Leyland, Bonds and Sanguillen named to Pirates Hall of Fame

May 21st, 2024

The Pirates Hall of Fame was established in 2022 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the success of the franchise, and on Tuesday the team announced the third class of inductees. It includes , who guided Pittsburgh to three straight playoff appearances in the early 1990s; , who was voted National League MVP as a Pirate in 1990 and 1992; and , who was a member of Pittsburgh’s 1971 and 1979 World Series championship clubs.

The trio will officially be inducted into the Pirates Hall of Fame at PNC Park on Aug. 24.

“As an organization, we are proud to add three significant members to the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame,” said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting, who informed Leyland, Bonds and Sanguillen they had been selected. “Included in this year’s class is a two-time MVP Award winner in Barry, a two-time Manager of the Year Award winner in Jim, and a two-time World Series champion with the Pirates in Manny. All three inductees are very deserving of this prestigious recognition. We look forward to celebrating their induction with our fans and sharing their stories with generations to come.”

In 2022, the 19-member inaugural class of the Pirates Hall of Fame included Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell and Honus Wagner as well as players from the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues, led by Josh Gibson. Last year, Elroy Face, Bob Friend, Dick Groat and Kent Tekulve comprised the second class.

Leyland was the third-base coach of the Chicago White Sox when the Pirates and general manager Syd Thrift hired him to replace Chuck Tanner as manager prior to the 1986 season. Under his direction, Pittsburgh -- which had lost 104 games in 1985 -- posted a winning record in year three, finishing in second place in the NL East behind the New York Mets with an 85-75 mark in 1988.

“The Pirates weren’t good when I went there in 1986. There’s no question about that,” Leyland said. “However, we did have Johnny Ray, Tony Pena, Rick Rhoden, Rick Reuschel and Donnie Robinson. We did have some trade chips, and Syd Thrift did an absolutely wonderful job of making trades and bringing back talented players.”

Certainly, the acquisitions of outfielders Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke; pitchers Doug Drabek, Mike Dunne and Jim Gott; catcher Mike LaValliere and others helped the Pirates become contenders in a relatively short period of time.

In 1990 the Pirates compiled a 95-67 record under Leyland and captured the division title by four games over New York. Pittsburgh posted the best record in Major League Baseball in 1991, going 98-64, and taking the NL East crown by a whopping 14 games over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates’ third straight first-place finish in 1992 came about when they went 96-66 and beat out the second-place Montreal Expos by nine games. Leyland was voted NL Manager of the Year in 1990 and 1992.

Eleven of Leyland's 22 seasons as a Major League manager were spent with the Pirates (1986-1996). He later piloted the Florida Marlins (with whom he won a World Series championship), Colorado Rockies and Detroit Tigers.

The 1990 campaign with Pittsburgh remains one of his most satisfying.

“Opening Day that year, we played the Mets in New York and beat them, 12-3, and they knew we were the real deal,” Leyland said. “We finally caught up to them, and they knew it. It didn’t mean we were going to beat them, but they knew we were good. That’s one of my fondest memories. It kind of broke the ice, because the Mets were the big boys on the block.

“Then clinching our first division title in St. Louis that year is one of the greatest memories of my entire career. It’s right up there with any of them.”

Last December, Leyland was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Era Committee. He will be in Cooperstown on July 21 to officially be inducted along with Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton.

“Being honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame and now the Pirates Hall of Fame makes me feel so fortunate,” Leyland said. “I often think about so many people who have to wake up every day and go to a tough job to support their family.

“I was one of those guys in the winter when I played in the Minor Leagues, and my father was one of those guys his whole life and raised seven kids. I respect that so much.

“For 40-some years, I got to walk into a clubhouse for my job and do something that I absolutely loved to do. That was the key for me. I appreciate that so much.”

Bonds was the Pirates’ first-round Draft pick out of Arizona State in 1985, and he was playing for Leyland in Pittsburgh a year later. The multi-talented outfielder made his Major League debut on May 30, 1986, and went on to spend seven seasons in a Pirates’ uniform, batting .275 with 176 home runs and 556 RBIs in 1,010 games.

“This is great,” Bonds said of being selected for the Pirates Hall of Fame. “Pittsburgh is where my career started. That’s who drafted me, and I couldn’t have had a better manager, a better team and a better starting point. It was perfect.”

As a Pirate, Bonds was voted NL MVP in 1990 and 1992, and narrowly missed winning it in 1991 when Terry Pendleton of the Atlanta Braves picked up the honor. Pendleton received 12 first-place votes and Bonds got 10.

The many talents of Bonds were on full display in 1990, when he hit .301 with 33 homers, 114 RBIs, 52 stolen bases and 104 runs scored, and was a Gold Glove winner for Pittsburgh. Following the 1992 season, he signed with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent. He went on to win five more NL MVP Awards -- including four in a row (2001-2004) -- and become baseball’s all-time home run leader (762).

What did Leyland think the first time he laid eyes on Bonds?

“Like everybody else, I knew he was a special talent,” Leyland said. "Maybe you don’t want to say the game came easy to him, because it’s a hard game. But if the game came easy to anyone it was Barry, and the things that didn’t come easy to him he worked on.

“This is one of the greatest players ever to play the game of baseball. Did I know he was going to be that? I don’t know. But I thought he was going to be a star, like everybody else did, and I definitely knew we had something special.”

Regarding Leyland, Bonds said, “Our relationship is so deep. It’s so good. We built such a bond that there’s no way it’s ever going to be broken. The respect level is unbelievable between the two of us.”

Bonds, who will turn 60 on July 24, spent a moment reflecting on the fact that he’s now a member of the Pirates Hall of Fame -- along with such all-time greats as Clemente, Stargell and Wagner -- and it moved him.

“What can you say? I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Bonds said. “Being able to tell my kids, ‘Your dad has gotten into the Pirates Hall of Fame,’ that was really nice. It’s going to be awesome going back to where it all started.

“Leyland and I are going to have to try and control our emotions, because I think we may do more crying that day than actually speaking. But it’s still going to be great.”

Sanguillen spent 12 of his 13 years in the Majors with the Pirates. The native of Panama made his big league debut with Pittsburgh in 1967, and he and Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench were the league’s top catchers during the first half of the 1970s. “Sangy,” a three-time All-Star with the Pirates, hit better than .300 for the ballclub in four different seasons and played on all six of Pittsburgh’s division-winning teams of the 1970s.

An interesting aspect of Sanguillen’s career is that the Pirates traded him to the Oakland A’s after the 1976 season in exchange for manager Tanner. Pittsburgh reacquired Sanguillen just before the start of the 1978 campaign, which enabled him to be part of his second World Series championship team the following year.

“God works in different ways. You can’t tell God what to do,” said Sanguillen, who had plans to become a minister before his baseball career began to pick up momentum. “God is the boss. He sent me out to Oakland, and then he brought me back. I’ve always been grateful for that.”

Sanguillen originally signed with Pittsburgh in October 1964. The Pirates featured catchers Jim Pagliaroni, Jerry May and Carl Taylor when Sanguillen was in the process of establishing himself. However, Pagliaroni told him, “As soon as I saw you coming with that big bat, I knew I was in trouble.”

Being selected for induction into the Pirates Hall of Fame holds great meaning for Sanguillen, who was the best of friends with Clemente.

“God, my family and the Pirates -- those are the things I’ve always loved in this world,” Sanguillen, a .296 lifetime hitter, said. “This is a big honor from the Pirates, and I really appreciate it. The Pirates had so many great players when I was coming up. To be able to become part of that was very special to me.

“At that time, it was hard to make it to the big leagues. A lot of people helped me. They would tell me, ‘Keep playing. You don’t have much experience, but you’re going to be a good player.’ I would go to the field every day and practice really hard. That was the reason I became a good hitter and one of the best catchers. That was why my career took off.”

Bonds played for Leyland, and Sanguillen played against Leyland. Leyland hit only four home runs in seven seasons in the Minors, but one of them was for Jamestown of the New York-Penn League against Sanguillen and the Batavia Pirates in 1965.

“I’ve known Manny for a long time, and sometimes when I see him, I still say, ‘Hey, how about that home run I hit against Batavia? That was a beauty.’ And we have a good laugh,” Leyland said.

On Aug. 24, when Leyland, Bonds and Sanguillen are inducted into the Pirates Hall of Fame, they’ll have a chance to share more stories and laughs and take a well-deserved bow.