August 19, 2019

The All-Time Pittsburgh Pirates (a draft book chapter)

June 25, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Who would be selected for a mythical All-Time Pittsburgh Pirates dream team roster? Who would be the starters and who the backups? Who gets snubbed, not quite good enough to make the squad? And how have other authors, as well as fan surveys and the like, answered this fun question throughout the years?

This is the third of what will be many postings to Seamheads that summarize draft book chapters in my forthcoming book on baseball “All-Time Teams” (book title TBD.) As I update/write each chapter, I will post an abstract here, with a link to the full draft chapter as a PDF file hosted at my personal website. I am doing this in part to get comments and feedback as I continue the writing process. My intention is to post another team’s chapter every few weeks. To read the entire draft chapter for the Pirates, please see the  index web page and see the PDF for the Pirates chapter. Also, I encourage you to read the draft of the book introduction as well, which explains a few ground rules for this project (e.g., that I am not separating  OF positions into RF, CF, LF, and that I am only counting the time players played for that particular franchise, not their time played for other teams).

(This first paragraph is the chapter’s introductory paragraph, as written…)

The Pirates franchise began in 1882 as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the American Association. They joined the NL in 1887 and switched to their current nickname in 1891. Generally mediocre or poor during these early years, they became a blockbuster club during the first decade of the 20th century due in large part to the efforts of superstar Honus Wagner and player-manager Fred Clarke. They later had some good seasons here and there, but didn’t approach that level of success again until the 1970s. After a period of decline in the 1980s, they briefly flirted with success in the early 1990s, before the financial reality of being a small-market team set in.

I will now list my selections for starter and backup at each position, including six outfielders (without separation by RF/CF/LF), and also including 10 pitchers (any combination of up to 8 starters and up to 4 relievers). For my write-ups on why I chose each player, and for the many other players I considered at each position, see the full draft chapter for this team.

  • 1B: Willie Stargell, Gus Suhr
  • 2B: Bill Mazeroski, George Grantham
  • 3B: Pie Traynor, Tommy Leach
  • SS: Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughn
  • C: Jason Kendall, Manny Sanguillen
  • OF: Roberto Clemente, Paul Waner, Max Carey, Ralph Kiner, Fred Clarke, Lloyd Waner
  • SP: Wilbur Cooper, Babe Adams, Sam Leever, Bob Friend, Deacon Phillippe, Vern Law, Jesse Tannehill
  • RP: Roy Face, Kent Tekulve, Dave Giusti

There were some tough decisions, and lots of good players who didn’t make this roster, so see the full draft chapter for details. And for each team I am picking one “extra” player, the one who I felt was most deserving amongst those who were not selected as a starter, backup, or amongst the ten pitchers. Who do you think it should be for the Pirates?

So assuming no DH, one reasonable starting lineup might be:

  1. Max Carey OF
  2. Paul Waner OF
  3. Honus Wagner SS
  4. Roberto Clemente OF
  5. Willie Stargell 1B
  6. Pie Traynor 3B
  7. Jason Kendall C
  8. Bill Mazeroski 2B
  9. Wilbur Cooper SP

(To increase the realism, in the full draft chapter I also provide an adjusted lineup that does separate by RF/CF/LF, and also includes a mythical DH for the lineup.)

In the full draft chapter I then discuss the selections from other authors and fan surveys, including:

  • 1958: Sport magazine, March issue
  • 1969: The Sporting News fan poll
  • 1971: I Hate the Yankees, by John R. Bizzelle
  • 1990: “All-Time All-Star Teams”, The Baseball Research Journal
  • 1992: The All-Time All-Star Baseball Book, Nick Acocella, and Donald Dewey
  • 1995: Baseball Ratings by Charles S. Faber
  • 1995 Media Guide
  • 1999 Fan Survey
  • 2003: Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups, by Rob Neyer
  • 2006: The Team By Team Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball, by Dennis Purdy (not an all-time team per se, but his list of “significant players”)

Do you know of any books or fan surveys that I’ve missed here? Please let me know in the comments to this posting.

Finally, as part of this project I am determining the all-time team that would be determined by Bill James’ innovative  Win Shares system. To see those results, see the full draft chapter for this team.

Again, your comments and feedback on the draft chapter are very much appreciated, as I hope to get the book published in the next year or so.


2 Responses to “The All-Time Pittsburgh Pirates (a draft book chapter)”
  1. James Forr says:

    Hey Tom,

    I like this a lot. Good analysis and writing.

    Maybe this isn’t at all what you are going for in your book, but as a reader I always enjoy getting to know a little about the players…either as people, or with an anecdote about something they did as players.

    So knowing how historians (and you) rate Wilbur Cooper is interesting. But knowing that Wilbur Cooper was a drama queen who pouted and screamed when a teammate made an error behind him brings him to life a little bit. I think little tidbits like that sprinkled in here and there are what makes a lot of Bill James’ and Rob Neyer’s stuff so compelling.

    Just my $.02

  2. Hey,

    It’s great to see Deacon Phillippe on the list. He is my great-grandfather, my dad’s grandfather. We have done a lot of research on him and found great information. If you need any statistical or biographical information about him, feel free to contact me.

    I’ll help you with anything to help you get the book published.


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