- P, LF, OF
- May 15, 1938
- 5' 11"
- 165 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-02-1961 with PIT
When Pirate scout Howie Haak went to St Thomas in the Virgin Islands on a scouting trip in the 50’s, he must have felt like he stumbled on to the ultimate blue light special when he was able to sign a very talented pitcher by the name of Al McBean to a minor league contract for only a $100 bonus with a $150 a month salary.
While I’m sure Haak felt he found someone who had a chance to be a decent major league pitcher, he may not have imagined that he would uncover what turned out to be one of the best relievers in all of baseball during the middle 60’s.
McBean became came up to the club in 1961, mostly out of the pen, and became a fulltime starter the following season in 1962, when he responded with a solid season going 15-10, second on the team in wins behind Bob Friend, with a solid 3.70 ERA.
As good of a starter as Al McBean seemed to be, being a starting pitcher in the major leagues was one thing that didn’t seem to agree with him personally. Al would worry too much and was often times sleepless the day before he knew he had to start. Being in the bullpen was more suited to his psyche, as he didn’t have to prepare the prior day to come in.
McBean was a man who was very quick on the mound and the low-ball pitcher had one of the best fastballs in the game as well as a devastating curve. The Cubs great third baseman Ron Santo once said that he felt there was no one faster in the league than Al. McBean also was a player who was very flamboyant off the field, as he became well known as a very flashy wardrobe that was also especially expensive.
The native of the Virgin Islands took to his new roll out of the pen spectacularly in 1963 as he went 13-3 with 11 saves, 7th in the NL for a fine 2.57 ERA and .222 opponents batting average. After the season was over, McBean was selected to play in the Hispanic major league all-star game from the Polo Grounds in October. Al won the game in relief of Juan Marichal as the NL defeated the AL stars 5-2 in what would turn out to be the only Hispanic major league all-star game ever played. The fine season for McBean was only a prelude for what turned out to be Al’s marquis campaign.
One of his goals in 1964 was to capture the Sporting News’ Fireman of the Year award; it was an aspiration that he certainly came through with, leaving no stones unturned. The 26-year old hurler not only had a career high 22 saves, second in the league, but went 8-3 with a miniscule 1.91 ERA, giving up only 4 home runs all season, three of them to the World Champion St Louis Cardinals. The performance, of course allowed McBean to achieve what he set out to as he in fact was voted, the National League’s Fireman of the Year.
The following season, Al added two more pitches to his repertoire, a slider and a slow curve. The results were as good as ever as he had an NL 4th best 18 saves with a 2.29 ERA.
After two more solid season as a middle reliever in 1966 and 1967 when Al was 11-7 combined with a cumulative 2.89 ERA, the man from the Virgin Islands was tossed back into the starting rotation in 1968. He responded with a mediocre 9-12 season and following the campaign, was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was picked up by the San Diego Padres.
McBean only started one game for the expansion club before being sent to the LA Dodgers in April of 1969 for Tommy Dean and Leon Everitt. Al had little success in California as he returned to the bullpen where his Dodger record was only 2-6 to finish off the ’69 campaign.
The flashy hurler pitched only one game in 1970 for the Dodgers before being once again picked up by the Bucs, where he ended his major league career that year with an 8.10 ERA in 10 innings.
Al McBean’s story with the Pirates is certainly one of the most colorful ones in the franchises history, and one that also saw him become one of the finest relievers the club has ever had. As it turned out, it was probably the best $100 investment, the Pirates ever made.
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