Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 39. Richie Hebner

Richie Hebner was a 6’1”, 195 lb. ballplayer from Boston, MA. Born on November 26th, 1947, the right-throwing, left-batting corner infielder was originally drafted by the Pirates in the first round of the 1966 amateur draft, with the 15th overall pick. Later that year, he made his first pro appearance with the rookie level Salem Rebels in the Appalachian League, hittie ng .359 in 26 games.

1967 would see Hebner split the season between the Florida League rookie level Pirates (stats unkept) and the “A” level Raliegh Pirates (78 games, .336, 33 RBI). He again played with the rookie Pirates in 1968, also playing 104 games with the “AAA” level Columbus Jets, hitting .276 with 51 RBI. He also made his first appearance in Pittsburgh, flying out to left field in his only at bat of the season, on September 28th in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs.

In 1969, Hebner joined the lineup fulltime, hitting .301 with 72 runs and 47 RBI. He walked as much as he struck out, making 53 of each. He played mostly at third base, batting second through seventh in the order. On May 4th, he fell a single short of the cycle, making two RBI in a 6-4 loss to the Montreal Expos. On May 12th, he went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple, an RBI and two runs, including the game winner in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Bucs won, 4-3 over the San Francisco Giants. He ended the season ranked 10th in the NL with a .380 on-base percentage while finishing third with 31 double plays turned. The Pirates were 88-74, third place in the NL East Division.

1970 would see Hebner play 120 games, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 46 RBI. He batted mostly second and seventh in the lineup, manning the hot-corner for most of the season. In game one of a doubleheader on September 7th, he hit a double and two home runs with four RBI in an 8-3 win over the Cubs. The Pirates won the NL East with an 89-73 win-loss record, earning a spot in the NLCS against the Cincinnati Reds. Hebner went 4-for-6 with two walks and two doubles, appearing in two games. Unfortunately, the rest of the team hit .198 as the Pirates were sent home in three games.

Hebner played 112 games in 1971 in his usual spot at third base. He hit .271 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI while batting mostly second and fifth in the order. On April 22nd, he went 3-for-5 with two triples and three RBI in a 7-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves. On June 25th, he hit two home runs in a 14-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates again won the NL East, this time with a 97-65 record. Hebner went 5-for-17 with a double, two home runs, and five RBI as the Pirates dismissed the Giants in four games. In the World Series, he was limited to three games, going 2-for-12 with a three run home run for the Pirates in their seven-game triumph against the Baltimore Orioles.

1972 would see Hebner hit .300 over 124 contests with 19 home runs and 72 RBI. He ranked sixth in the NL with a .508 slugging percentage while fielding an NL second best .969 at third base. He batted mostly fifth, sixth, and seventh in the lineup. On July 30th, he went 3-for-4 with a double and a home run, making three RBI in a 7-1 win against the Phillies. For the third year in a row, the Pirates won the NL East, going 96-59. In the NLCS against the Reds, Hebner went 3-for-16 with a double and one RBI as Cincinnati dismissed the Bucs in five games.

1973 would see Hebner hit .271 in 144 games. He hit a career high 25 home runs with 74 RBI, scoring 73 runs while walking 56 times to 60 strikeouts. He again batted in his customary position, between fifth and seventh while manning the third bag for the Bucs. On June 1st, he hit a double and a home run, good for four RBI in a 9-6 win over the Reds. On September 3rd, in the first game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, he went 3-for-6 with the game winner, knocking himself in with an inside-the-park-homer to end the game, 5-4 in the bottom of the 13th inning. Pittsburgh finished the year with an 80-82 record.

In 1974, Hebner appeared in a career high 146 contests, hitting .291 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI batting second for a majority of the season. He finished 21st in the season ending NL MVP vote, ranking eighth in the NL with 97 runs scored and third with 34 double plays turned from third base. On July 21st, he hit two solo-homers and two doubles, scoring four runs in a 6-2 win over the Braves. On May 27th, in the second game of a doubleheader against the San Diego Padres, he hit a come-from-behind two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in walk off fashion, earning an 8-7 win. At the time, the Pirates were 10 games below .500 at 16-26, but recovered enough to finish the season on top of the division with an 88-74 record. Hebner went 3-for-13 with a home run and four RBI as the Los Angeles Dodgers sent the Pirates packing in four NLCS contests.

Hebner hit a then-career low .246 in 1975, with 15 home runs and 57 RBI. The only significant statistic in which he finished in the NL top ten was in hit-by-pitch (he finished in third, with 10). He batted mostly second, continuing to hold down the hot corner for Pittsburgh through 128 games. On August 3rd, in game two of a doubleheader, he went 3-for-3 with a two-run double and a two-run home run, accounting for all of the Pirates offense in a 4-3 win against the New York Mets. For the fifth time in the past six seasons, the Pirates would represent the NL East in the NLCS, winning the division with a 92-69 record. Hebner went 4-for-12 with two runs scored and two RBI, appearing in all three Pittsburgh’s losses as they were swept by Cincinnati.

1976 would mark the end of Hebner’s time with the Pirates, at least for the time being. He appeared in 132 games, hitting .249 with eight home runs and 51 RBI. He was still exclusively a third baseman, but he batted either second or fifth through eighth in the order. On September 8th, he had four RBI in a 6-1 win over the Phillies. Pittsburgh missed a return trip to the postseason by nine games, as the Phillies earned the division title. He was granted free agency following the season, signing a contract with Philadelphia.

Hebner played 255 games over the next two seasons for the Phils, hitting .284 with 15 home runs and 114 RBI. He later played a season with the Mets (136 games, .268, 10 home runs, 7 RBI) and two and a half with the Detroit Tigers (250 games, .267, 25 home runs, 128 RBI.

On August 16th, 1982, the Pirates purchased his contract from Detroit. In 25 games he hit .300 while playing mostly right field and batting fifth in the order. On September 14th down 4-0 in the bottom of the third, he hit a grand slam off Cubs pitcher Dickie Noles to tie the game as the Pirates went on to win by a score of 15-5. Pittsburgh finished fourth in the NL East with an 84-78 record.

In 1983, Hebner appeared in 86 games for the Bucs, hitting .265 in limited duty as a jack-of-all-trades. He played third base, first base, left field and right while batting second through seventh in the order. On September 21st, he went 3-for-5 with a double, a homer, and three RBI in a 7-6 loss to Chicago. The Pirates finished second in the division, at 84-78. After the season, he signed on as a free agent with the Cubs.

Hebner played two seasons in Chicago, appearing in 127 games and hitting .264 with 30 RBI. The Cubs released him just prior to the 1986 season, ending his major league career.

All-Time Statline: 11 seasons, 1140 games, .277/.350/.442, 1079-for-3892, 569 runs, 180 doubles, 39 triples, 128 home runs, 520 RBI, 21 stolen bases, 407 walks, 454 strikeouts, 21.7 wins above replacement.

Next up: Little Poison

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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