The baseball world lost a deeply respected member of its community Friday, when former pitcher and Major League scout Bruce Kison passed away following a brave battle with cancer at age 68.• Kison's career statsKison was a major contributor to the Pirates' two world championship clubs in 1971 and '79,
The baseball world lost a deeply respected member of its community Friday, when former pitcher and Major League scout Bruce Kison passed away following a brave battle with cancer at age 68.
• Kison's career stats
Kison was a major contributor to the Pirates' two world championship clubs in 1971 and '79, serving as a fiery swingman who excelled both when he got the ball to begin the game and when he jogged in from the bullpen. He did not allow an earned run during Pittsburgh's postseason march to the title in '71, first shutting down the Giants with 4 2/3 scoreless relief innings in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series -- the clinching game of that matchup -- and then permitting just one hit over 6 1/3 shutout innings in relief against the favored Orioles in Game 4 of the World Series, the first Fall Classic game played at night.
"Today, the Pirates mourn the loss of our good friend and alumni, Bruce Kison," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "Bruce was a large part of those great 1970s Pirates teams and is perhaps best known for his gutty six and a third innings of scoreless relief in the first World Series night game on October 13, 1971, as he helped lead the Club to our fourth World Championship.
"Bruce has been a beloved member of the Pirates family long after his playing and coaching days were over and most recently joined Clint Hurdle and his staff in spring training as a special instructor. Bruce will always be remembered as a great part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and today is a sad day for all of us. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Anna Marie, as well as his entire family and friends."
Known affectionately as "Buster," Kison pitched nine total seasons and won 81 games in the Steel City before signing with the California Angels as a free agent in November 1979. He went on to pitch six more seasons in Anaheim and then another in Boston in '85 before retiring with a career 115-88 record and 3.66 ERA.
"He was one of the most competitive, hard-nose pitchers in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates," Bucs broadcaster Greg Brown said of Kison in a tweet before the team's Saturday matchup against the Cardinals, while former teammate Steve Blass added that Kison, "was a helluva pitcher … and a better friend."
Kison went on to serve in various player development and scouting roles with the Pirates and Royals before truly making a mark as a longtime scout for the Orioles. Kison served as the Orioles pitching coach in 1999 and then as a scout until his retirement in December. In January, he was honored as a "Legend in Scouting" by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
"Bruce could teach you the mechanics and all the finer points of pitching," Royals Hall of Famer Jeff Montgomery, who worked with Kison briefly in Kansas City's farm system, told MLB.com, "but where he excelled was in teaching you the mental toughness it takes. He brought out the bulldog in anyone he coached.
"I know he was known for hitting batters, but that wasn't about toughness or sticking up for his teammates," Montgomery continued, "it was about letting the hitter always know that the inside of the plate was his. I'll miss him tremendously."
Kison was remembered fondly during AT&T Sportsnet's telecast of Saturday's Pirates-Cardinals matchup, while the Orioles honored the baseball lifer with a moment of silence before their home contest against the Yankees.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.