The Top 10 Pirates of all time

By Steve Ziants

It is the 130th season of National League baseball in Pittsburgh. And, frankly, nothing has changed since the last time you checked any compilation of the 10 The Top 10 Pirates of all time.

On such lists, the names usually don’t, and particularly so for a franchise as old and storied as your Pittsburgh Pirates. If you’re lucky, “The Chosen” might change once a generation, and you can say you remember when (thus the luck).

Still, if you’re a fan, you will look it over. You won’t be able to help yourself. You will run your eyes over the names and the numbers as you might your fingers over the pages of a letter from a parent now gone or a yellowed photo of forgotten youth.

After a long offseason, they will be as welcome as old friends. Because this is baseball. Because they are your Pirates. Because they are names you were taught early and grew up with, have lived with, shared holidays and picnics with, celebrated and cried with, have known forever.

These are your Pirates. And the Pirates of your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. And so it will always be, because as one learned fan wrote several years ago: “Baseball is a game dominated by vital ghosts; it’s a fraternity, like no other we have of the active and the no longer so, the living and the dead.”

To that there is only one thing to add: Welcome home.

Note on statistics: All player profiles list numbers earned while with the Pirates.



Bill Mazeroski

Second Base


Bats Right

5'11", 183 lbs

Few athletes have become as synonymous with a single moment as Maz with 3:36 p.m., Oct. 13, 1960 — the moment he hit the only home run to end a Game 7 in World Series history. But Maz was more. He was the definition of second baseman in the late 1950s and ’60s. He won eight Gold Gloves. He made seven All-Star teams. He took part in more double plays than any other player in history (1,706). Where hitters came out before games to watch the likes of Ruth and McGwire and Kiner take batting practice, Maz’s peers came out early to watch him take infield. “The finest hands of any second baseman I ever played with, against or watched,” said contemporary Glenn Beckert. “I learned how to make the double play through him,” said another, Cookie Rojas.

Did you know?

Mazeroski owns a line on Internet Movie Data Base for an uncredited role in the 1968 movie “The Odd Couple” starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

Double Down


Consecutive seasons (1960-67) he turned more double plays than any second baseman in the National League.

“I just figured it was another home run to win a ballgame.”

- Mazeroski in 2010 on his Game 7 home run that beat the Yankees and gave the Pirates the 1960 world championship



Seasons 17

Games 2,163

Runs 769

Hits 2,016

Home Runs 138

RBI 853

Average .260

OPS .667


HOF (2001)

Wins Above Replacement Player



Wilbur Cooper



Throws Left

5'11", 175 lbs

On a franchise not known for great pitchers, Cooper, a 5-foot-11 left-hander with pinpoint control, stands out. In an era that included Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Walter Johnson, legendary sports writer Grantland Rice once proclaimed him “the greatest pitcher in organized baseball.” Four times he won 20 games, and by the time he was traded to the Chicago Cubs late in 1924, he’d won a club-record 202 games — a mark that 92 seasons later still stands. He also ranks in the top five in complete games (263, 1st), starts (368, 2nd) and innings pitched (3,201, 2nd). So valued was Cooper that New York Giants manager John McGraw offered the Pirates $75,000 for Cooper in 1919. For perspective: That offseason, the Yankees paid the Boston Red Sox $125,000 for a portly fellow named Babe Ruth.

Did you know?

Cooper is one of only two pitchers with 3,000 innings and an ERA under 3.00 who is not in the Hall of Fame.

Run Stopper


Career ERA — the lowest by any NL left-hander who pitched at least 3,000 innings.

“Mr. Wagner, if you field like that behind me, I’ll stay up here a long time.”

- Cooper to veteran Honus Wagner after Wagner made several stellar defensive plays behind him in his Pirates debut — an 8-0 shutout of St. Louis on Sept. 6, 1912.



Seasons 13

Games started 369

IP 3,199

W-L 202-159

Hits 3,074

Runs 1,241

ERA 2.74

Strikeouts 1,191


The first MLB All-Star game took place in 1933 - 7 years after Cooper retired.


Cooper is not a member of the baseball Hall of Fame. He was last on the ballot in 1955, receiving 11 of 251 votes.

Complete Games (263)



Fred Clarke



Bats Left

5'10", 165 lbs

Some would argue that if any manager was to be included here, it should have been Danny Murtaugh. But for as good as Murtaugh was (1,115 wins, 2 World Series titles), he couldn’t claim that one argument-ending distinction that separates Clarke: He is the only man in franchise history to rank in its top 10 in wins (1,422, 1st) and hits (1,638, 10th). What’s more, he compiled the majority of both concurrently as a player/manager. Still not impressed? He presided over the greatest decade in team history (1901-10); a decade in which his teams won four NL pennants, played in two World Series, won one and went 945-545 (a .645 winning percentage) while charting the only two 100-win seasons in franchise history. And he racked up every one of these accomplishments by 1915 — the year he retired from the game at the ripe ol’ age of 42.

Did you know?

Clarke became a millionaire in 1917 when oil was discovered on the Kansas ranch he purchased with his money from baseball.

Young Leader


Clarke’s age when Barney Dreyfuss made him manager of the Louisville Colonels in 1897 — three years before the Colonels merged with the Pirates.

“With the possible exception of Ty Cobb and John McGraw, baseball never knew a sturdier competitor.”

- Fred Lieb, The Sporting News, on Clarke’s death in 1960.



Seasons 15

Games 1,479

Runs 1,015

Hits 1,638

Home Runs 33

RBI 622

Average .299

OPS .834


The first MLB All-Star game took place in 1933 - 18 years after Clarke retired.

HOF (1945)

Wins Above Replacement Player

Seasons with at least 100 games played



Arky Vaughan



Bats Left

5'10", 175 lbs

Had he played for any other franchise, it’s possible Vaughan would be more highly regarded in baseball history. But because he played in Pittsburgh and at the same position as the immortal Wagner, his is a sometimes forgotten name when talking all-timers. Such was his fate, he hit .324 in 10 seasons with the Pirates and .318 in 14 seasons overall. In both instances, those numbers are better than any shortstop to ever play but for one — Wagner. Yet for his era, Vaughan was without peer. He made nine consecutive All-Star teams (1934-42), twice finished in the top-three in MVP voting and won the NL batting title in 1935 (.385) while also leading the league in on-base percentage (.491) and slugging (.607) that season — a season baseball historian Bill James ranks as the greatest by any shortstop not named (you guessed it) Wagner.

Did you know?

Like Clemente, Vaughan died young, drowning while on a fishing trip on a lake in California at age 40 in 1952.

Can't Miss


Batting average in 1935 remains the highest single-season average in Pirates history.

“Baseball’s most superbly forgotten man.”

- Red Smith, Hall of Fame sports columnist, on Vaughan



Seasons 10

Games 1,411

Runs 936

Hits 1,709

Home Runs 84

RBI 764

Average .324

OPS .887


HOF (1985)

Wins Above Replacement Player



Pie Traynor

Third Base


Bats Right

6'0", 170 lbs

Ten times he batted .300, including .366 in 1930. He knocked in 1,273 runs over his career and hit .346 to help the Pirates beat Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators in a seven-game World Series in 1925. Defensively, he was even better, “like looking over Da Vinci’s shoulder” wrote columnist Red Smith. But Traynor may have been best appreciated when seen through the light of three facts. He was the first third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame (and still one of only five to be voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America). He was the third baseman on MLB’s all-time team announced in 1969 to coincide with the game’s centennial. And, finally, more than six decades after he retired and more than three decades after he died, enough was still thought of his skills that he was one of six third basemen on MLB’s all-century team ballot in 1999.

Did you know?

Traynor was a sports anchorman for radio station KQV-AM from 1945-66.

Second to one


Career average ranks second only to Wade Boggs among all third basemen in baseball history.

“For my money, he was the greatest third baseman of all time.”

- Brooks Robinson, Hall of Fame third baseman, on Traynor.



Seasons 17

Games 1,941

Runs 1,183

Hits 2,416

Home Runs 58

RBI 1,273

Average .320

OPS .797


Waner was selected for MLB's inaugural All-Star game in 1933.

HOF (1948)

Wins Above Replacement Player

Seasons with at least 100 games played







Paul Waner

Right Field


Bats Left

5'8", 155 lbs

Famously known as “Big Poison” to younger brother Lloyd’s “Little Poison” through much of the 1920s and ’30s, he was the more “menacing” of the two. He sprayed line drives to all corners of Forbes Field, hit above .350 more times (5) than he hit under .300 (2), won three NL batting titles and, in one of the greatest single seasons in franchise history, won the NL MVP in 1927 by hitting .380 with 42 doubles, 18 triples, 9 Home Runs, 131 RBIs and 342 total bases. And he did it while standing all of 5 feet, 8 inches and 155 pounds. This man was Big Poison? According to a story written as part of the Society for American Baseball Research biography project, a scout for the New York Giants told Giants manager John McGraw of Waner: “That little punk don’t even know how to put on a uniform.” After the Giants and Pirates squared off for the first time in 1926 — Waner’s rookie season — McGraw is said to have told the scout, “That little punk don’t even know how to put on a uniform but he’s removed three of my pitchers with line drives this week. I’m glad you did not scout Christy Mathewson.”

Did you know?

Paul and brother Lloyd own the most hits by any set of brothers in major league history (5,611).

Pitcher Poison


Career batting average remains the highest in Pirates history.

“Why, they’re no bigger than a couple of little kids. If I was that size, I would be afraid of getting hurt.”

- Babe Ruth, after playing against the Waner brothers in the 1927 World Series



Seasons 15

Games 2,154

Runs 1,493

Hits 2,868

Home Runs 109

RBI 1,177

Average .340

OPS .896


Waner was selected for MLB's inaugural All-Star game in 1933.

HOF (1952)

Wins Above Replacement Player

Seasons with at least 100 games played



Willie Stargell



Bats Left

6'4", 225 lbs

His career was one of two acts, the first as raw slugger out of a Bernard Malamud novel, the second an elder statesman we remember as “Pops.” In both, he was larger than life, each every bit as large as the nearly half-dozen stadiums in which he at one time owned the longest Home Runs on record. At 6 feet, 4 inches and 225 pounds, “he didn’t just hit pitchers, he took away their dignity,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton. His 475 Home Runs, 1,560 RBIs and 953 extra-base hits are all franchise records. At the peak of his career from 1970-73, he averaged 39 Home Runs and 110 RBIs a season while batting .288. But it is his last hurrah in 1979 that most remember, when at age 39 he led the Pirates to their fifth and most recent world championship. Led? More like carried. He went 12 for 30 with 3 HRs, 7 runs scored and 7 RBIs, an MVP performance that included a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 7 against the Baltimore Orioles that wrote him from mere great and into franchise legend.

Did you know?

Stargell shared the 1979 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award with Terry Bradshaw, who had led the Steelers to their third Super Bowl title earlier in the year and helped lend credence to Pittsburgh’s “City of Champions” moniker.

Moon Shots


Of the 18 Home Runs hit over the right-field roof in the 61-year history of Forbes Field belonged to Stargell.

“Having Willie Stargell on your ballclub is like having a diamond ring on your finger.”

- Chuck Tanner, Pirates manager from 1977-85



Seasons 21

Games 2,360

Runs 1,194

Hits 2,232

Home Runs 475

RBI 1,540

Average .282

OPS .889


HOF (1988)

Wins Above Replacement Player



Ralph Kiner

Left Field


Bats Right

6'2", 195 lbs

No slugger ever so captivated Pittsburgh as did this right-handed swinger from California. How else does one explain the fact that from 1946-52 — Kiner’s seven full seasons in a Pirates uniform — a franchise that had never drawn more than 869,720 fans in any season four times topped 1.1 million; this despite finishing a combined 193 games under .500? The only logical answer: Kiner. He hit Home Runs over those seven seasons and part of 1953 at a pace unseen before or since: one every 13 at-bats. He led the NL in each of his seven seasons (still an MLB record), twice topped 50 and in 1949 set a Pirates record with 54. “Pittsburgh had never seen an athlete like Kiner,” wrote Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Bob Smizik. To wit: In the three full seasons after Kiner was traded to the Cubs in the middle of the 1953 season, the Pirates failed to draw more than 573,000 fans and only once in the 36 years that followed did they top the 1.517 million they drew for the Kiner-led Pirates of 1948.

Did you know?

Kiner, noted ladies’ man in his playing days, dated — among others — actresses Janet Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Jane Russell.

Long Ball


At-bats per home run for Kiner in his 10-year career — a ratio that still stands fifth in MLB history 60 years after he retired.

“He had the kind of natural power that comes along once in a lifetime.”

- Bob Friend, Pirates teammate, on Kiner



Seasons 8

Games 1,095

Runs 754

Hits 1,097

Home Runs 301

RBI 801

Average .280

OPS .971


HOF (1975)

Wins Above Replacement Player



Roberto Clemente

Right Field


Bats Right

5'11", 175 lbs

Nearly 20,000 men have played professional baseball over the past century-plus. Few turned it into the living art form that Clemente did for 18 summers from right field at Forbes Field and then Three Rivers Stadium. He was power and style and grace and “[played] a kind of baseball that none of us had seen before, throwing and running and hitting at something close to the level of absolute perfection” wrote Hall of Fame baseball writer Roger Angell. He was a .317 career hitter and the only man to collect 3,000 hits in a Pirates uniform. He was a four-time NL batting champion, 1966 NL MVP and 12-time Gold Glove winner who “could field the ball in New York and throw out a guy in Pennsylvania,” as the legendary Vin Scully once said. He was at once a baseball god of a generation and, at the same time, a simple, proud man who ultimately gave his life for others. He was The Great One.

Did you know?

Clemente was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal (1973), the Presidential Citizens Medal (1973) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2003).

Helping Hand


Assists Clemente had from right field in his 18-year career, most of any right fielder in MLB history.

“Without him, the game will lose some of its magic.”

- Phil Musick, Pittsburgh Press columnist, on the death of Clemente in a plane crash Dec. 31, 1972.



Seasons 18

Games 2,433

Runs 1,416

Hits 3,000

Home Runs 240

RBI 1,305

Average .317

OPS .834


HOF (1973)

Wins Above Replacement Player



Honus Wagner



Bats Right

5'11", 200 lbs

None other than Babe Ruth called him the greatest right-handed hitter in baseball history. Nearly a century after his final game, still ranks him No. 10 all-time in Wins Above Replacement — a sabremetric fomula for measuring a player’s worth. But most fans don’t need such 21st century tools to understand his worth. From 1900-17, he helped the Pirates win four of their nine NL pennants and their first World Series championship. All the while, he led the league in batting eight times, RBIs five times, stolen bases five times and played such a beautiful shortstop that, despite a stocky frame and bowed legs, it was said you could roll anything through them except a ground ball.


Did you know?

A near-mint condition Honus Wagner 1909 T206 baseball card — the Holy Grail of card collectors and one of fewer than 60 known to exist — sold for $2.8 million at auction in 2007.

No Doubt


Votes out of a possible 222 that Wagner received in election for the inaugural class of the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. Only Ty Cobb received more (222).

“He was the nearest thing to a perfect player no matter where his manager chose to play him.”

- John McGraw, New York Giants manager, on Wagner



Seasons 18

Games 2,433

Runs 1,521

Hits 2,967

Home Runs 82

RBI 1,474

Average .328

OPS .862


The first MLB All-Star game took place in 1933 - 16 years after Wagner retired.

HOF (1936)

Wins Above Replacement Player

Seasons with at least 100 games played

Web Design Zack Tanner



Note to self

Jung Ho Kang makes Pittsburgh his home

The most anticipated games of the 2016 season

What makes PNC Park so good?

The Top 10 ballparks in the majors

Untold stories of Pittsburgh's baseball landmarks