After seventeen straight losing seasons for our Pittsburgh Pirates, Benny Benack (1921-1986), we need you now. Decades ago, trumpeter Benny Benack’s Iron City Six used to play “Beat ‘Em, Bucs” at Pittsburgh Pirates games at Forbes Field. The raucous Dixieland song helped lead the Buccos to a world championship in 1960.
Okay, it wasn’t that simple. According to an obituary for Benack:
When the team began losing games in bunches that August, the players began scanning the stands for a scapegoat. Mr. Benack and his Iron City Six aggregation were then banned from playing “Beat ‘em Bucs” at Forbes Field.1
Even Pirate superstar Roberto Clemente said Benack’s trumpet was a jinx. (Actually, his quote was insensitively printed: “Ees jeenx.”2) But when the slump ended, the Iron City Six were back in the team’s good graces.
Though beloved Benny Benack Sr. passed away years ago, one of the places his legacy lives on is in our Pittsburgh Music Information File. We have a handful of newspaper clippings about him showing that his career went far beyond music for baseball. And not only are his sons Benny Jr. and Flip Benack musicians, but now Benny Benack III has a music career. They are all listed on our Pittsburgh Jazz Musicians page. We wish the whole Benack family continued success, and, for the Pirates, we wish them a miracle.
Finally, if you own a spare copy of the 45 RPM record of “Beat ‘em, Bucs” or any other recordings of Pittsburgh sports songs, consider donating them to the Music Department. These songs are one of the most colorful parts of our local music history.
1 “Ben E. Benack, ‘Beat ‘em Bucs’ bandleader,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 24, 1986): 10.