10 players you forgot were once Pirates

December 1st, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- For the most part, the most famous players to wear a Pirates uniform are known for their time in Pittsburgh. When you think about Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell or Bill Mazeroski or Honus Wagner, you identify them as Pirates. Dave Parker, Barry Bonds and played elsewhere, but initially came to fame with the Bucs.

But that's not always the case. There have been a few famous players -- even a handful of Hall of Famers -- who aren't best remembered for donning the black and gold. Some may be barely remembered for it, in fact. Here are 10 players, a mix of long-ago Hall of Famers and more recent stars, who you almost certainly know well -- but maybe not for their time with the Pirates.

Joe Cronin, 1926-27
Cronin was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1956 after a 20-year playing career and 15 years managing for the Washington Senators and the Red Sox. His No. 4 has been retired by the Red Sox, and he's in the Nationals' "Ring of Honor" for his accomplishments with the Senators. He made seven All-Star teams and retired with a career .301 batting average. But his career began in Pittsburgh, where he had 27 hits in 50 games over two years.

Hank Greenberg, 1947
Another Hall of Famer who spent only a little time with the Pirates, Greenberg ended his storied career with Pittsburgh. Greenberg won two American League MVP Awards, made five All-Star teams and won a pair of World Series with the Tigers. In his final season, he hit 25 of his 331 career homers for the Bucs.

Jim Bunning, 1968-69
Bunning is best remembered as a Hall of Fame pitcher and a politician who served in both chambers of Congress. He is likely not remembered as a Pirate. Bunning pitched 52 games for Pittsburgh, going 14-23 with a 3.84 ERA and seven complete games. The Pirates traded him to the Dodgers in 1969, and he finished his career with the Phillies. Bunning was a nine-time All-Star who pitched a no-hitter and a perfect game and eventually had his No. 14 retired by Philadelphia. He was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in '96.

Rich "Goose" Gossage, 1977
Gossage actually enjoyed one of the best seasons of his 22-year career with the Pirates, going 11-9 with a 1.62 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in 133 innings over 72 games. He made the All-Star team that year, one of his nine All-Star nods. Gossage became a free agent after the 1977 season, signed with the Yankees and immediately won a World Series in '78. Gossage also pitched for the White Sox, Padres, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, A's and Mariners, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Bert Blyleven, 1978-80
Pirates fans certainly remember Blyleven because he helped the Bucs win the World Series in 1979. But the Hall of Famer is most closely associated with the Twins because he spent 11 years with Minnesota, won the '87 World Series with the Twins and now serves as a color commentator on Twins broadcasts. In three seasons with Pittsburgh, Blyleven went 34-28 with a 3.47 ERA in 105 games. Blyleven's Pirates tenure ended when he requested a trade and was subsequently dealt to the Indians along with Manny Sanguillen.

Kenny Lofton, 2003
Amid their 20-year losing streak, the Pirates saw a handful of recognizable veterans come and go. Enter Lofton, a household name after making six AL All-Star teams and winning four Gold Glove Awards with the Indians. The Pirates signed him before the 2003 season and quickly dealt him in the infamous Aramis Ramirez trade with the Cubs that July. Lofton played 84 games for Pittsburgh, batting .277 with nine homers and 18 steals.

Raul Mondesi, 2004
Like Lofton, Mondesi joined the Pirates during the twilight of his career. The 1994 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner played only 26 games for Pittsburgh after signing in 2004, batting .283 with two homers. The former Dodgers and Blue Jays slugger left the Pirates in May and went to the Dominican Republic to deal with a legal issue, and the Bucs wound up releasing him a few weeks later.

Sean Casey, 2006
Casey will always be tied to Pittsburgh as an Upper St. Clair High School graduate. "The Mayor" is also inextricably linked to PNC Park, because he christened the ballpark with its first hit, homer and RBI with one swing on April 9, 2001. But the longtime Reds first baseman and MLB Network analyst also had a brief stint with the Bucs in 2006, batting .296 with three homers over 59 games in 2006. The Pirates acquired Casey from the Reds in December 2005 and dealt him to the Tigers in July 2006.

Derrek Lee, 2011
Lee made two All-Star teams, won a World Series, picked up three Gold Glove Awards and claimed a batting title during his 15-year career. But his playing days came to an end in Pittsburgh. The Pirates acquired him from the Orioles in July 2011, and he made a great first impression by slugging two home runs in his first game. At that point, the Bucs were hovering above .500 and looking to end their ignominious streak of losing seasons. Lee was injured after only a few games, however, and the Pirates were well below .500 by the time he returned in September.

Steve Pearce, 2007-11
OK, you probably remember Pearce as a Pirate. The Bucs drafted him in 2005, and he actually spent more consecutive years in Pittsburgh than anywhere else in his career. But there was little remarkable about Pearce's stint with the Pirates, as he hit .232 with a .668 OPS as an up-and-down corner infielder/outfielder. Then Pearce began his wayward tour through the AL East in 2012, and in '13 he emerged as a productive platoon player with the Orioles. He then went from Baltimore to Tampa Bay (back) to Baltimore to Toronto and finally to Boston. Pearce reached the peak of his career 13 years after the Bucs drafted him, winning 2018 World Series MVP Award honors with the Red Sox.