Shortly after pitching coach Bill Burwell announced his retirement, longtime minor league hurler and manager Don Osborn was named to the post. It was to be an important placement as Joe L. Brown went into the fall planning on trading for pitching. Although the release of backup firstbaseman Jim Marshall led some to believe Dick Stuart would remain a Pirate, Brown worked aggressively at the Winter Meetings in November and dealt ¾’s of his starting infield. In addition to his powerful, if boastful, slugger, Brown traded away his team captain in shortstop Dick Groat and the club’s inspirational leader in thirdbaseman Don Hoak. The Stuart and Groat trades happened within 48 hours of each other, with the Hoak trade happening a short time later.
For Stuart’s part, he was elated at being traded to the Red Sox where he planned to take aim at Fenway Park’s Green Monster. Going with him was reliever Jack Lamabe and coming to Pittsburgh was pitcher Don Schwall and catcher Jim Paliaroni. The American League Rookie of the Year in 1961, Schwall had gone 9-15 in ’62, but Brown looked for him to bounce back. Pagliaroni was seen as the perfect compliment for Smoky Burgess. The catcher hit righthanded, was sound defensively and had some longball power.
Groat, in contrast, was hurt by the deal, although he had stated at a banquet the night before the trade that if he was dealt, he hoped it would be to the Cardinals, a team he saw as up and coming. Growing up just east of the city limits in Wilkinsburg, Groat hoped to finish his career as a Pirate. In return for the former batting champion and MVP, Brown received Don Cardwell, a pitcher who St. Louis had just acquired from the Cubs, and who like Schwall, had had a disappointing 1962. Brown noted Cardwell’s 15-14 record with a poor Chicago team in 1961, stating he believed Cardwell was ready to come into his own. The Pirates also received the Cards’ regular shortstop, Julio Gotay, who was eight years younger than Groat while giving up ancient reliever Diomedes Olivo, who had been very effective in ’62. Although publicly Brown stated he had hated to give up Groat, he had admitted privately that he feared the shortstop could no longer cover enough ground to help a contender.
Hoak, 35, had seen the writing on the wall before the season had ended. He knew his age and the fact he had a poor season in 1962 made him a likely candidate to move on. Again going with younger players, Brown received outfielder Ted Savage, a fast, righthanded hitter who Brown and Manager Danny Murtaugh thought would be an effective player in spacious Forbes Field. The Pirates also acquired Pancho Harrera, who set a record of 136 strikeouts in 1960. Harrera had had a big season at Buffalo and though assigned to Columbus because of lack of roster space, was going to get a shot to make the team as a backup in the spring. Regarding the trade, Murtaugh commented that the club planned to play bonus player Bob Bailey at third and believed taking Hoak out of the equation would help Bailey not to worry about being benched if the youngster had early difficulties.
As the team moved towards spring training, Owner John Galbreath and his partners continued to work with political leaders on plans for a new stadium. Funding and design were still being argued, but the team hoped that within a couple of years, they would be able to move from Forbes Field.
With Stuart gone, Murtaugh stressed speed more than ever in camp. Pitching, too, would be one of the team’s strong points, he predicted. In addition to Cardwell and Schwall, the Pirates had several young pitchers, such as hard-throwing Bob Veale, appearing ready to step into a major league job. Vern Law reported that his arm was no longer causing him such pain that it awakened him every night, although, Law noted, he had not been putting it through the rigors of pitching every fourth or fifth day. When spring training opened, Law further complicated his situation by twisting his right knee. He was left in Florida as the team prepared to head north to allow him time to get into pitching condition.
With Law out of the mix, Murtaugh opened the season with a starting rotation of Bob Friend, Earl Francis, Al McBean, Cardwell and Schwall. He placed Veale, along with veteran lefty Harvey Haddix in the bullpen to aide Elroy Face. Besides Bailey, his new everyday players were sophomore Donn Clendenon at first and longtime backup, Dick Schoefield, still only 28-years-old, at short. Savage made the team as a backup outfielder as did rookie Willie Stargell, who could also support Clendenon at first. As camp was ending, Brown acquired another speedy righthanded hitting outfielder, Manny Mota from Houston, for Howie Goss, a powerhitting prospect who had had a good spring. The other players acquired in the offseason trades, Gotay and Harrera, were sent out.
The youngsters looked good in the season opener as Bailey homered to break a 1-1 tie and Savage contributed a gamewinning pinch hit in the 3-2 win.
After pitching at Kinston in the Carolina League the first three weeks, Law as recalled, and the Pirates played well the first month. Playing against tougher competition than they had in 1962, the Pirates opened with an 11-7 April, good for a second place tie with San Francisco, two games behind St. Louis. While the club was getting adequate hitting, it did have some trouble scoring. Clendenon was the team’s best hitter early on, while Bill Virdon got off to a .300 start and Bailey’s average stood at .291. Friend, looking again like the ace of the staff, won his first three decisions.
The hitters slumped in May, however, and the Bucs lost 10 of 12. When Bill Mazeroski raised his average to .317, Murtaugh inserted him into the cleanup spot as the May slump consumed Bailey (.184), Schoefield (.183) and Virdon (.181). Stargell, subbing for Roberto Clemente after during a five game suspension for bumping an umpire, went just 2-for-19 in a series against the lowly New York Mets, who defeated Face twice in a doubleheader. Bob Skinner, who had hit 20 homeruns the year before to lead the team, was not supplying power and he became yet another ex-Pirate from the 1960 club when Brown traded him for Jerry Lynch, another lefthanded hitter who had broken in with Skinner for the Pirates in 1954. A deadly pinchhitter, Murtaugh platooned Lynch in left. While Lynch was a long ways from having the defensive skills to play center, the trade none-the-less left Virdon homeless, in a literal sense as the defensive star had been renting Lynch’s home in Pittsburgh.
There struggles continuing, the Pirates fell into the middle of the pack in early June. The offense was scoring more often than only the second-year Mets and Colt ‘45’s, but continued to get good pitching, posting the second best ERA in the league, which prevented the Corsairs from sliding deeper in the standings. Schwall posted a 1.37 ERA in his first eight games. Friend at 8-4 and McBean at 5-1 were winning consistently, while rookie Tommie Sisk (1.80), Joe Gibbon (2.30) and Haddix (2.17) were getting clutch outs in relief.
Injuries to Virdon, Burgess and Pagliaroni exposed the Pirate’s weak bench and by late June, Murtaugh was juggling his lineup to keep the team ahead of the cellar dwellers. Face suffered a pulled groin and Law cut his hand doing household repairs. Mazeroski pulled a muscle and missed three weeks. The team’s defense sprang occasional leaks as well, such as the time the team blew a 5-0 lead by committing 6 errors to give the Braves’ Joe Torre a chance to hit a gamewinning homerun.
The problems on offense and defense began to extract a toll on the mound. Schwall and Gibbon, for all their good efforts were a combined 7-10. The Pirates climbed back above .500, however, as their uneven season continued. Although he had shut out the Colt 45’s in mid-July, Law was placed on the voluntary retired list on August 7. The Deacon denied soreness in his arm, but was being used less and less and aside from his shutout performance, his ERA approached 6.00. Murtaugh admitted sadness at the decision, but felt he could no longer afford to keep Law on the roster as an 11th pitcher. The team’s improved play and Joe L. Brown’s vote of confidence removed suspicion that Murtaugh, too, would be gone by season’s end. Face’s relief work really picked up in mid-season and Clemente’s bat was livelier, providing more power than in the first half. Stargell raised his average out of the .230’s and although he and Clendenon struck out too often, they showed they could be powerful hitters as well. Clendenon also impressed on the bases.
A winning season seemed a definite possibility as the Pirates remained three games above .500 on August 30. Bob Veale moved into the rotation and dominated hitters in that role as he had in relief. However, the offense hit another bad streak and the bottom just fell out during a 5-17 streak. Friend, despite pitching well, went 7-9 the second half of the year. Schwall lost his final eight decisions and the team never did score for Gibbon all year. Cardwell looked better the second half, but the pitching got little help from the slump prone offense. The gaping hole in the cleanup spot was never filled as Murtaugh tried nine different hitters in the number four position.
Mazeroski, the most often used, drove in only 31 when hitting fourth, and his injury greatly effected his offense throughout the year as his average slid to just .245. Schoefield hit just one point higher, while Bailey’s final average of .228 and Pagliaroni’s .230 left a lot of room for improvement, something Joe L. Brown believed would have to come from within rather than from other teams the next time around.By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Al McBean, Bill Burwell, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, Bob Bailey, Bob Friend, Bob Skinner, Bob Veale, Danny Murtaugh, Dick Groat, Dick Schofield, Dick Stuart, Diomedes Olivo, Don Cardwell, Don Schwall, Donn Clendenon, Earl Francis, Forbes Field, Harvey Haddix, Howie Goss, Jack Lamabe, Jerry Lynch, Jim Pagliaroni, Joe Brown, Joe Gibbon, John Galbreath, Julio Gotay, Manny Mota, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face, Smoky Burgess, Ted Savage, Tommie Sisk, Willie Stargell