Groat, Friend, Face and Tekulve selected to Pirates 2023 Hall of Fame class

April 20th, 2023

Elroy Face, , Dick Groat and were outstanding players who became All-Stars and World Series champions as members of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and on Thursday, the team announced that the foursome will comprise the 2023 class of inductees into the Pirates Hall of Fame.

The Pirates Hall of Fame was established last year, and selecting an inaugural class was difficult because more than 2,000 players have worn a Pittsburgh uniform since the franchise joined the National League in 1887. The 19-member class of 2022 included Pirates immortals such as Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner and others, as well as four players from the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues led by legendary slugger Josh Gibson.

Face, Friend, Groat and Tekulve will be officially inducted into the Pirates Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 26, and they will be honored during on-field ceremonies prior to the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park that evening.

“As an organization, we are proud of the contributions and impact these four men have made both on and off the field for the Pirates, the city of Pittsburgh and our fans,” said Pirates chairman Bob Nutting. “Not only are they all World Champions, they have remained pillars in our community for many years. It will be an honor to celebrate each of them later this season at their induction into the Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame.”

Face, one of baseball’s first great relievers, was known as “The Baron of the Bullpen.” Despite being only 5-foot-8, he was fearless, thanks to a darting forkball that confounded hitters. Face went 18-1 with Pittsburgh in 1959, which is still the Major League record for relief victories in a single season. In 1960, he saved 24 games during the regular season and three more in the World Series to help the Pirates to their memorable triumph over the New York Yankees. Face spent 15 of his 16 years in the big leagues with Pittsburgh (1953, 1955-1968), making a club-record 802 appearances, winning 100 games and registering 186 saves (though saves didn’t become an official statistic until 1969).

At age 95, Face still resides in the Pittsburgh area. When asked what accomplishments he’s most proud of, he replied, “I would say being the first to save three games in a World Series, 22 straight wins in '58 and '59, and being 18-1 in '59. And being part of a World championship team. The team we had in 1960 was a really good ballclub.”

Among Pirates pitchers, Friend -- who passed away in 2019 -- is the all-time leader in starts (477), innings pitched (3,480 1/3) and strikeouts (1,682). He recorded 191 victories for Pittsburgh between 1951-65, including a career-high 22 in 1958, when he shared the Major League lead with Warren Spahn in that department. Friend led the NL with a 2.83 ERA in 1955 and the Majors in innings pitched in 1956 (314 1/3) and '57 (277).

Former pitcher , a Pirates World Series hero in 1971 and a member of the team’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, had Friend as a roommate in 1964, when he made his Major League debut. The two men remained close friends for decades.

“Maybe there weren’t that many fireworks, explosions or lightning when he pitched, but he was dependable down the line,” Blass said. “When Bob Friend was scheduled to pitch on Thursday, he was definitely going to pitch on Thursday. He was a grinder.”

“You talk about durability? Every fourth day when it was Bob’s turn to pitch, he pitched,” Tekulve added. “And that was back when starting pitchers not only pitched, they pitched the whole game.”

Groat’s finest season with Pittsburgh was 1960, when he captured the NL batting title with a .325 mark and was voted the league’s MVP, beating out great players such as Clemente, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron.

“Mr. [Branch] Rickey must have known what he was doing,” Groat quipped earlier this week, referring to the former Pirates general manager who signed him off the Duke University campus, where he was a two-sport star in basketball and baseball.

The 92-year-old Groat, a Pittsburgh native who still makes his home in the area, remains fiercely proud of his years in a Pirates uniform (1952, 1955-1962), especially his storybook 1960 campaign.

“What could be more wonderful than winning a batting championship, an MVP Award and a World championship in your hometown?” he said. “It was very special to me, and that team was very special. That was a very talented and close-knit baseball team.”

Tekulve, who like Face was one of the top relievers of his era, led the Majors in appearances three times as a Pirate -- in 1978, '79 and '82. The submarine-style hurler shares the team record for appearances in a single season (94 in 1979), and he owns the club record for most innings pitched in relief in one season (135 1/3 in 1978).

In 12 years with Pittsburgh (1974-85), Tekulve -- who was known as “The Rubber Band Man” because of his ability to pitch day in and day out -- went 70-61 with a 2.68 ERA and 158 saves in 722 appearances. He saved three games against the Baltimore Orioles during the 1979 World Series, which Pittsburgh won in seven.

“At one time, relief pitchers were guys who weren’t good enough to start, but Elroy Face helped relief pitchers become important members of their team -- not just an extra piece,” said the 76-year-old Tekulve, who serves as president of the Pirates alumni association. “I took pride in the fact that I was always available. My goal was every day, no matter how I felt, I wanted to be able to help my team win a game that day.”

At the induction ceremonies for the inaugural class of the Pirates Hall of Fame last September, Blass said, “Please keep in mind that next year more players and more plaques will be added with names that are just as impressive and just as meaningful as those that are being acknowledged today.”

With Face, Friend, Groat and Tekulve being selected for this year’s class, his assessment was right on the money.

When that was pointed out earlier this week, Blass said, “There are deserving candidates up and down Pirates rosters from a lot of years. This is just the tip of the iceberg, these first couple classes.”