The Pittsburgh Pirates are an American professional baseball team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) Central division. The Pirates play their home games at PNC Park; the team previously played at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium, the latter of which was named after its location near the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. Founded on October 15, 1881 as Allegheny, the franchise has won five World Series championships. The Pirates are also often referred to as the "Bucs" or the "Buccos" (derived from buccaneer, a synonym for pirate).
The franchise joined the NL in its eighth season in 1887 and was competitive from its early years, winning three NL titles from 1901 to 1903, playing in the inaugural World Series in 1903 and winning their first World Series in 1909 behind Honus Wagner. The Pirates have had many ups and downs during their long history, most famously winning the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees on a game-winning walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski, the only time that Game 7 of the World Series has ever ended with a home run. They also won the 1971 World Series, led by the talent of Roberto Clemente, and the 1979 World Series under the slogan "We Are Family", led by "Pops" Willie Stargell.
After a run of regular-season success in the early 1990s (winning three straight East Division titles), the Pirates struggled mightily over the following 20 years, with 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012—the longest such streak in American professional sports history before posting a winning record in 2013 of 94–68, qualifying them for the NL Wild Card. They advanced to the NL Division Series round, where they lost in 5 games to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates made the playoffs in both 2014 and 2015, losing in the Wild Card Game both times. The Pirates currently have the longest World Series appearance drought in Major League Baseball among any team with at least one appearance, their most recent showing being their victory in the 1979 World Series. From 1882–2018, the Pirates have an overall record of 10476–10312 (a.504 winning 'percentage').
Professional baseball in the Pittsburgh area began in 1876 with the organization of the Allegheny Base Ball Club, an independent (non-league) club based in a then-separate city called Allegheny City, across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh. The team joined the minor league International Association in 1877, only to fold the following season. On October 15, 1881, Denny McKnight held a meeting at Pittsburgh's St. Clair Hotel to organize a new Allegheny club, which began play in 1882 as a founding member of the American Association. Chartered as the Allegheny Base Ball Club of Pittsburgh, the team was listed as "Allegheny" in the standings, and was sometimes called the "Alleghenys" (rarely the "Alleghenies") in that era's custom of referring to a team by its pluralized city or club name. After five mediocre seasons in the A.A., Pittsburgh became the first A.A. team to switch to the older National League in 1887. At the time, William A. Nimick was club president and Horace Phillips manager.
Before the 1890 season, nearly all of the Alleghenys' best players bolted to the Players' League's Pittsburgh Burghers. The Players' League collapsed after the season, and the players were allowed to go back to their old clubs. However, the Alleghenys also scooped up highly regarded second baseman Lou Bierbauer, who had previously played with the AA's Philadelphia Athletics. Although the Athletics had failed to include Bierbauer on their reserve list, they loudly protested the Alleghenys' move. In an official complaint, an AA official claimed the Alleghenys' signing of Bierbauer was "piratical". This incident (which is discussed at some length in The Beer and Whisky League, by David Nemec, 1994) quickly accelerated into a schism between the leagues that contributed to the demise of the A.A. Although the Alleghenys were never found guilty of wrongdoing, they made sport of being denounced for being "piratical" by renaming themselves "the Pirates" for the 1891 season. The nickname was first acknowledged on the team's uniforms in 1912.
The Pirates were a strong team in the early 1900s, winning National League pennants from 1901–1903 and taking their first World Series title in 1909. They again won the NL in 1925 and 1927 and the World Series in 1925. After a slow period, they returned to dominance and won the 1960 World Series, 1971 World Series and 1979 World Series. They won Eastern Division titles from 1990–1992 but did not return to the post-season after that until 2013.
In 2013 the Pirates became the seventh MLB team to reach 10,000 all-time wins. On Opening Day 2015 the Pirates' loss to the Cincinnati Reds represented the team's 10,000th loss, making the Pirates the fourth MLB team to achieve this distinction, following the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Cubs. Their victory over the Colorado Rockies later in 2015 on September 24 marked the team's 10,000th win as a member of the National League.
The rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Pirates was considered by some to be one of the best rivalries in the National League. The rivalry started when the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the NL in 1887, four years after the Phillies.
The Phillies and the Pirates had remained together after the National League split into two divisions in 1969.
After the Pirates moved to the National League Central in 1994, the teams face each other only in two series each year and the rivalry has diminished. However, many fans, especially older ones, retain their dislike for the other team, with regional differences between Eastern and Western Pennsylvania still fueling the rivalry.
The Pirates have long-standing, albeit sometimes dormant, rivalries with their fellow NL Central Division teams, including the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers (with The Sausage incident and the 'You can steal first' game) and the Chicago Cubs (with the Homer in the Gloamin' and most recently, the 2015 NL Wild Card game). The intensity of the rivalries often depend upon the competitiveness of the teams involved during that season.
Along with the league-wide retired number of 42, there are nine retired Pirates jersey numbers to date.
- 100 Wins in a Season 1902 (103–36), Fred Clarke 1909 (110–42), Fred Clarke
- 100 Losses in a Season 1890 (23–113), Guy Hecker 1917 (51–103), Jim Callahan, Honus Wagner, and Hugo Bezdek 1952 (41–113), Billy Meyer 1953 (50–104), Fred Haney 1954 (53–101), Fred Haney 1985 (57–104), Chuck Tanner 2001 (62–100), Lloyd McClendon 2010 (57–105), John Russell
- On May 8, 1886, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys turned the first 3-4-2 triple play in Major League history.
- First ever Major League Baseball game broadcast on the radio, a game between the Pirates and the host Philadelphia Phillies aired August 5, 1921, on KDKA (AM) Pittsburgh. The Pirates won the game 8–5.
- In 1925, the Pirates became the first MLB team to recover from a 3-games-to-1 deficit in winning a best-of-seven World Series; they then became the first MLB team to repeat that feat in 1979.
- During the 1953 season, the Pirates became the first team to permanently adopt batting helmets on both offense and defense.
- First franchise to win a World Series on a home run (1960 World Series) in the 7th game. The only other team to meet this feat is the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, though they accomplished it in game 6.
- In 1970 the Pirates became the first major league club to create their uniforms using a cotton-nylon blend featuring pull-over shirts and beltless pants.
- The first all-minority lineup in MLB history took the field on September 1, 1971. The lineup was Rennie Stennett, Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillén, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernández, and Dock Ellis.
- The first World Series night game was played in Three Rivers Stadium on October 13, 1971 — eleven years to the day since Mazeroski's walk-off homer brought the Pirates their last World Series title in 1960. In this case, however, it was Game 4 between the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles, rather than a decisive Game 7. Apparently, good things happen for the Pirates on this date, as they knotted the '71 Series at two games apiece on their way to their fourth title.
- The first MLB scout to win the "Scout of the Year Award", Howie Haak, in 1984, three additional scouts from the organization have subsequently won the award.
- The first combined extra inning no-hitter in MLB history took place at Three Rivers Stadium on July 12, 1997. Francisco Córdova (9 innings) and Ricardo Rincón (1 inning) combined to no-hit the Houston Astros, 3–0 in 10 innings. Pinch-hitter Mark Smith's three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning sealed the victory and the no-hitter for the Pirates. It remains the only such no-hitter to date.
- In November 2008, the Pirates became the first MLB team to sign Indian players when they acquired the non-draft free agents of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. This was also seen by Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, as "not only add[ing] two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market."
- The Pirates are the first team in professional sports to have 20 consecutive losing seasons.
- The Pirates are the first MLB team (as well as only second in major professional sports) to be owned by an openly gay owner, although Kevin McClatchy had already divested his shares in the Pirates when he openly announced his homosexuality in September 2012.
- On April 6, 2015, the Pirates' loss to the Cincinnati Reds earned the team its 10,000 franchise loss and making the Pirates the first MLB team to reach their 10,000th loss on an Opening Day.
- On May 9, 2015, the Pirates became the first MLB team to turn a 4–5–4 triple play.
- On April 24, 2017 the Pirates fielded the first baseball player to be born and raised in Lithuania, to reach the major leagues, Dovydas Neverauskas. In 1933, Joe Zapustas was the first Lithuanian-born player to play in MLB, as a member of the Philadelphia Athletics, however he grew up in Boston.
- On April 26, 2017, the Pirates promoted South African Gift Ngoepe from the AAA Indianapolis Indians; making him the first African-born player in MLB history.
- On August 23, 2017, the Pirates became the first team in MLB history to break up a no-hitter in extra innings with a walk-off home run. The home run was hit by Josh Harrison in the tenth inning, off of pitcher Rich Hill, to give the Pirates a 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Minor league affiliations
Civil rights advocacy
The Pirates organization was the first in baseball to have both an African-American coach and manager, when Gene Baker broke the color line in 1961 and 1962 respectively. On September 21, 1963 the Pirates were the first MLB team to have an African-American manager in Gene Baker, as he filled in for Danny Murtaugh.
On September 1, 1971, manager Murtaugh assembled a starting lineup that was completely composed of minorities for the first time in MLB history.
Despite having some notable fans including former part-owner Bing Crosby, Michael Keaton, and Regis Philbin, the Pirates are considered by most to be a distant third in Pittsburgh behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Penguins in popularity among Pittsburgh's three major professional sports teams. However, due to their long history in Pittsburgh dating back to the 1882 season, the team has retained a strong loyal following in the Pittsburgh region, especially among older residents. Upon the team ending their 20-season streak with a losing record in 2013, the fan support for the club has grown once again but still remaining a distant third behind the city's other 2 more relevant sports franchises.
While the team's recent struggles compared to Pittsburgh's other two teams can be partly to blame (since the Pirates last World Series championship in 1979, the Steelers have won the Super Bowl 3 times (XIV, XL, and XLIII) and the Penguins the Stanley Cup five times in 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017, including both in 2009), distractions off the field have also caused the team's popularity to slip in the city. While the team was ranked first in Pittsburgh as recent as the late 1970s, the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985 and two relocation threats since are believed to have also seen the team's popularity dipped. The team's standing among fans has, however, improved along with the team on the field and the opening of PNC Park in 2001. Following the Andrew McCutchen trade in 2018, fan relations have deteriorated despite the Pirates contending for the NL Central during 2018 due to backlash towards owner Robert Nutting, with the team ranking 27th among 30 MLB team in attendance that season.
When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009 captain Sidney Crosby brought the cup to PNC Park on the Sunday following the teams victory in Detroit. When they won again in 2017 the cup was once again brought to PNC Park and the team threw out the first pitch. When the team won the cup in 1992 they held a celebration in the Pirates old home Three Rivers Stadium.
Each year, the Pirates recognize six "Community Champions" during a special pregame ceremony.
Piratefest is a yearly event that is held by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January. The event is, in essence, a baseball carnival for the whole family. It features autograph sessions from current and former Pirates players and coaches, live events and games, carnival booths, baseball clinics, "Ask Pirates Management", and appearances by the Pirate Parrot. Piratefest is held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.
Radio and television
In 2007, the Pirates chose to end the longest relationship between a team and a radio station in American professional sports.
That changed for the 2007 season, when the Pirates moved to FM talk radio station WPGB. The Pirates cited the desire to reach more people in the 25–54 age bracket coveted by advertisers. The acquisition of the rights means that Clear Channel Communications holds the rights to every major sports team in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have long had a radio network that has extended across four states. Stations for the 2007 season included Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Maryland radio broadcasters.
On October 1, 2011, Clear Channel announced that they will not renew their deal with the Pirates.
Games are televised on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, the Pirates' cable television outlet since 1986, when it was known as KBL. During the 2016 season, the Pirates averaged a 7.22 rating and 83,000 viewers on primetime TV broadcasts. Apart from any Pirates games aired nationally on Fox, there has been no over-the-air coverage of the Pirates since 2002, when some games were on WCWB. KDKA-TV aired Pirates games for 38 years (1957–1994). Games aired on WPXI (1995–1996) and on WPGH-TV and WCWB (1997–2002).
Announcers Greg Brown, Bob Walk, John Wehner, and Steve Blass shuttle between the radio and TV booths. After the departure of play-by-play announcer Tim Neverett, who accepted a play-by-play radio position with the Boston Red Sox following the 2015 season, former Milwaukee Brewers announcer Joe Block began Play-by-Play Duties beginning with the 2016 season. Former Pirates closer Kent Tekulve, a member of the team's 1979 World Series Championship team, served as a post-game analyst for the team on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh. Tekulve announced his retirement at the end of the 2017 season.
On October 1, 2008, longtime play-by-play announcer Lanny Frattare retired after 33 seasons, having called Pirates' games since the 1976 season. He is the longest-tenured announcer in Pirates' history, surpassing the man he replaced, the late Bob Prince (28 seasons, 1948–1975).
Logos and uniforms
The Pirates have had many uniforms and logo changes over the years, with the only consistency being the "P" on the team's cap.
The Pirates have long been innovators in baseball uniforms.
In the late 1950s, the team adopted sleeveless jerseys.
To coincide with the move into Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, the team introduced pullover nylon/cotton jerseys and beltless pants as part of their new uniform set (later to become polyester doubleknit), becoming the first team in baseball to sport such a look. This look that would quickly be adopted by most other teams by the end of the decade, and become the prominent look of baseball during the 1970s and 1980s. The Pirates ditched the pullover style in favor of the traditional button-down style in 1991, one of the last teams to switch.
The Pirates were also innovators in third jerseys. Even though it would be the Oakland A's that would beat them to having such jerseys, the Pirates, by 1977 had different uniform styles that included two different caps, two different undershirts, three different jerseys and three different pairs of trousers. They would actually rotate (and sometimes mix, with painful results) these styles daily until returning to the basic white and gray uniform ensemble in 1985.
In 1976, the National League celebrated its 100th anniversary. To coincide with it, certain NL teams wore old-style pillbox hats complete with horizontal pinstripes. After the season, the Pirates were the only team to adopt the hats permanently, (alternating between a black hat and a gold hat for several seasons until keeping the black hat in 1985) and kept the hat through the 1986 season, which would be Barry Bonds rookie season with the team. The hats, which recall the team's last World Series championship season (1979), remain popular items in the throwback market.
The 2013 season marked the last of one of the team's former logos, introduced in 1997 just after former owner Kevin McClatchy took over the team. The Pirates chose to use the "P" on their caps as the primary logo; however, the former logo will continue to be used as a secondary logo.
On December 13, 2014, the Pirates unveiled a new camo alternate jersey, which honors the soldiers in the Armed Forces.
On February 18, 2016, the Pirates unveiled a new throwback alternate uniform in the style of the 1979 team.