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Richie Zisk was a 6’1” outfielder from Brooklyn, NY. Born on February 6th, 1949, the right hander was originally selected by the Pirates in the third round of the 1967 amateur draft, with the 56th overall pick. Later that year, he made his first professional appearance with the Salem Rebels of the “Rookie” level Appalachian League, hitting .307 and clubbing 16 home runs in 56 games. With the Gastonia Pirates of the “A” level Western Carolina League the following season, he hit .281 with 13 round trippers in 53 contests.
In 1969, Zisk started the season with the Pirates in the Florida State Instructional League, hitting .319 in 20 games. He was then sent back to the Salem Rebels again, by now designated a level “A” team. He hit .317 in 78 games. He was promoted to the “AA” Waterbury Pirates of the Eastern League in 1970, hitting .296 in 125 games with 34 home runs and 88 RBI.
Over the next two seasons, Zisk played “AAA” ball with the Charleston Charlies in the International League. He hit a combined .299 with 55 home runs and 195 RBI. He received his first callup to the big club in September, appearing in seven games in right and left field and going 3-for-15 with a double, a home run, and two RBI to go with seven strikeouts. He got two callups in 1972, in July and again in September. He went .189 from the plate with three doubles and four RBI over 44 plate appearances.
1973 would see Zisk graduate to the big leagues for good. After serving primarily as a pinch hitter through mid-June, he eventually claimed a spot in the starting lineup, mostly in left field, but sometimes in right. He finished ninth in the NL Rookie of the Year Balloting, while racking up a .324 batting average with 10 home runs and 54 RBI in 103 games. His seven triples ranked him eighth in the NL. He batted mostly fourth and fifth in the order. On September 10th, he put up a 5-for-6 effort with a triple and two RBI in an 11-3 win over the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates finished 80-82, just 2.5 games behind the NL East Champion New York Mets.
In 1974, Zisk hit an NL sixth best .313 in 149 games for Pittsburgh. He hit 17 home runs and an NL eighth ranking 100 RBI. He finished ninth in the NL MVP race. On June 9th, he went 4-for-6, hitting for the cycle and collecting five RBI in a 14-1 shellacking of the San Francisco Giants. He went 4-for-6 again on August 13th, hitting a double and scoring twice with three RBI in a 14-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. He batted third through sixth in the lineup, mostly in the five spot and playing most of the season in right field. The Pirates took the NL East with an 88-74 record, a game and a half ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. Zisk appeared in three games of the NLCS, going 3-for-10 with a run as the Bucs were eliminated, three games to one.
Zisk played in 147 games for Pittsburgh in 1975, hitting .290 with 20 home runs and 75 RBI. He drew 68 walks, scored 69 times, and struck out a career high 109 times. He played exclusively in left field and batted fifth or sixth in the order. On August 23rd, he went 4-for-4 with a double, a home run, a sacrifice fly, and six RBI as the Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 12-7. At 92-69, the Pirates claimed their second NL East title in a row, 6.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies. Zisk went 5-for-10 with a double and two walks in the NLCS, but his heroics weren’t enough as the Pirates were swept by the Reds in three games.
1976 would see Zisk hit .289 over 155 games with an NL eighth best 21 home runs and an ninth best 89 RBI. He ranked seventh in the NL with 91 runs scored and 35 doubles, finishing 25th in the NL MVP vote. He batted third, fifth, and sixth in the order, playing only in left field. On May 19th, he went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a homer, knocking in three and scoring twice in a 7-6 victory over the Cardinals. Pittsburgh missed the postseason by nine games to the Phillies, posting a 92-70 record. After the season, the Pirates sent him with pitcher Silvio Martinez to the Chicago White Sox for pitchers Terry Forster and Goose Gossage.
Zisk played one season with the White Sox, hitting .290 with 30 home runs and 101 RBI, earning his first invitation to the All-Star game. He went on to play three seasons each with the Texas Rangers (419 games, .271, 59 home runs, 226 RBI) and with the Seattle Mariners (315 games, .286, 49 home runs, 141 RBI).
All-Time Statline: Six seasons, 578 games, .299/.366/.477, 600-for-2006, 285 runs, 119 doubles, 15 triples, 69 home runs, 324 RBI, two stolen bases, 217 walks, 376 strikeouts, 15.1 wins above replacement.