Skip to main content
Original Issue

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Last year the Pirates spent nine glorious and dizzy days atop the National League. This, however, was in June, and at season's end they were seventh. They may not spend even one day in first place in '57, but the Pirates are a young ball club on the way up and they aren't going to finish seventh either
Author:

THE MANAGEMENT
Known only as son of famed baseball-loving comedian when named to succeed Branch Rickey as general manager, Joe L. Brown is now considered one of the game's smart young men. Bobby Bragan, beginning his second year as big league manager, knows his players now as well as rest of league, feels he has most improved team around. Less combative than while managing in the minors, Bragan is still colorful, outspoken. Coaches are energetic Danny Murtaugh, Clyde Sukeforth, Leonard Levy, Sam Narron.

ANALYSIS OF THIS YEAR'S PIRATES

STRONG POINTS
Pirates plan to move up because of natural improvement one can expect from youngest team in baseball; a lineup which Bragan knows and which will be much more nearly set than at this time a year ago; two outstanding young pitchers; one of league's finest outfields; power hitting of Frank Thomas and Dale Long; speed, defensive ability and depth. With a better ball club to back them up, both Bob Friend and Ronnie Kline are potential 20-game winners and when in trouble can always depend on steady El Roy Face to back them up. Bill Virdon (.319) and Roberto Clemente (.311) finished two-three in batting race and combine with young Lee Walls (.274) to give Pirates sharp-hitting outfield that can run and throw. Thomas and Long, despite wobbly spring start, can be counted on to hit long ball and do adequate job at corners of infield, which is very tight up middle because of near-magical second base play of Bill Mazeroski and steady work of Dick Groat at short. Pirate system is bulging with good-looking young ballplayers and Bragan has wide choice in selecting who will back up his regulars. Among those with major league experience are several who can double in outfield or at one of infield spots: Gene Freese, Bob Skinner and service returnee Paul Smith, who had a .283 average in his last year with team. Utility infielders are Johnny O'Brien and the veteran Spook Jacobs, and another outfield prospect is Roman Mejias.

WEAK SPOTS
Catching is No. 1 problem. Danny Kravitz can hit—or at least looks like he should—but can't catch. Hank Foiles can catch but can't hit. Bragan will probably choose Kravitz' bat over Foiles's glove and hope that he really is another edition of the young Yogi Berra. Even more than most managers, Bragan is badly in need of another starting pitcher—or maybe two. Last year Pirates won 66 games and of these, Friend, Kline and Face accounted for 43. As a result, in last half of season they just ran out of gas. Vernon Law, who had 8-16 record in ailing year, looks healthy now and should help. But behind this there are only possibilities. Some of them: Luis Arroyo, who at the moment looks like the No. 4 man, Dick Hall, Laurin Pepper, Bob Purkey, Nelson King and a pair of elderly comebackers, Bob Kuzava and Paul Minner. It is also a club frankly lacking in power; the outfielders can all get on base but only Thomas and Long seem able to move anyone around.

ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Pirates don't trade—they like to grow their own—and even most of players up from minor league system have been on Hollywood-to-Pittsburgh-and-back shuttle service before. However, there are a few new faces. Dick Rand, who can also catch but can't hit either, comes from Rochester to be No. 3 man behind Kravitz and Foiles. John Powers, who hit 39 home runs for New Orleans, is almost sure to stick as pinch-hitter, can play outfield or first base. And if Bragan should become too desperate for power hitters, he can always recall Dick Stuart; although this muscular young citizen was always in danger of being killed by a fly ball, those 66 home runs he hit at Lincoln and the handful he hit this spring present a pretty strong argument just in themselves.

THE BIG IFS
If Kravitz can do job behind plate, a couple of pitching hopefuls come through and Long regains batting pace anywhere near last June's rocketing display, Pirates will be in excellent shape. It would also be nice if Stuart would learn to catch a fly ball while at Hollywood, but this perhaps is asking too much.

OUTLOOK
Win or lose, Pirates are going to be fun to watch—and for first time since 1948 they might win more often than they lose. An improvement over seventh-place finish of '56 is almost certain, but Cards are sure to be better too, and Giants have surprised everyone with their play this spring. On top of that, of course, there are always the Braves and Dodgers and Redlegs. With unsettled catching and without more pitching and power, Pirates will need another year to reach the first division. At least they're now on their way.

SPECTATOR'S GUIDE

Loveliest setting of any major league field, with tree-filled Schenley Park and University of Pittsburgh's towering Cathedral of Learning out beyond 12-foot-high left-field wall. Fences are free of signs. Seats are painted blue (boxes), gray (reserved), and green or red (general admission). Stands are clean but girders and posts hamper view to some extent from majority of seats (along line near foul pole in right is particularly bad). Box seats directly behind home plate have limited vision because of flat-floor construction. Best spots are first-floor boxes behind first or third base, and also reserved seats beyond fourth row in same general area.

Ushers rate high in courtesy, but appreciate tip for same. Rest rooms, clean and recently modernized, are still too few in number (no ladies' room in lower stands on first base side, for example). Refreshment stands not really adequate for capacity crowds. Usual fare, except for ice cold Lemon Blend, a local favorite. No beer sold; fans bring own. Parking near field is inadequate, and traffic jams are inevitable on sellout days, so best to park at a distance and take trolley to and from field, unless you happen to find a cab handy. Park located four miles from downtown area and, if you're driving, heavy traffic may be avoided by taking Blvd. of Allies and swinging out through Schenley Park, or by using roundabout route along Bigelow Blvd.

[originallink:10475171:44336]

PHOTO

VERNON LAW

PHOTO

DALE LONG

PHOTO

FRANK THOMAS

PHOTO

RON KLINE

PHOTO

FRONT OFFICE: Joe L. Brown

PHOTO

MANAGER: Bobby Bragan

PHOTO

BILL VIRDON

PHOTO

EL ROY FACE

PHOTO

NELSON KING

PHOTO

BILL MAZEROSKI

PHOTO

ROBERTO CLEMENTE

PHOTO

DICK GROAT

PHOTO

LEE WALLS

PHOTO

BOB FRIEND

ILLUSTRATION

FORBES FIELD

Capacity 34,249

Ticket information: MUseum 1-1600

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

65

66

70

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

82

83

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

ILLUSTRATION