1960 would see Alley split his season between three levels of the Pirates minor league system, playing mostly with the “C” level Grand Forks Chiefs, in the Northern League and hitting .277 with 25 doubles and 15 home runs in 115 contests. He also made brief appearances that season with the “B” level Burlington Bees in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League (1-for-12 in six games) and with the Columbus Jets in the “AAA” International League (5-for-14 in four games). In 1961 he played the entire season with the”A” level Asheville Tourists in the South Atlantic League, hitting .263 with 23 doubles and 14 home runs in 135 games.
Alley played 1962 with the Tourists (88 games, .281, 18 doubles, 10 home runs), and the Jets (36 games, .194, 13 RBI). The majority of his 1963 campaign was also spent with the Jets, hitting .244 over 146 games, with 19 home runs and 61 RBI. He also made his first appearance at the major league level, joining the Pirates for the last month of the season. He hit .216 in 17 contests while batting first, seventh, and eighth in the order and playing at second, third, and shortstop. He had his highest WPA of the season on September 14th, going 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs in a 7-3 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Pittsburgh finished eighth in the then-10 team National League, at 74-88.
Alley would start the 1964 season on the Bucs opening day roster. After spending the first month of the season as an occasional pinch hitter/runner, he stepped into the lineup most often at shortstop and batting eighth. In 81 games, he continued to struggle, managing to hit .211 with six home runs and 13 RBI. On July 21st, he went 2-for-3 with two doubles, a walk and three runs in an 8-4 win against the St. Louis Cardinals. Pittsburgh posted an 80-82 record, finishing in sixth place in the National League.
1965 would be the season that Alley came into his own. He hit .252 with 47 runs, 21 doubles, 47 RBI, and 32 walks. More importantly, he started three-quarters of Pirates games at shortstop, a position he would soon make his primary home on the diamond. He also started 40 games at second base. Overall, he led the NL in defensive WAR, with a 3.4 rating and posted an NL fourth best .968 fielding percentage at shortstop. He mostly batted seventh and eighth in the order. On July 24th, he hit a single, two doubles, and earned a walk, making three RBI in an 8-5 win over the Chicago Cubs. On August 23rd, he had his first career four hit game, hitting a single in every at bat and scoring twice in a 6-2 victory against the Giants. The Pirates improved to 90-72, in third and seven games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
1966 would see Alley earn his first Gold Glove at shortstop, playing 153 games at the position. He also managed to earn an 11th place finish in the NL MVP vote. He hit a career high .299 with 20 sacrifice hits (NL second), 88 runs, 28 doubles (NL tenth), 10 triples (NL fourth), and seven home runs with 43 RBI. He also place second in the NL in dWAR, at 2.2 and in fielding percentage at shortstop, at .979. His improved production at the plate had manager Harry Walker move him up to bat first or second in the lineup. On September 10th, he hit three singles and a triple with an RBI in a 6-5 loss to the Cardinals. The Pirates finished in third place, three games behind the pennant winning Dodgers with a 92-70 record.
In 1967, Alley was selected to his first ever All-Star Game, also winning his second Gold Glove in a row and finishing 26th in the NL MVP vote. He hit .287 with 59 runs, 25 doubles, and 55 RBI. He led the NL with 257 putouts and 500 assists at SS, finishing with league fifth bests in fielding percentage (.967) and dWAR (2.0). He batted second, sixth, or seventh in the everyday batting order. On September 8th, he hit a single, a double, and a triple, knocking in an RBI and scoring the winning run in a 4-3, 10-inning win over St. Louis. The Pirates finished in the center of the division, in sixth place at 81-81.
1968 would see Alley selected to his second all-star game. He hit .245 with 20 doubles, 39 RBI, 39 walks, and a career high 13 stolen bases. On the defensive side, he again led the NL in dWAR, with a mark of 3.6, finishing second with a .974 fielding percentage. He batted second, sixth, or seventh in the order. On September 22nd, he hit two singles and a solo home run for two RBI in a 5-1 victory over the Cubs. The team finished in sixth place again, with an 80-82 record.
In 1969, Alley appeared in only 82 contests, missing April, half of June, and almost half of September, hitting .246 with 19 walks and 32 RBI. He played the majority of the season at second base, also occasionally appearing at shortstop and at third base. He batted second and sixth through eighth in the lineup. On August 15th, he hit a single and two solo shots in a 5-1 triumph over the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh finished 88-74, 12 games behind the New York Mets.
1970 would see Alley hit .244 through 121 contests. He hit 16 doubles, eight home runs and 41 RBI. He again finished in the NL top ten in dWAR, finishing sixth with a value of 1.5. On July 3rd, the Pirates beat the Cubs in a wild one, 16-14 as Alley hit a single, a double, and two home runs, including the game clincher, with four total RBI. The Pirates finished one game better than the season before, at 89-73, but this time is was good enough for the division title, five games ahead of the Cubs. Alley’s first postseason action would see him go 0-for-7 with a walk in a three game sweep at the hands of the Big Red Machine.
In 1971, Alley hit .227 over 114 contests, hitting seven triples (NL tenth) and six home runs for 28 RBI. He hit eighth in the order appearing exclusively at shortstop. From July 1st through July 21st, he went 25-for-60 (.417) with 10 runs scored and eight RBI. On August 3rd, he hit two home runs in a 10-6 win over the Montreal Expos. The Pirates repeated as NL East Champions with a 97-65 record. Alley only appeared in one game in the NLCS against the Giants, going 1-for-2 with a run scored. The Pirates won the series, three-games-to-one. In the World Series, a seven game Pittsburgh victory, Alley went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Alley hit .248 in 1972, with 12 doubles, 36 RBI, and 38 walks. He batted mostly eighth and played shortstop. On April 21st, he hit a game winning RBI double in the bottom of the 10th in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates won the division by 11 games over the Cubs, at 96-59. In the five game series loss to the Reds, Alley went 0-for-16, scoring a run after reaching on an error.
1973 would be Alley’s final major league season. He hit .203 in 76 games. On April 24th, he had the last three hit game of his career, hitting a single and two doubles with two RBI in a 7-5 loss to the San Diego Padres. The Pirates finished the year with an 80-82 record, third place in the NL East.
Alley was a great example of a guy who made this list based mostly on his formidable defensive capabilities at a difficult position. For more on Alley, check out his full SABR Bio here, by Todd Newville.
All-Time Statline: 11 seasons, 1195 games, .254/.310/.354, 999-for-3927, 442 runs, 140 doubles, 44 triples, 55 home runs, 342 RBI, 63 stolen bases, 300 walks, 622 strikeouts, 22.7 wins above replacement.
Next up: the Wiz.