- 1B, OF, RF, 3B, LF
- October 3, 1931
- 6' 4"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-13-1954 with PIT
Using a picture book swing, Bob Skinner hit over .300 three times as a Pirate during his 8+ seasons in Pittsburgh and twice made the National League All-Star Team. Skinner also combined with Roberto Clemente and Bill Virdon to cover the outfield at Forbes Field for over seven years, the longest a triumvirate played together in a major league outfield and helped the Pirates to two World Championships. The first was as the leftfielder on the 1960 team, the second as Chuck Tannner’s hitting coach in 1979.
So fine was Skinner’s swing that he made the Pirates in spring training 1954 as a firstbaseman after spending two years in the Marines. He had first broken in with Mayfield in 1951 and hit .472 in 106 at bats before being promoted to Waco. He remained with the Pirates all year as a rookie in’54, but his hitting was streaky and he had difficulty defensively. Sent back to the minors in 1955, Skinner was leading the Southern Association with a .346 average at New Orleans before he broke his left hand. His hand healed well enough for Skinner to again make the Pirates in 1956, but he batted only .202 as a backup player. However, the smooth swinging lefty improved his average by over 100 points in 1957 commanding Manager Bobby Bragan to play him regularly in leftfield.
“Bob Skinner had a good, natural swing. One of the best, next to Eddie Mathews,” Bragan remembered. Skinner also had surprising speed, despite a rather strange running style. The big man’s head would bob as he ran and some questioned how he could keep track of fly balls. Skinner worked very hard, and credited Virdon with really helping him to become a decent outfielder although he was never known as having a strong arm.
In 1958, Skinner hit .321, fifth in the league. Danny Murtaugh used him at different spots in the order, but played him in the outfield every day. On July 25, Skinner became the fourth player to clear the rightfield stands at Forbes Field during the regular season when he launched one of Stu Miller’s pitches into the stratosphere.
Although Skinner failed to hit .300 in 1959 and 1960, he contributed greatly to the team in its World Championship year by knocking in 86 runs, second on the team behind Clemente. He also set a new career high with 15 homeruns after having hit 13 in three successive seasons. Hoping to be a factor in the World Series, instead Skinner had to watch most of the action from the bench when he jammed his thumb in the first game. He missed the next five contests, but returned for Game 7 and contributed a walk and run scored in the first and a perfect sacrifice bunt in the team’s dramatic eighth inning rally.
One of several Pirates who slumped in 1961, the man Bob Prince called “The Dog,” got off to a terrible start and even though he was able to bring his average up to .268 by the end of the year, he hit only three homeruns and his extrabase hits fell by 50% from his 1960 totals. Determined to have a big year in 1962, Skinner fought off a challenge by young Donn Clendenon to have one of his best seasons, batting .302 with a career high 20 homeruns. The club was getting older and even though it won over 90 games, the Pirates had finished fourth. Skinner escaped the team’s off season purge, but was traded in early 1963 for Jerry Lynch when he went 122 at bats without homering. Skinner moved from the Reds to the Cardinals where he served as a backup outfielder/pinch hitter and helped the Cardinals into the World Series in ’64. He batted .309 as a part-timer in 1965, but went just 7-for-45 as a fulltime pinch hitter in 1966 and his playing days came to an end.
Skinner, who grew up near San Diego as a fan of the Pacific Coast League team, managed the club in 1967, winning the PCL Pennant. He was named manager of the Phillies in June, 1968, but was fired in August the following year. After coaching for the major league Padres for three years, Murtaugh brought the former Buc back to Pittsburgh as his hitting coach. Skinner served under his former manager until Murtaugh’s retirement in 1976. He coached one year with the California Angels, then the Pirates, now managed by Tanner, called again. Skinner coached Pirate hitters from the World Championship season of 1979 until he, as well as the rest of Tanner’s staff, was let go prior to Jim Leyland being named manager in 1986. He joined Tanner in Atlanta before going into scouting in 1988. While he has since retired from baseball, Skinner’s son Joel, a former Pirate farmhand and major league catcher, managed the Cleveland Indians in 2002.
- Bob Skinner