THE FORBES FIELD YEARS
The 1909 season also marked the beginning of a new era in ballparks as the Pirates christened Forbes Field on June 30 that year. Since 1891, the Pirates had called Exposition Park - which was located on virtually the same site as Three Rivers Stadium - their home. Described as the "Hialeah of Ballparks" when it opened, Forbes Field would remain the home of the Pirates for six decades and would host many great moments.
Pittsburgh sank to the league's second division for most of the next decade, but by the early 1920's - with an influx of outstanding talent which included future Hall of Famers Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, Rabbit Maranville and Max Carey - Pittsburgh was again a contender. After three straight third- place finishes from 1922 to 1924, the Pirates won the N.L. title by eight and a half games over the second-place New York Giants in 1925.
The Series matched Pittsburgh against the Washington Senators, who jumped out to a three-games-to-one lead. The Pirates, however, bounced back to win the final three games and the Series. Their miraculous comeback included a 15-hit pounding of Hall of Famer Walter "Big Train" Johnson in Game Seven.
In 1926, a rookie named Paul Waner joined the Bucs and batted .336. A year later, his brother Lloyd joined him and belted out 223 hits for a club rookie record .355 average and the Pirates were again National League champions. Paul, who was nicknamed "Big Poison" - batted .300 or better 14 times, captured three batting titles and collected 200 or more hits in eight different seasons. He was named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1927 and went on to compile 3,152 hits and a .333 career batting average. Lloyd - who was tagged "Little Poison" - hit .300 or better in 10 of his first 12 seasons, compiled a career mark of .316 and accumulated 2,450 hits. Both were elected to the Hall of Fame.
The 1927 World Series featured the Pirates against New York's famed "Murderer's Row" with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who swept Pittsburgh in four straight games. The next 33 years, Pirate fans went without a pennant winner, although they were not denied their share of great players and great moments.
The Waners were consistently among baseball's premier hitters during the 1930's with Paul amassing more hits (1,959) during the decade than any player in baseball. Traynor was one of the era's best all-around players and is generally regarded as one of the finest third basemen ever to play the game. Shortstop Arky Vaughan topped the .300-mark in each of his 10 seasons with the Pirates (1932-1941) and his .385 average in 1935 has gone unequalled by any National League performer. He, too, is enshrined at Cooperstown.
Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner won or shared the N.L. home run title in each of the seven seasons that he wore a Pirates uniform (1946-52) - which is a streak that has never been matched in either league. In 1956, Pirate first baseman Dale Long hit home runs in a record eight straight games between May 19th and May 28th (that mark was matched by Don Mattingly in 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993). Three years later, Harvey Haddix hurled what many consider the greatest game ever pitched when he retired 36 straight Milwaukee Braves hitters over 12 innings on May 26, 1959. The same year, ElRoy Face won 17 straight games in relief.
Though the Pirates failed to finish higher than seventh from 1950 through 1957, the foundation for another championship was being put into place. Standout players were added throughout the decade, including 2001 Hall-of-Fame inductee Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat, Vernon Law, Bob Friend, Bill Virdon, Face and Hall-of-Fame right fielder Roberto Clemente.
In 1956, Pirate owner John Galbreath hired Joe L. Brown as general manager. With the club languishing in last place at 36-67 midway through the 1957 campaign, Brown promoted coach Danny Murtaugh to field manager. Within three seasons, the Bucs were again champions of the National League and again matched against the powerful New York Yankees in the World Series. This time the Bronx Bombers featured Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
The 1960 World Series remains one of the most incredible post-season encounters ever on record. The Yankees won Game Two, Game Three and Game Six by a combined score of 38-3, but the Pirates used great pitching, defense and timely hitting to stretch the Series to a seventh game at Forbes Field. Pittsburgh took a 9-7 lead into the ninth - thanks to Hal Smith's three-run homer in the eighth - but the Yankees came up with two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score. The game and the Series ended, however, in the bottom of the ninth as Mazeroski belted what is perhaps the most dramatic home run in baseball history off Ralph Terry. Mazeroski was the only player in baseball history ever to end a World Series with a home run until Joe Carter of Toronto accomplished the feat in Game Six of the 1993 Fall Classic.
During the 1960's, Clemente established himself among the game's elite players. He collected more hits (1,877) than anyone during the decade and would go on to reach the 3,000-hit plateau in 1972. During his marvelous career, he topped the .300 mark 13 times, won four batting titles and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1966.