses) with five other pitchers winning 10 or more games. The tall and lean Kent Tekulve had 31 saves, good for 2nd in the league, while winning 10 games.
"Pops" Stargell would hit 3 home runs in this series becoming the oldest player to win both the regular season MVP and the World Series MVP. His "Family" would come back after losing the first 3 out of 4 games giving Earl Weaver and his Orioles a déjèa vu nightmare, the Bucs coming back to win in 7 games.
- Jerry Neudecker (AL), Bob Engel (NL), Russ Goetz (AL), Terry Tata (NL), Jim McKean (AL), Paul Runge (NL)
|Game||Score||Date||Location||Attendance||Time of Game|
|1||Pirates – 4, Orioles – 5||October 10||Memorial Stadium||53,735||3:18|
|2||Pirates – 3, Orioles – 2||October 11||Memorial Stadium||53,739||3:13|
|3||Orioles – 8, Pirates – 4||October 12||Three Rivers Stadium||50,848||2:51|
|4||Orioles – 9, Pirates – 6||October 13||Three Rivers Stadium||50,883||3:48|
|5||Orioles – 1, Pirates – 7||October 14||Three Rivers Stadium||50,920||2:54|
|6||Pirates – 4, Orioles – 0||October 16||Memorial Stadium||53,739||2:30|
|7||Pirates – 4, Orioles – 1||October 17||Memorial Stadium||53,733||2:54|
|W: Mike Flanagan (1-0) L: Bruce Kison (0-1)|
|HR: PIT – Willie Stargell (1); BAL – Doug DeCinces (1)|
On a cold wet October night, the 1979 World Series got off to an ugly start. The Orioles scored five runs in the 1st, two on a throwing error by second baseman Phil Garner, one on a wild pitch by starter Bruce Kison, and the final two on a homer by Doug DeCinces. Kison was ousted after a third of an inning and would not pitch again in the series. The Pirate relief corps held the Orioles in check as the Pirates clawed their way back on the strength of four hits by Dave Parker and a homer by Willie Stargell. The rally fell short, and the O's escaped with a 5-4 win.
|W: Don Robinson (1-0) L: Don Stanhouse (0-1) S: Kent Tekulve (1)|
|HR: PIT – none; BAL – Eddie Murray (1)|
This time, the Pirates struck first with two in the 2nd on an RBI single by Bill Madlock and a sacrifice fly by catcher Ed Ott. The Orioles countered in the bottom half of the inning with an Eddie Murray solo homer. Murray also tied the game in the 6th by doubling in Ken Singleton. Murray tried to put the Orioles ahead in the same inning by tagging up and attempting to score on a line-out to right by John Lowenstein, but Dave Parker threw him out easily.
Murray also made a questionable base running decision in the 8th. With Murray on second with no outs, Lowenstein grounded into the hole between short and third and Tim Foli made a sensational stop. Murray inexplicably stopped between second and third, and Foli threw to Madlock to force him out, and then Madlock threw to Phil Garner at second to force Doug DeCinces and complete an unusual double play. Murray would not collect another hit or RBI for the rest of the Series.
The Pirates went ahead in the top of the 9th on a two-out single by Ott, a walk to Garner, and a clutch single by pinch-hitter Manny Sanguillen. Ott barely slid past the outstretched arms of catcher Rick Dempsey to score the winning run. Kent Tekulve retired the side in the 9th for the save.
|W: Scott McGregor (1-0) L: John Candelaria (0-1)|
|HR: BAL – Benny Ayala (1); PIT – none|
With lefthander John Candelaria taking the mound for the Pirates, Oriole manager Earl Weaver made a couple of lineup changes, hoping to spark more offense. He led off with Kiko Garcia, playing shortstop in place of light-hitting Mark Belanger, and used Benny Ayala in place of Al Bumbry. Ayala and Garcia were both right-handed hitters. The moves paid off as Ayala slammed a two-run homer in the 3rd, and Garcia sparked a five-run rally in the 4th with a bases-loaded triple as part of a 4-for-4, 4 RBI evening. O's starter Scott McGregor pitched a complete game for the victory.
|W: Tim Stoddard (1-0) L: Kent Tekulve (0-1)|
|HR: BAL – none; PIT – Willie Stargell (2)|
The Pirates jumped on starter Dennis Martinez for four runs in the 2nd on a homer by Willie Stargell, a two-run double by Ed Ott, and an RBI single by Omar Moreno. The Orioles struck back with three in the 3rd off Jim Bibby on a two-run double by Game 3 hero Kiko Garcia, followed by an RBI double by Ken Singleton. The Pirates stretched the lead to 6-3 on single runs in the 5th and 6th on RBI doubles by John Milner and Dave Parker.
In the 8th, Earl Weaver once again showed some strategic genius. With one out and the bases loaded, Pirates manager Chuck Tanner sent in submarining relief ace Kent Tekulve to face right-handed hitting Gary Roenicke. Weaver countered by pinch-hitting lefty John Lowenstein, figuring the lefty would be better able to hit Tekulve's sidewhip pitches. Lowenstein made the move pay off by slamming a two-run double. After a walk loaded the bases again, Weaver sent another lefty hitter, Terry Crowley, to bat for Dave Skaggs. Crowley smashed another two-run double off Tekulve to give the Orioles the lead. To add insult to injury, pitcher Tim Stoddard, batting for the first time of his career because Weaver was out of pinch hitters at that point, followed with an RBI single. An RBI force-out by Bumbry ended the scoring.
|W: Bert Blyleven (1-0) L: Mike Flanagan (1-1)|
|HR: BAL – none; PIT – none|
With a world championship on the line and Game 1 starter Bruce Kison injured, Chuck Tanner decided to go with little-used veteran left-hander Jim Rooker as his starter. He would let Rooker go as long as possible, then bring in Bert Blyleven to finish, saving his two best pitchers, sore-shouldered John Candelaria and Jim Bibby for Games 6 and 7, if played. The risky move more than paid off as Rooker gave Tanner five good innings, holding the Orioles to one run in the 5th when Gary Roenicke scored on a double play grounder. The Pirate bats finally came alive against Mike Flanagan in the 6th on a Dave Parker RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Willie Stargell. The Pirates added two more in the 7th on a RBI triple by Tim Foli and a RBI double by Parker, and then three more in the 8th on a RBI single by Phil Garner and a two-run single by Foli. Thanks to the unexpected performance from Rooker, a 4-for-4 day from Bill Madlock, and Foli's 3 RBIs, the Pirates had staved off elimination.
|W: John Candelaria (1-1) L: Jim Palmer (0-1) S: Kent Tekulve (2)|
|HR: PIT – none; BAL – none|
Back home at Memorial Stadium, the Oriole bats continued to be unexpectedly cold as John Candelaria and Jim Palmer locked into a scoreless duel through six innings. Dave Parker broke the ice with an RBI single in the 7th, followed by a Willie Stargell sacrifice fly. The Pirates added two more runs in the 8th on a Bill Robinson sacrifice fly and an RBI single by Omar Moreno.
|W: Grant Jackson (1-0) L: Scott McGregor (1-1) S: Kent Tekulve (3)|
|HR: PIT – Willie Stargell (3); BAL – Rich Dauer (1)|
The Pirates capped an amazing comeback on the strength of Willie Stargell, who went 4 for 4 with a single, two doubles, and a towering two-run homer in the 6th off Scott McGregor. For insurance in the 9th, Omar Moreno collected an RBI single, while another run scored when Dave Parker and Bill Robinson were hit by pitches back-to-back, scoring Moreno. The O's only run came on a Rich Dauer solo homer in the 3rd, the team's only RBI in the last three games. Significantly, Eddie Murray, the Orioles' main offensive threat, was 0 for 21 in the final five games of the Series. Following their six-run outburst in the 8th inning of Game 4, the Birds scored only twice more over the series' final 28 innings.
|Total Attendance: 367,597 Average Attendance: 52,514|
|Winning Player’s Share: – $28,264, Losing Player’s Share – $22,114 * Includes Playoffs and World Series|
- 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski threw out the first ball in Game 5.
- U.S. President Jimmy Carter made an appearance in Game 7. He threw out the first ball, and after the game made a visit to the victorious Pittsburgh locker room.
- Only six teams have won a World Series after trailing three games to one, and two of those teams were the Pirates, in 1925 and 1979. The others were the Boston Red Sox (1903, in a best-of-nine series), the New York Yankees in 1958, the Detroit Tigers in 1968, and the Kansas City Royals in 1985.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates were the last team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road. Since then, the home team has won the last nine Game 7's (2011, 2002, 2001, 1997, 1991, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1982). In fact, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates are the last team in any of the three major sports that have championship series (baseball, basketball, and hockey) to win Game 7 of the championship series on the road.
- Willie Stargell at 39 was the oldest player to win MVP honors for both the National League and the World Series.
- Stargell, pitcher Bruce Kison, and catcher Manny Sanguillen were the only players left over from the 1971 Pirates team that faced the Orioles. Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, SS Mark Belanger, and manager Earl Weaver were the only ones who were still with the team that faced the Pirates in 1971.
- Willie Stargell, the series MVP, hit .400 with a record seven extra-base hits and matched Reggie Jackson's record of 25 total bases, set in 1977.
- As was the case when the same two teams played in the 1971 World Series, a game in Baltimore was rained out. Game 1 of this series was postponed, while Game 2 of the 1971 series had to be moved back a day.
- Chuck Tanner's mother died the morning of Game 5 (this was mentioned during the telecast by announcer Howard Cosell).
- Five Pirates had 10 or more hits in this series, a World Series record.
- In this Series, it was the American League team's "turn" to play by National League rules, meaning no designated hitter and the Orioles' pitchers would have to bat. While this resulted in Tim Stoddard getting his first major league hit and RBI in Game 4, overall, it hurt the Orioles because Lee May, their designated hitter for much of the season and a key part of their offense, was only able to bat three times in the whole series.
- The Pirates wore four different uniform combinations during the series:
- gold cap, black jersey and gold pants for Games 1 & 5
- black cap, gold jersey and black pants for Games 2, 6 & 7
- black cap and solid white pinstriped uniform for Game 3
- black cap and solid gold uniform for Game 4.
Quote(s) from the Series
Kelly hits it in the air to center field, Moreno towards right center field, makes the catch, Pittsburgh wins it! - ABC's Keith Jackson calling the final out of the 1979 World Series.
We are family!- Sister Sledge's song that the Pirates used as their theme music/slogan.
- 1979 World Series at WorldSeries.com (MLB.com)
- 1979 World Series by Baseball Almanac
- Rising from the Ashes at SI.com
- History of the World Series - 1979 at SportingNews.com
- 1979 World Series box scores and play-by-play at Retrosheet.org
- 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates at baseballlibrary.com
- 1979 Baltimore Orioles at baseballlibrary.com
References and Further Reading
- David S. Neft and Richard M. Cohen: The World Series, St Martins Press, New York, NY, 1990, pp. 377-382.
- Bill Ranier and David Finoli: When the Bucs Won It All: The 1979 World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2005.
|Modern Major League Baseball World Series
Pre-1903 Postseason Series