Though the Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled through yet another disappointing season, it is worth mentioning that the club has a rich history that covers 135 years. Several World Series titles, all-time great players and contributors, and the impact the team has had on the city helps them standout as a staple in Major League Baseball. Those players and contributors were finally formally recognized as the Pirates’ inaugural Hall of Fame class was enshrined and immortalized in plaques outside of PNC Park.
This inaugural class features 19 players, 16 of which are already members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Of the 19 members, there are only three surviving players, all of which were present at the ceremony. Steve Blass, Bill Mazeroski, and Dave Parker all spoke at the ceremony, as they were inducted and donned the yellow Hall of Fame jacket that symbolizes their impact on the community and their incredible careers as members of the Pirates’ organization.
Bill Mazeroski lays claim to one of the all-time great moments in baseball with his walk off homerun in game seven of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees. It was the first time a World Series had been decided with a homerun, and still the only time it would take place to win a game seven in the championship series.
Obviously, that’s a huge highlight, but Mazeroski was really well known for being a sound defender at second base, playing for the Pirates from 1956-1972, winning eight Gold Glove awards. Mazeroski had his jersey retired by the Pirates in 1987 and was inducted into Cooperstown in 2001.
Steve Blass has been a fixture in the Pirates’ organization for 60 years. Blass would play in 1964, and then from 1966-1974 all with Pittsburgh and became an icon for his pitching prowess.
By far the most memorable part of Blass’ career came during the 1971 World Series against the favored Baltimore Orioles. Blass would throw two complete games in game three and game seven of the series, helping the Pirates mightily to win the title.
Following his playing career, Blass joined the Pirates broadcast team in 1983 and was calling games until 2019 when he retired after six decades with the team.
Dave Parker was a transcendent athlete in Major League Baseball and provided plenty of highlights for the Pirates from 1973-1983. “The Cobra” was well known for his powerful arm and batting ability.
Parker was a seven-time All-Star, two-time batting champion, National League MVP, and two-time World Series champion, once with the Pirates in 1979.
Parker became just the second athlete to earn an average of $1 million per year, which garnered much criticism from fans after some lackluster years for Pittsburgh. Despite that, Parker retired with a .290 batting average, with 2712 hits, and his 166 home runs puts him top 10 all time for the club.
Alongside the incredible Pirate’s players that were inducted were several members of the Negro Baseball League who all played in the area for either the Pittsburgh Crawfords or the Homestead Grays. Owner Bob Nutting touched on the impact and the legacy of those players and how important it is that they receive this recognition.
Ray Brown, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard were the Negro League players that were inducted into the Pirates’ Hall of Fame, and throughout their careers were praised for their incredible accolades despite never given the opportunity to play in the MLB.
With the recent struggles that the club has had, it is a breath of fresh air to have something surrounding the Pirates be celebrated, and this team Hall of Fame is long overdue. It is somewhat of a shame that there are only three surviving members to be recognized, but through 135 years of Pirates’ baseball, these 19 members are forever immortalized as legends of the game in the city of Pittsburgh.
In total, the inaugural class includes Honus Wagner, Paul Waner, Lloyd Waner, Fred Clarke, Jake Beckley, Max Carey, Pie Traynor, Roberto Clemente, Ralph Kiner, Arky Vaughan, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Josh Gibson, Ray Brown, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston, Dave Parker, Danny Murtaugh and Steve Blass.