THE PNC PARK YEARS
PNC Park officially opened its gates on April 9, 2001. Regarded by many as the best ballpark ever built, PNC Park is an intimate two-level structure which offers all fans dramatic views of the downtown skyline as well as the natural grass playing surface. After touring all 30 major league ballparks during the summer of 2003, ESPN.com ranked PNC Park as the best in baseball.
The anticipation and joy of a new ballpark turned to sorrow, when on the morning of the first regular season game at PNC Park, a beloved member of the Pirates family was lost when Willie Stargell passed away on April 9, 2001.
Despite suffering 100 losses for just the seventh time in club history in 2001, fans came out in record numbers as the Bucs played in front of 19 sellouts and a total of 2,436,139 customers during the inaugural season at PNC Park.
On June 25, 2002, the Pirates registered the 9,000th win in the history of the franchise with a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Expos, thus becoming just the fourth club to produce 9,000 wins.
The Pirates have had a long list of sluggers in their history and Brian Giles added his name to that list during his five seasons in a Bucco uniform. He hit 30 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons with the club, just one of three Pirates to hit 30 or more long balls in four consecutive years (also Hall-of-Famers Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell). His 165 home runs with Pittsburgh rank seventh in club history.
Catcher Jason Kendall spent each of his first nine big league seasons in a Pittsburgh uniform after being selected in the first round of the 1992 June draft. In that time, he made 1,205 appearances behind the plate. That figure ranks first all-time in the annals of the club, 50 games ahead of George Gibson, who caught for the Bucs from 1906 thru 1915. Kendall surpassed Gibson's 90-year-old record in Los Angeles on August 3, 2004.
For the first time in team history a Pittsburgh player captured Rookie-of-the-Year honors as outfielder Jason Bay took home the honors in 2004. A two-time National League All-Star, Bay was a fan favorite at the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
The national spotlight shined once again on the city of Pittsburgh during the 2006 season as the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at PNC Park, marking the fifth time the event has been held in the Steel City. The American League won a dramatic 3-2 decision in the Midsummer Classic as the Pirates became the first team in baseball history to host the All-Star Game in three different venues.
Also in 2006, Freddy Sanchez added his name to the club's record list of 25 batting champions as his .344 average led the National League. Sanchez banged out 200 hits in 2006 and led the N.L. with 53 doubles while being named to his first of two All-Star teams.
On January 18, 2007, Bob Nutting officially assumed control of the ballclub, thus becoming only the sixth principal owner in the Pirates storied history. Following a deep look into the team's operations, Nutting has built a fundamentally different
organization by introducing Frank Coonelly as the team's new president on September 13, 2007 and, in-turn, Neal Huntington as the team's new general manager on September 25, 2007. From there the new leadership team has made significant changes to each of the three major areas - Major League manager/coaching staff, Scouting Director and Farm Director, with the goal of building an organization that can consistently compete.
Since 2009, fans have witnessed the debuts of many first-round draft picks, including Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon along with appearances of many other young players, including Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell.
Clint Hurdle was named manager of the Pirates on November 15, 2010, and in his first seven seasons at the helm, the inspirational leader of the club has posted a 584-549-1 record while leading the Bucs to the postseason three times.
During the 2012 campaign, Bucco fans showed their great support of the club as the Pirates played host to 17 sellouts during the season.
McCutchen also emerged as one of the best players in the game, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award in 2012 while finishing third in the National League MVP voting.
In 2013 the Pirates returned to prominence in the league as they won 94 regular season games and appeared in the postseason for the first time since 1992.
The Pirates placed five players on the 2013 All-Star team - the most since also having five selected to the 1972 Midsummer Classic. Along with McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jason Grilli, Jeff Locke and Mark Melancon represented the Bucs at the 2013 All-Star Game, played at Citi Field in New York.
Led by 16-game winner and the National League Comeback Player-of-the-Year Francisco Liriano, the Bucco pitching staff posted 16 shutouts in 2013 and ranked third in the N.L. with a 3.26 ERA; the best mark by the pitching staff since 1984. Grilli (33) and Melancon (16) picked up 49 of the club-record and National League leading 55 saves.
The offense was led by McCutchen, who took home N.L. MVP honors in 2013 after hitting .317 with 97 runs, 38 doubles, 21 home runs, 84 RBI and 27 stolen bases in 157 games. McCutchen became the sixth player in club history to win the MVP award, joining Dick Groat (1960), Roberto Clemente (1966), Dave Parker (1978), Willie Stargell (1979) and Barry Bonds (1990, 1992).
Silver Slugger award winner Pedro Alvarez shared the league lead in home runs in 2013, as the young slugger smacked 36 long balls to become the first Bucco to lead or share the N.L. lead in homers since Willie Stargell did so with 44 in 1973.
After winning 94 games during the 2013 regular season and finishing second in the N.L. Central division standings, the Pirates defeated the Reds in the Wild Card playoff game, played before a sold out crowd at PNC Park on October 1. The game would officially launch the kickoff to Buctober for years to come.
2013 Wild Card Game
The Pirates had a two-games-to-one lead in the best of five Division Series playoff against the Cardinals, but dropped the final two games to bring an end to their magical 2013 campaign.
The Pirates produced a record 23 sellouts during the 2013 regular season before playing in front of three standing-room only crowds in the postseason.
Clint Hurdle also took home some hardware following the 2013 season as he was named the N.L. Manager-of-the Year; just the second Bucco skipper to win the award.
The Pirates reached the postseason again in 2014 while drawing 2,442,564 fans and averaging 30,155 for their 81 home dates. In addition, the Bucs posted 23 regular season sellouts for the second consecutive year.
With a combination of the second-best OBP in the National League (.333) and a pitching staff that posted the second- lowest ERA (2.94) over the final two months of the season, the Pirates won 88 games in 2014, finishing 2.0 games behind St. Louis in the Central division race.
Josh Harrison finished second in the N.L. batting race while Andrew McCutchen once again put up MVP-type numbers, leading the Pirates to the postseason in back-to-back seasons for just the sixth time in franchise history.
The final game of the 2014 season was played on October 1 as a standing-room only crowd of 40,629 watched eventual World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner shut down the Bucs in the Wild Card Game as the Giants began their run toward the championship.
For the sixth time in franchise history, and for the first time since 1991, the Pirates won 98 games in a season as the 2015 squad posted a 98-64 record.
The Pirates also established a club-record attendance figure in 2015, drawing 2,498,596 fans and averaging 30,847 fans for their 81 home dates. The Bucs went 53-28 at home, setting a record for most wins in a season at PNC Park.
During the 2015 campaign, Pittsburgh posted its 10,000th franchise win on September 24, becoming the fifth club to record as many victories.
For the third straight year the Pirates hosted the N.L. Wild Card Game in 2015, making the postseason three consecutive years for just the fourth time in team history.
Mark Melancon set a club record and led the Major Leagues with 51 saves in 2015. In addition, Gerrit Cole won 19 games, Starling Marte captured a Gold Glove Award for his fielding excellence and Korean import Jung Ho Kang was a finalist for N.L. Rookie- of-the-Year.
The 2017 season saw the emergence of another young talented player as Josh Bell set a National League record for most home runs hit by a switch-hitting rookie (26).
The Pirates put together an 82-79 record in 2018. Starters Trevor Williams (3.11) and Jameson Taillon (3.20) ranked seventh and ninth, respectively, among National League ERA leaders after excellent second halves. Right fielder Gregory Polanco slugged 23 homers before suffering season-ending injuries in early September, and center fielder Starling Marte won the team's MVP award. Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz were the Majors' most productive duo behind the plate. Left fielder Corey Dickerson, acquired in an early Spring Training trade, batted .300 and deservingly captured his first career Gold Glove Award.
Despite an All-Star season for first baseman Josh Bell and promising rookie campaigns by outfielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Kevin Newman, the Pirates finished with a 69-93 record in 2019. Bell slugged 37 home runs, was named NL Player of the Month in May and served as the NL's starting designated hitter in the Midsummer Classic. The mild-mannered Reynolds joined the team in April after a rash of early injuries and went on to bat .314 with an .880 OPS in 134 games, while the former first-round pick Newman hit .308 in 130 games.
In the months after the season ended, chairman Bob Nutting overhauled the club's leadership team. In came president Travis Williams, the highly regarded former chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and 2013 World Series-winning general manager Ben Cherington. They then hired Derek Shelton to be the 41st manager in Pirates history.
In 2020, their first year under new leadership, the Pirates went 19-41 with a fifth-place finish in the National League Central during a shortened, 60-game season in which seven of their nine opponents made the postseason. The Bucs were hit hard by injuries while evaluating many younger players for the future, using a total of 49 different players on the year and they lost an MLB-leading 15 games by one run. The team's two best performances came from rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes and catcher Jacob Stallings. The slick-fielding Hayes was named NL Rookie of the Month in September after batting .376 with a 1.124 OPS, while Stallings was named team MVP due to his excellent defense and solid work at the plate. Left-hander Steven Brault, who finished the season with a 13-inning scoreless streak, was named the club’s best pitcher. The Pirates honored Roberto Clemente by wearing his No. 21 against the White Sox on Sept. 9, the first time Clemente’s number was worn by Pittsburgh players since it was retired in 1973.
Under GM Ben Cherington, the Pirates have begun to replenish their talent base, especially at the Minor Leagues. That made 2021 a bit of a tough go for the MLB team, though, as the Bucs finished fifth in the NL Central. However, the Pirates got to see one of their key young players, Bryan Reynolds, blossom in his first year as the starting center fielder. The left-handed hitter made his first All-Star team, batted .302 and finished 11th in NL MVP Award voting.
The season ended with a glimpse of what the Pirates hope will be a brighter future in 2022 and beyond. Roansy Contreras, the club’s No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his MLB debut, and Oneil Cruz (No. 3) hit his first Major League home run and torched a ball 118.1 mph over his first two games as a Pirate.
An influx of young talent made their way to Pittsburgh in 2022 as a total of 25 rookies appeared in at least one game for the Bucs during the season, with 14 players making their big league debuts. The rookies combined for a club-record 56 home runs, led by Jack Suwinski (19) and Oneil Cruz (17).