Pirates family mourns loss of Bob Friend

Former pitcher holds club records for starts, strikeouts, innings

February 4th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Bob Friend, a World Series champion and one of the most accomplished pitchers in Pirates history, died on Sunday morning. He was 88.

Friend's son, Bob, said his father passed away while sleeping, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Friend's death was "sudden" with "no warning signs," his son told the newspaper.

"It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we confirm the passing of a beloved member of the Pirates family, Bob Friend, earlier this morning at the age of 88," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement released by the club. "Bob was an outstanding baseball man, and an even better person.

"Our thoughts, prayers and support go out to Bob's wife, Pat, son, Bob, and daughter, Missy, as well as the rest of the Friend family members and loved ones. Bob was truly one of the very best to ever wear the Pirates black and gold. He will be deeply missed."

Friend pitched in 568 games for the Pirates over 15 seasons and remains the franchise's all-time leader in games started (477), innings pitched (3,480 1/3) and strikeouts (1,682). The right-hander from Lafayette, Ind., was a four-time All-Star and a key part of Pittsburgh's 1960 World Series championship team.

Friend went 18-12 with a 3.00 ERA and 183 strikeouts during the 1960 season, working 275 2/3 innings over 38 appearances, including 37 starts. 

Friend was known as a workhorse. He spent 16 years in the big leagues but not one day on the disabled list. From 1955-65, he averaged 35 starts and 255 innings per season while recording a 3.29 ERA. Appropriately, he was nicknamed "Warrior."

"That came from high school football," Friend once said, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. "I was a pretty good tailback, and then later on when I was pitching so many innings, the nickname stuck."

After attending Purdue University, Friend signed with the Pirates and pitched his first professional season in 1950. He joined the big league club the following year, making his debut on April 28, 1951. The Pirates lost at least 88 games in each of his first seven seasons, and Friend was saddled with a 73-94 record from 1951-57 despite his 3.89 ERA during that time.

But the Pirates began to improve, and Friend helped lead the way. He recorded 22 wins in 1958, tied with Warren Spahn for most in the Majors. After a step back in 1959, Friend was one of the most valuable players on Pittsburgh's first championship team since 1925.

Friend finished his career with a 197-230 record and a 3.58 ERA. He won the National League ERA title in 1955 with a 2.83 mark. He led the league in games started and innings pitched in each of the next two seasons

The Pirates traded Friend to the Yankees in December 1965 for pitcher Pete Mikkelsen. The next season would be Friend's last in the big leagues.

Following his retirement, Friend became a permanent resident of Pittsburgh and served as one of the founding officers of the Pirates Alumni Association. He was an active board member until his passing.