Tag Archives: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Home Opener

Sunday, April 3rd was the Pittsburgh Pirates Home Opener or Opening Day. For any of you reading who aren’t baseball fans, here is a handy dandy wiki link (I had to double-check I was using the right terminology). I grew up watching more football than baseball, but I used to play softball (not for very long though). When I was thinking about what to write for this post, I really wanted to write about the home opener, but I couldn’t come up with a creative way to write about it, and then I realized that there is SO MUCH information out there about baseball and the Pirates (and honestly that is a good thing … because there are a lot of things happening with baseball).

pittsburgh pirates

People go to baseball games for a variety of reasons, because they like the game (my mom [Hi Mom!]), because they like the food and being in a stadium (me) or because they’ve been dragged there by their family (my dad and sister). So for this post, I wanted to provide some information that may help people who love their family that much that they’re willing to go to put up with the game (there ARE interesting things about baseball).

Major League Baseball (MLB) is split into two leagues, the American League and the National League, which are then broken down into East, Central and West. Have I lost anyone? Not yet? Great! After regular season there is post season, which is better explained here, but is three rounds that lead to the World Series, and the World Series is a best of seven series. Now that you are all-knowing in baseball, you can definitely name the retired numbers and Hall of Famers from the Pirates, right? Okay, maybe not, but if I’ve sparked your interest, there are a number of ways that you can find out more information about (Pirates) baseball. And for those of you who stuck through this post and have no interest in baseball there are some pretty fun fiction reads too.

So are you interested in baseball now? Have you always been interested but found something new in this post? Do you go to games for a special reason? Are you tired of reading this post?  Feel free to comment below (to one or all of the questions if you feel ambitious).



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The Pirates Make The World Series!

Old_Buc_Logo Well, not quite.  On this date in 1903, the Pittsburgh Pirates played the Boston Americans in the first ever World Series game.  This game occurred 110 years ago today.  Is it more than coincidence that today also marks the Pirates’ return to the playoffs after a twenty-one year absence?  Think of it for a moment: more than two decades wandering in MLB’s wilderness of losing and mediocrity.  Now the Bucs are back, and win or lose today, this season represents a monumental step forward for a team long left for dead by the national media and all but the most loyal fans.  So on this day I think it fitting that we at Eleventh Stack celebrate the Bucs with a few of our favorite baseball related titles.  Hey, it’s what we do here, right?

Twin Killing: The Bill Mazeroski Story by John T. Bird.  You won’t find a bigger Pittsburgh sports folk hero than Bill Mazeroski.  He hit the home run against the dreaded Yankees that won the Bucs the 1960 World Series in dramatic fashion at Forbes Field.  I would argue that this feat represents the greatest walk-off hit in baseball history.

Maz And The ’60 Bucs: When Pittsburgh And Its Pirates Went All The Way by Jim O’Brien.  While Mr. Bird’s book serves as more of a true biography, legendary Pittsburgh writer Jim O’Brien’s book focuses more on the 1960 season and that immortal moment when Maz wins it all.  Mr. O’Brien knows Pittsburgh and its sports icons, and reading this book will transport you back to that magical time.

21 by Wilfred Santiago. A lot of talented folks have written about the late, great Roberto Clemente, but Wilfred Santiago’s graphic novel treatment of the Latin superstar’s early life in his native Puerto Rico, his career highlights, and his dedication to humanitarian causes feels special.  Folks who might not normally read comics or graphic novels should really check this one out, and that’s why I am placing it here.

Clemente: The Passion And Grace Of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss.  Mr. Maraniss focuses a lot of his book on Roberto Clemente’s amazing humanitarian work, including the fateful 1972, New Year’s Eve flight to Nicaragua that claimed his life when the plane he was in went down carrying supplies to victims of a recent earthquake.

Forbes Field: Essays And Memories Of The Pirates’ Historic Ballpark, 1909 – 1971.  This amazing collection celebrates the memory of Forbes Field, a park where legends played and baseball history was made.  Babe Ruth played and hit his final home run there.  Along with Maz and Clemente, so many other classic Pirates also made their baseball lives there.

Tales From The Pittsburgh Pirates Dugout : A Collection Of The Greatest Pirates Stories Ever Told by John McCollister. This amazing collection of tidbits and trivia provides a wealth of Pirates’ history in one volume.

Feel free to share your favorite Pirates titles and memories in the comments section, and let’s go Bucs!


A day of baseball history, a day of giving. Click here to learn how you can support the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on October 3rd.



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We Got us a Ball Game

“The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball”

– USA Today 06/27/2013

I was brought back to my early adolescent years last week. It was Sunday and I was watching our number 5 batter in the late afternoon softball game we were playing.  It’s a coed team of mixed abilities defined by enthusiasm for the game and not by age or gender.  Our oldest player is about 70 and he’s hitting around .250.  I’m 0-3 with with a winning walk-off walk; sort of like Mazeroski without the honest benefit of the hit.  The nostalgia came from Ron who had his iPhone up to his ear and eyes – like a 1968 transistor radio – listening to the Pirates play Anaheim.  We found ourselves devoting as much attention to their game as to ours.

Barring serious injuries, the Bucs look like they have the legs to keep going.  How many of us can allow ourselves the luxury of remembering what a competitive (much less a winning) baseball team is?  The Bucs are 51 and 30 as of today, with the best record in baseball, and they’re fun to watch. Don’t discount that; why watch if there’s no entertainment factor? Maybe that’s why I couldn’t abide the Yankees growing up; especially opposite the Mets and the rest of the National league.  

I love the poetic geometry of baseball, the importance of fundamentals (how many times couldn’t the Pirates turn a double-play against SF two weeks ago?) the skills and coordination required, and the history – the thousand and one stories we’ve collectively seen ourselves, watched on TV, read about or heard about from our friends, parents, siblings and neighbors.  I couldn’t be with Aldrin and Armstrong on the Moon, I didn’t make it to either of President Obama’s inaugurations, but I was there (July, 1977) when Mays, Mantle, Snider and DiMaggio walked in together from Shea Stadium’s center field fence.  I can only imagine it’s what the Earps and Doc Holiday looked like going to the OK Corral.

Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays & Duke Snider walking from Center Field. Shea Stadium, July 19, 1977.

Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays & Duke Snider walking from Center Field. Shea Stadium, July 19, 1977.

We’ve been doubly blessed this year – the Pirates as a winning club, and the release of  “42.”  I enjoyed the movie because of who Jackie Robinson was and what he meant to baseball, and also because it brought to life a long-gone era and players who were shop-talk for my brothers, but only history lessons for me.  My only gripe about the movie – How do you have a credit blurb for Ralph Branca (one of the good guys who welcomed Robinson to Brooklyn) and not even obliquely mention Bobby Thomson and the 51 pennant?

Even if you don’t like watching the game (you’re a Communist) the lore and history should be able to stand on their own as fine literature. You just need to know who / what to look for.


42 – “In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking MLB’s infamous color line and forever changing history.”

blassA Pirate for Life / Steve Blass – “Exploring a pitching career that began with a complete-game victory over Hall of Famer Don Drysdale in 1964 and ended when he could no longer control his pitches, this book details the life of Pittsburgh Pirates great, Steve Blass.”



The Boys of Summer / Roger Kahn – “This is a book about what happened to Jackie, Carl Erskine, Pee Wee Reese, and the others when their glory days were behind them. this is a book about America, about fathers and sons, prejudice and courage, triumph and disaster, told with warmth, humor, wit, candor, and love.”


robinson never hadit

I Never Had it Made : An Autobiography / Jackie Robinson – “I Never Had It Made recalls Robinson’s early years and influences: his time at UCLA, where he became the school’s first four-letter athlete; his army stint during World War II, when he challenged Jim Crow laws and narrowly escaped court martial; his years of frustration, on and off the field, with the Negro Leagues; and finally that fateful day when Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers proposed what became known as the “Noble Experiment”

robinson a bio

Jackie Robinson: A Biography / Arnold Rampershad – “The life of Jackie Robinson is recounted in this biography by Arnold Rampersad, who was chosen by Jack’s widow, Rachel, to tell her husband’s story, and was given unprecedented access to his private papers. We are brought closer than we have ever been to the great ballplayer, a man of courage and quality who became a pivotal figure in the areas of race and civil rights.”


A Moment in Time : An American Story of Baseball, Heartbreak, and Grace / Ralph Branca – “Ralph Branca is best known for throwing the pitch that resulted in Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World,” the historic home run that capped an incredible comeback and won the pennant for the New York Giants in 1951. Branca was on the losing end of what many consider to be baseball’s most thrilling moment, but that notoriety belies a profoundly successful life and career.”


Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game / Micahel Lewis – “By re-evaluating the strategies that produce wins on the field, the 2002 Athletics, with approximately US$41 million in salary, were competitive with larger market teams such as the New York Yankees, who spent over US$125 million in payroll that same season. Because of the team’s smaller revenues, Oakland is forced to find players undervalued by the market, and their system for finding value in undervalued players has proven itself thus far.”


October, 1964 / David Halberstam – “The 1964 World Series between the Yankees and Cardinals was coated in myth from the get-go. The Yankees represented the establishment; the victorious Cards were baseball’s rebellious future. Their seven-game barnburner, played out against the Kennedy assassination, the escalating war in Vietnam, and emerging civil rights movement, marked a turning point. Halberstam looks back in this marvelous and spirited elegy to the era, and players such as Mantle, Maris, Ford, Gibson, Brock, and Flood with a clear eye in search of the truth that time has blurred into legend.”


Out of Left Field : Willie Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates / Bob Adelman – An “unauthorized” account of the Pirates’ 1973 season, told chiefly through direct interviews with the players.  The interviews are more like transcriptions of off-the-cuff tapings.  Not only players, but wives, “baseball Annie’s”, agents and management. About 2/3 of the book is comments by the pre-“Pops” Willie Stargell, hence the book’s title. But there’s much more than that.  This is the season following the Clemente tragedy, where the team was trying to find itself without their former leader. It was the year the Pirates, despite admittedly underperforming, managed to stay in the pennant race until the end.


The Team That Changed Baseball : Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates / Bruce Markusen – Veteran writer Markusen tells the story of one of the most likable and significant teams in the history of professional sports. In addition to the fact that they fielded the first all-minority lineup in major league history, the 1971 Pirates are noteworthy for the team’s inspiring individual performances, including those of future Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Bill Mazeroski, and their remarkable World Series victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.


We Had ‘Em All the Way : Bob Prince and His Pittsburgh Pirates / by Jim O’Brien – Bob Prince, The Gunner, who broadcast the Pirates from the 1950’s through 1975 rooted unashamedly for the Bucs. Like other announcers, he had his pet phrases such as “We have a bug on the rug.” “You can kiss it goodbye. Home run!” “Let’s spread some chicken on the hill with Will.” And, of course, at the end of a close game in which the Pirates were victorious, “We had ’em allll the way.” Bob was Pittsburgh’s answer to the likes of Harry Caray, Vin Scully and Mel Allen. He was colorful, controversial, and a people person.

– Richard


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The Barbershop Harmony of the Bucs

When you hear the names Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, or Ralph Kiner, do you think of music?  Probably not considering that they are all enshrined in baseball’s hall of fame.  Shortstop Wagner (1874-1955) played for the Pirates from 1900 to 1917 and is still considered one of the best all-around baseball players ever.  Traynor (1899-1972) was with the Pirates from 1920-1937, had an impressive lifetime batting average of .320, and was a sports broadcaster on Pittsburgh radio for decades afterward.  Kiner (1922- ) was a slugger for the Pirates from 1946-52, leading the league in home runs for seven years, and later was an announcer for the game.

But if you were at the Syria Mosque on May 8, 1950, you would have heard them sing!  Bob Hope was the headliner, but a five-man squad of Pittsburgh Pirates, current players and distinguished alumni, were added to the bill to sing, barbershop style.

According to a May 3, 1950, article in the Pittsburgh Press, the group of singing baseball players were listed as such:

Left Tenor – Ralph Kiner

Center Tenor – Wally Westlake

Dugout Baritone – Manager Billy Meyer

First Bass – Honus Wagner

Third Bass – Pie Traynor

Another fun fact related to that night is that Bob Hope was a part owner of the Cleveland Indians, but his friend Bing Crosby was a part owner of the Pirates.

— Tim


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Benny Benack and the Bucs

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.

— Tim

1 “Ben E. Benack, ‘Beat ’em Bucs’ bandleader,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (July 24, 1986): 10.

2 Ibid.

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Vince Lascheid: Thanks for the Memories!

Vince Lascheid's "Double Play"

Vince Lascheid's "Double Play"

About a month ago, while still in the midst of the winter doldrums, I started seriously contemplating spring.  Thoughts of daffodils, crocuses, and cherry blossoms were pleasant and warming in their way.  But not far behind was the phrase “hope springs eternal,” with the emphasis on the spring.  With the turning of the seasons comes another type of season altogether: baseball.

Since hope has been in short supply for Bucco fans over the last, oh, two decades or so, the inveterate fan’s mind frequently wanders to some of the ancillary benefits of an afternoon at the park: enjoyable spring weather, tasty ballpark fare, accompanied by a beverage of choice, rooting vociferously for the home team, and, in Pittsburgh, the delightful strains of the longtime organist Vince Lascheid.

Sadly, word came a few weeks ago that Mr. Lascheid had passed away at the age of 85.  What I’d intended as a celebration has by necessity become more of a tribute.  The wonderful memories Mr. Lascheid created for generations of Pittsburgh fans, particularly baseball and hockey fans, will always be cherished.  With this afternoon’s home opener in mind, I thought perhaps we’d take a look at some of the fun things he did to help fans pass a day at the park, whether the home team was on top or not.

Music was always a part of Vince Lascheid’s life.  In a magazine article from 2004, Lascheid recalled trying to play tunes by ear he heard on the radio when he was 4 or 5 years old.  He studied and played music all his life and operated a music store for a number of years in Mt. Lebanon.  Legend has it that he was playing one evening in the Colony Restaurant when Pirate broadcaster Bob Prince and general manager Joe L. Brown stopped in, were taken with his playing, and asked him if he would like to play organ at Three Rivers Stadium.  The rest was, as they say, history.

What Vince Lascheid became known for was his expert use of the thousands of songs he knew in given situations.  In addition, every year like a player in spring training, he would sit down with the baseball “green book,” familiarize himself with players’ names and match the player with a tune, often in a slyly humorous, always amusing way.    Here in our Music, Film and Audio Department, we have a number of unique resources which helped me research the story of Vince Lascheid.

First and foremost is the Oral History of Music in Pittsburgh collection, for which Mr. Lascheid was interviewed.  In the 40-minute-plus interview, he discusses his musical history and reminisces about his memories of the Glenn Miller Band, his record shop, his long-time gig at the Colony, and, of course, his time with the Pirates and Penguins. Along with the interview, which is on compact disc as well as cassette, there is an accompanying reference file that contains a number of articles on Lascheid, along with a list of the situational songs he used as well as a list of tunes he matched with players.  The following examples are culled from the list he provided.   

Pitching change:  “Send In the Clowns”

Pitcher-catcher conference:  “Do You Want to Know a Secret?”

Pitcher strikes out batter:  “Another One Bites the Dust”

Pitcher issues a walk: “Ease on Down the Road”

Umpire music: “Do You See What I See?”

Player Tunes:

Benny Ayala:  “Tie (Ayala) a Yellow Ribbon  Round the Old Oak Tree”

Dusty Baker:  “Dust in the Wind”

Dale Berra:     “Here Comes the Sun (son)”

Bobby Bonilla:  “Take the Money and Run”

Jack Clark:      “Hit the Road, Jack”

Art Howe:      “How Great Thou Art”

Jim Kaat:        “Alley Cat”

Jason Kendall:   “Grease”  (Kendall motor oil)

Dennis Martinez:  “Dennis the Menace Theme”

Rick Monday:  “Rainy Days and Mondays”

Pete Rose:      “Second Hand Rose”

Rafael Santana : “Evil Ways”  (Santana)

Ryne Sandburg:  “Mr. Sandman”

Ozzie Smith:         “(We’re Off to See) the Wizard”

Kent Tekuluve:   “O What a Relief It Is”  (Alka Seltzer theme)

Andy Van Slyke:  “Dick Van Dyke Theme”

Vince Lascheid certainly played ‘em as he saw ‘em.  He even got in hot water once or twice, but considering the thousands of snippets he played over the decades, that was certainly understandable.   

Over the past few years, Mr. Lascheid’s time at the stadium was greatly reduced.  However, with some foresight, the Pirates recorded some of his standard anthems and will continue to play them in the coming years.

Unlike our beloved Buccos, lo, these many barren years, when it came time for the bottom half of the 7th inning and the strains of “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” resounded in that old “concrete ashtray” that was Three Rivers Stadium, Vince Lascheid just couldn’t be beat.

– Don

PS.  If you’d like a taste of the music Mr. Lascheid played in his many gigs over the years, especially at the Colony Restaurant, check out his CD “Double Play.”  The CD is a dual piano recording of him on multiple tracks; it seems Vince Lascheid never met a pun he didn’t like. He covers tunes like “I’ve Got a Crush On You,” “As Time Goes By,” and “My Funny Valentine.”  Oh, and there is one more thing: the last cut on the disc is “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”



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