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1966 September Flop: A Half-Century Ago Pittsburgh nearly won the NL pennant

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  • 1966 September Flop: A Half-Century Ago Pittsburgh nearly won the NL pennant

    Does anyone have any memories or information to share about the 1966 Pittsburgh Pirates' near-miss pennant drive?
    The Bucs were 25 games over .500 at 81-56 on September 4, with a 2 game lead over both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. But over the final four weeks of the season, beginning on Labor Day, September 5 they could only manage to go 11-14. They finished in third-place, 3 games behind the Dodgers. Sandy Koufax pitched a pennant-clinching shutout on the last day of the regular season, October 2, nailing down the pennant and denying the Giants a chance to finish in a tie and setting up a playoff for the NL title. That turned out to be the final regular season performance of Koufax's career. This was in the days of 10 team leagues and in the last few years before divisional play began. The Baltimore Orioles would complete an improbable 4 games to none sweep of the Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.
    Roberto Clemente had one of the best years of his career in 1966 for the Pirates with career highs in home runs (29) and RBI (119).
    I vaguely remember that the 1966 Pirates were a highly spirited team and that from a public relations standpoint broadcaster, Bob Prince led the charge as the Bucs were resurgent after a few down years after their 1960 world's championship. The team would win not win for a few more years after '66, but took divisional titles in 1969 & 1970 and then won it all with a seven game, World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles in 1971.
    Last edited by philliesfiend55; 12-02-2016, 08:35 AM.

  • #2
    1966 Bucs had a super outfield with Clemente, Alou and Stargell with Manny Mota coming off the bench to pinch hit and face righties.


    • #3
      Wow, this brings back some great memories. I was in college then and still following baseball very closely. I worked in the mills in the Summer, so only got to about 5 or 6 Pirates games that season. Anyhow, that was an exciting team. Clemente was at his peak, Stargell, if I recall correctly, had his first big season, Alley and Mazeroski were startlingly good in the field. Matty Alou came over from the Giants- Harry Walker got ahold of him, changed his batting approach, and Alou ran off a string of .300+ seasons. Manny Mota was an even better hitter than Alou, and hit righties and lefties equally well.

      Bob Veale was a fascinating pitcher- few guys in ML history threw as hard. He had control problems, but still was a really tough guy on the mound. I'd forgotten that Woodie Fryman was in the starting rotation in 66- had to look it up to verify. The starting rotation was pretty inexperienced except for Veale and Law. Fryman, Blass, and Tommy Sisk were all essentially rookies. Elroy Face had another solid season, even though he was about 36 or 37.

      Overall a strong offensive team except that they had to hit their way on- most of those guys didn't take a lot of walks. Defensively, thy were pretty good, with pockets of excellence- Alley, Mazeroski, and Clemente. Pitching-wise, they were pretty average.

      I don't remember any real injury issues late in the season, but could be wrong. I remember that they lost 3 or 4 in a row to the Cardinals (I think), and if I remember correctly they got swept in the season ending series against the Giants, when they still had a chance to win. I also remember some close losses in September, but would have to look it up to refresh my memory.

      This brings back great memories of listening to Bob Prince and the great Jim Woods broadcast the games- what a pair!


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