Fam-a-lee forever for Pirates as they celebrate 1979 World Series champions
Dressed in black jerseys with gold trim and gold pillbox baseball caps with black stripes, the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates stood triumphantly one more time to cheers in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates celebrated the 40th anniversary of their World Series championship by honoring the players in what manager Clint Hurdle called “a proper and professional way” before they played the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night before a sellout crowd at PNC Park.
If you heard any noise, it was just the boys boppin.
“We’re looking to go out and take 3-1 from somebody,” said right fielder Dave Parker, who popularized that saying on his T-shirt, was introduced last and received a roaring ovation. “You never know how these guys’ heart is. These guys have big hearts. That was reflected 40 years ago. If we had to toe it up right now, it would be reflected right now.”
That was a friendly reminder by Parker the Pirates overcame a 3-1 World Series deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles in October ’79, staving off elimination to rally and win the next three games and clinch the world championship.
The Pirates haven’t been back to the World Series since, a four-decade drought that was something Parker said he could have never imagined when the charismatic club captured the hearts of the city while disco-dancing to the tune of the Sister Sledge hit.
“It was great. We had fun. Other teams would come in and didn’t know if we were getting ready for a game or a barbecue,” Parker said. “We were a team that had fun, and we threw everything on the field that we could to win.”
Missing were many of the characters who provided the backbone for that bunch, starting with Hall of Fame captain Willie Stargell. The seven-time All-Star first baseman hit 32 of his 475 career home runs to capture NL MVP honors in ’79, and Parker believes the lefty hitters could have had a blast at PNC Park.
“We would’ve capsized some boats,” Parker said. “It’s a great hitters’ park. It’s got a high wall, a lot of doubles, a lot of home runs. We would have loved playing here.”
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Outfielder Lee Lacy credited general manager Harding Peterson, who died April 16, as the architect of that team and suggested a statue should be built in his honor.
“He was a great general manager,” Lacy said. “No one has won it here since.”
Pitcher Don Robinson credited Chuck Tanner for fighting to bring him to the big leagues by threatening the Pirates that they could find a new manager if they didn’t. Robinson was 22 when he won Game 2 of the ’79 World Series. Showing the Fam-a-lee spirit they are forever Pirates, Margaret Stargell represented her husband, as did the late pitcher Bruce Kison’s wife, Ann Marie, with his son, Robbie, and daughter, Jennifer.
“A lot of characters and lot of fun — it was an honor and privilege to play with them,” said pitcher John Candelaria, who won Game 6 of the World Series. “It hurts. You remember the guys. They stay in your mind and your heart.”
The Pirates shed some tears but mostly were smiles during their 40th reunion, enjoying every moment of reliving their championship season and being celebrated by the city’s baseball fans once again.
“It’s still a family. It doesn’t matter what ball field or city or country we’re in,” catcher Ed Ott said. “To be around the closest-knit 25 players is a thrill. The camaraderie and friendship we’ve had, we would’ve went to war for each other.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .