Al McBean was a 5'11" right hander from Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands. Born on May 15, 1938, he was initially picked up by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1958. His first season was split between the low "D" Salem Rebels (7-3, 3.09) of the Appalachian League, and the slightly higher "D" level Clinton Pirates (0-2, 3.75) in the Midwest League. He played in the "B" level Carolina League in 1959, with the Wilson Tobs (7-7, 4.28).1960 would see him promoted to the "A" level Savannah Pirates in the South Atlantic League (9-6, 3.92).
After starting 1961 with the Columbus Jets, (AAA, International League, 5-3, 2.14), McBean was called up to Pittsburgh in the beginning of July, 1961. He made 27 appearances over the last three months of the season, all but two in relief. After his first seven appearances, he had allowed six hits and four walks, striking out 10 batters and registering a 0.75 ERA over 12 innings. On September 11th, in his first ever start, he gutted out nine innings, allowing 11 hits and three earned runs, leaving the game tied at three after nine. Roy Face would pitch to one batter in the tenth, allowing a solo home run to Felipe Alou as the San Francisco Giants took a 4-3 victory. He went 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA. At the time, his achilles heel lay in his lack of control, allowing 42 walks against 49 strikeouts. This led to a team high 1.534 WHIP, despite allowing only 8.7 hits per nine innings. The Pirates, at the time defending World Champions, finished sixth in the NL with a 75-79 record, 18 games behind the Cincinnati Reds.
1962 would see McBean spend the entire season in the Bucs rotation, completing six of 29 starts (along with four relief appearances). He ranked second on the Pirates with 15 wins (against 10 losses) with a 3.70 ERA. Control still eluded him, as he ranked last on Pittsburgh with a 1.460 WHIP and 10.1 hits allowed per nine innings. His best game of the season was probably on July 5th, in a 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He allowed six hits and a walk, striking out five. It was one of two shutouts for McBean on the season. Despite Pittsburgh's 93-68 record, they finished fourth in the now 10 team National League eight games behind the pennant winning Giants.
In 1963, McBean ranked third in the NL with an .813 winning percentage, going 13-3 with a 2.57 ERA. He made seven starts, completing two with one shutout and 11 saves. His control was greatly improved, walking only 39 in 122.1 innings pitched. His WHIP was 1.136, second best on the club. He started the Pirates fifth game of the season, going the whole nine and getting the shutout despite allowing 10 hits and a walk, striking out five as the Pirates defeated the Reds, 1-0. Pittsburgh went 74-88, finishing eighth in the National League.
McBean enjoyed what was probably his best season in 1964, posting career and team bests with a 1.91 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP. He led the Bucs with an NL second best 22 saves, earning the Fireman of the Year Award and going 8-3. He only allowed 17 walks in 89.2 innings pitched. On September 30th, in his last appearance of the season, he entered a scoreless tie with one out and the bases loaded against the Reds in the bottom of the 13th. Eventually, he earned the 1-0 victory, allowing two hits and a walk over 3.2 innings pitched. Pittsburgh ended the season in sixth, with an 80-82 record.
1965 would see McBean go 6-6, 2.29 with an NL fourth best 18 saves over a career high and team leading 62 appearances. On August 7th, he entered a game against the Phillies with no outs, the bases loaded, and up 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth. He induced three groundouts, a 3-2, a 5-2, then a 4-3 to end the inning. Pittsburgh held on to the lead for the win as McBean pitched five innings of one hit ball, walking one and striking out two. 90-72 was good enough for the Pirates to finish third in the NL,
In 1966, McBean appeared in 47 games, going 4-3 with three saves. He posted a 3.22 ERA, striking out 54 in 86.2 innings. He allowed 9.9 hits per nine innings, well below the bar he had set for himself the prior three seasons. On June 29th, he entered a 2-2 tie with the Houston Astros with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning. After allowing one run on a sacrifice fly, he settled down and pitched 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits, a walk, and two earned runs, striking out five in the eventual 6-5 Pirates victory. Pittsburgh went 92-70, three games behind the Dodgers for the pennant.
McBean completed five of his eight starts in 1967, out of 51 total appearances. He went 7-4 with a 2.54 ERA and 8.1 hits allowed per nine innings, collecting four saves along the way. Despite his regular role as a reliever, his best performance of the campaign was on August 23rd, when he pitched a complete game, allowing a walk and eight hits for one run, striking out six in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Pittsburgh finished the season 81-81, in sixth place.
1968 would see McBean reenter the Bucs rotation, finishing nine of his 28 starts. He posted the first losing record of his Major League career, going 9-12 with a 3.58 ERA. He started the season out beating the Giants 2-1 on April 13th, allowing three hits and two walks and striking out five for the victory. The Pirates again finished in sixth, at 80-82.
McBean was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 1968 expansion draft. After losing his only start with the club, he would get traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Dean and Leon Everitt. He would go 2-6 for the Dodgers over parts of the next two seasons, with a 3.83 ERA. The Dodgers released him on April 24, 1970. he resigned with the Pirates later that day. Over seven appearances with the Bucs that season, he allowed 11 runs (nine earned) in 10 innings of work, allowing 13 hits and seven walks. The Pirates released him in late May.
Even though McBean made 75 starts in Pittsburgh, he was primarily used as a relief pitcher. As such, he is the first reliever to make this top 100 list.
All-Time Statline: Nine seasons, 65-43, 3.08 ERA, 376 games, 75 starts, 22 CG, five shutouts, 59 saves, 1016.0 innings pitched, 1001 hits allowed, walked 342, struck out 548, 1.322 WHIP, 13.0 wins above replacement.