Monday and Tuesday, Pittsburgh Pirates fans have a player who legitimately puts the “Star” in All-Star to cheer on during the festivities surrounding Major League Baseball’s midsummer classic.
That isn’t always the case.
From the likes of Evan Meek to Ed Sprague to Carlos Garcia to Mike Williams (the latter, in consecutive years), there have been more than a few MLB All-Star games over the years in which the Pirates representative was little more than a function of the rule that every team must have at least one.
Not this year. Not with Josh Bell having a season that to this point is MVP-worthy and among the best in the 133-year history of the franchise.
Wrote this about Josh Bell in January. Who would have imagined that Pirates fans would be griping (justifiably so) that he got snubbed from starting the All-Star Game? https://t.co/tMZmAvsQn9
— Kevin Gorman (@KGorman_Trib) June 28, 2019
Here are eight memorable moments involving Pirates players at previous All-Star games and accompanying festivities:
Dave Parker would be the MVP of the 1979 game at Seattle’s Kingdome – and not because he went 1 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. It was mostly because of two throws he made from right field, gunning out Jim Rice at third base and Brian Downing at home plate to preserve a tie game in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Arky Vaughan hit two home runs late in the 1941 All-Star game at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. He was well on his way to leading the National League to a win… until future Hall of Famer Ted Williams hit a three-run, walk-off homer to win it for the American League in the bottom of the ninth.
Slugger Ralph Kiner homered in three consecutive All-Star games between 1949-51 – a two-run shot in the sixth inning of the 1949 game, a solo homer during the ninth inning a year later and another solo shot in the eighth inning during 1951.
The 1950 homer was the most impactful – it tied the score and allowed the game to continue, and the NL would win in 14 innings.
During the pro-sports record streak of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates weren’t producing many All-Stars – and they certainly weren’t generating the buzz across baseball that is necessary to get starters in the game via the popularity contest that is the fan vote.
With PNC Park hosting the game in 2006, it had been 13 years to that point since a Pirates player was voted a starter in the game. Coincidentally, the Pirates had a player who had a first half of the season worthy of recognition (21 home runs, 66 RBIs, .927 OPS in 90 games) in addition to a motivated electorate eager to get a starter in at home. Eventual NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez also represented the Pirates in the game at PNC Park.
Not every memorable All-Star game moment involving the Pirates was a positive one for the Pittsburgh player involved. Reggie Jackson’s towering home run onto the roof at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium in 1971 is among the most iconic homers in All-Star game history.
It was the Pirates’ Doc Ellis who served it up.
In another ignominious moment for a Pirates player during All-Star festivities in Detroit, Bay was shut out during an appearance in the home run derby. Like he did a year later in becoming the Pirates’ first starter for an All-Star game in 13 years, he was their first home-run derby participant in 13 years when he took his swings in 2005.
Unfortunately, none of the 10 swings he put on balls at Comerica Park that day would go over the fence. Bay joined Bobby Bonilla (1990) as Pirates players shut out in a home run derby; no Pirates slugger has hit more than six home runs in any derby.
Willie Stargell joins Vaughan, Kiner, Parker, Andrew McCutchen, Roberto Clemente and Vince DiMaggio as the only Pirates players to homer during an All-Star game. Through two innings of the 1965 game at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota, Stargell had already singled and scored and hit a two-run home run that had given the NL a 5-0 lead.
Though the AL would come back to tie the score, the NL won 6-5.
The most recent All-Star game starter for the Pirates (albeit as an injury replacement), McCutchen provided the Pirates’ most recent All-Star extra-base hit and RBI when he homered during the sixth inning of the 2015 game in Cincinnati.
In retrospect, what perhaps makes this a little more interesting to Pirates fans is that the home run came off of future Pirates starter Chris Archer.