Manager: Chuck Tanner
By Greg Leadbetter
There are champions who win on the basis of individuals who have superstar power, but in the case of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, it was a "fam-a-lee" who helped win the World Series.
Managed by Chuck Tanner, the Pirates "fam-a-lee" edged the Montreal Expos for the National League East title, swept the Cincinnati Reds for the National League pennant, and defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games in dramatic fashion.
The "fam-a-lee" season was led by 39 year-old first baseman Willie "Pops" Stargell. Stargell was the National League co-MVP along with St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Keith Hernandez, smacking 32 home runs, with 82 RBI's and a .281 average. He would continue to shine in the postseason, batting .455 with six RBI's and two homers in the NLCS and .400 in the World Series, with 12 hits and three homers.
"Pops" also provided a team-friendly atmosphere by helping out his teammates whenever they had bad streaks or problems, and rewarding them by giving out little yellow stars known as "Stargell Stars" whenever they made a big play. He also provided the team anthem by using Sister Sledge's song "We Are Family", which was blasting loudly during Pirate games at Three Rivers Stadium that year.
A "fam-a-lee" has to have a supporting cast, and there was a great cast of players who made an impact on the Pirates 1979 season. Dave Parker, after winning the NL MVP in 1978, had another MVP season in 1979, hitting .310, with 94 RBI's and 25 homers to his credit. Two-time NL batting champion Bill Madlock came over in a trade with the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline and showed his prowess by batting .328 in 85 games with the Pirates.
Also included in the "fam-a-lee" were center fielder Omar Moreno, who led the National League in stolen bases (77) and at-bats (695), shortstop Tim Foli, who proved the critics wrong that he wasn't washed up, by hitting .291 and delivering 23 doubles, and second baseman Phil Garner, who batted .417 in the NLCS and a whopping .500 with 12 hits in the World Series.
The 1979 Pirates pitching staff became the first World Series champion to not have a 15-game winner, but featured six ten-game winners. The ten-game winners were starters John Candelaria (14-9, 3.22 ERA), Bruce Kison (13-7, 3.19 ERA), Jim Bibby (12-4, 2.80 ERA), Bert Blyleven (12-5, 3.61 ERA), and bullpen standouts Enrique Romo (10-5, 3.00 ERA), and Kent Tekulve (10-8, 2.75 ERA, 31 saves).
The pitching staff with the help of Grant Jackson and Jim Rooker, would prove to be at its finest by the holding the Orioles to two runs in Games 5,6,and 7. Those three games were the boost that the Pirates needed, as they won all three games and the World Series, after trailing the Orioles 3-1 after four games.
Greg Leadbetter is a former graduate of West Holmes High School and the University of Akron Wayne College in Ohio who contributes to historicbaseball.com. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.