Bell's mighty May the best since Mays in '58

June 2nd, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- Josh Bell’s name now belongs in elite company.

More total bases in a month than Ralph Kiner ever had. More total bases in a month, in fact, than any Pirates player -- ever. More total bases in the month of May than anybody since Willie Mays in 1958.

Yes, it was quite a month for Bell -- one of the best months by any hitter in Pirates history. He finished it up in the Pirates’ 9-4 win over the Brewers on Friday night, going 2-for-5 with an RBI on the night.

“He’s a special talent,” starter Chris Archer said. “The coolest part about Josh is he’s stayed the same human being. He pushes himself. If he gets out, he gets mad. He’s hitting .340 and he’s angry that he got out, which continues to keep him motivated. He’s not content. We’ve got four months left in the season, and I expect to see big things from him going forward.”

Bell’s first-inning RBI single off Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin gave him 93 total bases in May, and his fourth-inning base hit brought the total to 94. That total landed him on lists with historic names and Hall of Famers like Kiner and Mays.

“It’s legendary now,” manager Clint Hurdle said Friday afternoon. “Pretty cool.”

Bell slugged 12 homers and 12 doubles in May, making him the third player in National League history to produce at least 12 of each in any calendar month. The other two? Oh, just Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson.

Bell ended the month with 24 extra-base hits, tied with Hall of Famer Paul Waner for the Pirates record for the most in any month of the season. No player in baseball has racked up 24 extra-base hits in the month of May since Jeffrey Leonard did so for the Giants in 1987.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bell was the first Pittsburgh player with at least 40 hits and at least 30 RBIs in one month since Dave Parker (45 hits, 31 RBIs) in August 1978.

Sitting at his locker after the game, Bell clarified that he only gets upset when he misses hittable pitches or when he swings at pitches outside the strike zone. So yes, he’s been able to enjoy everything he accomplished over the last 31 days.

“That was a blast, you know?” Bell said.

Overall, Bell is batting .343 with a 1.109 OPS this season. He hit as many home runs in May (12) as he did all of last season. He has already driven in 52 runs, nearing his 2018 total of 62.

“It’s a lot of hits, a lot of extra-base hits,” Bell said. “I’ve got to give kudos to [hitting coaches Rick] Eckstein and [Jacob] Cruz for all the work that we put in, the preparation for every at-bat, just kind of having a game plan for each and every one and taking advantage of it.”

Hours before Archer’s first pitch, club employees draped gold shirts over every seat above the Clemente Wall -- a section they dubbed the “Bell Tower” on Friday night. Bell even chipped in, setting out a few shirts in his first visit to the right-field seats. Every one of them featured “BELLIEVE 55” on the front. The right-field scoreboard occasionally flashed “BELLIEVE” -- the official motto and hashtag of the Pirates’ All-Star campaign for Bell -- with bells ringing on either side.

For an hour and a half before first pitch, the Pirates hosted an event on the Riverwalk outside PNC Park encouraging fans to take part in the All-Star Game voting. And there was no doubt who was at the center of their voting push.

“That was awesome,” Bell said. “There’s nothing like that, just having that support from the hometown crowd.”