The Pirates were coming off two consecutive 90 win seasons in 1965 and 1966, when GM Joe L Brown traded disappointing former Bonus baby Bob Bailey and Gene Micheal to the Dodgers for the all-time single season stolen base record holder Maury Wills on December 1st . Wills was to move to third base, thus creating a “million dollar” infield with all-stars Gene Alley and Bill Mazeroski. The trade was supposed to put the Bucs over the top as the experts picked them as 2-1 pre-season favorites to win the National League pennant. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, what the experts say at the beginning of the season, doesn’t always come to fruition as was the case of the 1967 version of this franchise.
It wasn’t an all-around collapse that the Bucs suffered this season as they had the most prolific offensive squad in the league, leading the circuit in average by 14 points over the next highest team with a .277 mark while also topping the NL in on base percentage, slugging percentage, hits and triples.
Four regulars hit over .300 as Roberto Clemente became the fourth consecutive Pirate to win a batting title with a .357 average while defending titlist Matty Alou hit .338, Manny Mota came in .321 and Wills had a solid campaign with a .302 mark, although would only steal 29 bases on the season.
Clemente also had solid power numbers with 23 homers and 110 RBI’s, finishing third in the league in the MVP voting. On May 15th, the great one had one of his best games ever in his major league career when he hit 3 homers and knocked in all 7 Pirate runs in an 8-7 loss to the Reds. With his heroics, Roberto led a contingent of three Pittsburgh players to the National League’s starting team in the Mid-Summer classic as Clemente joined the double play combo of Alley and Mazeroski on the squad. The trio would also be rewarded four their defense at the end of the season all being presented with gold gloves.
As good an offensive season as the team had, two stars from the ’66 team did not play up to their level of expectations when Willie Stargell and Donn Clendenon came up with poor performances in 1967. Stargell finished the season with a 20-73-.271 campaign while Clendenon checked in at 13-56-.249. Injuries seemed to be the culprit for Donn as he suffered from a muscle pull in his leg all-season while Stargell, who came into camp overweight, injured his left thigh. Catcher Jim Pagliaroni who hit .268 the previous season, fell to only .200 as he was plagued for most of the season with two ruptured discs in his back.
If the pitching could have come anywhere near the offenses performance, the team might have competed. Except for staff ace Bob Veale, who was 16-8 for the year, but only an average pitcher after his torrid 6-0 start, the rest of the staff did not live up to expectations. Juan Pizzaro, who was purchased from the White Sox in the off-season and Dennis Ribant, gotten from the Mets for pitcher Don Cardwell and outfielder Don Bosch were supposed to add depth to the bullpen, but instead combined for a 17-18 record with 9 saves while splitting time between the starting rotation and bullpen. Veteran closer Roy Face did have a solid year with 17 saves and a 2.42 ERA. Over all the teams 3.74 ERA finished 9th in the 10 team National League and 19th out of 20 major league clubs.
The season started out OK, the team fluctuating between 5 and 6 games over .500, but they could never pull over the top. On July 15th the Bucs defeated the Cards and Bob Gibson 6-4, a contest where Clemente shot a line drive off Gibson’s leg, breaking it and sending him on the DL until Labor Day. It was also that day when Brown gave manager Harry Walker the Dreaded Vote of Confidence, saying it would be a long time until the fans saw a Pirate manager replaced. On a far away planet where days take years, he might have been right, but only 3 earth days later, Brown relieved Walker of his duties after two consecutive losses to the Braves that sent the Bucs to a 42-42 mark. The Hat soon was hired as the Astros hitting coach while Brown brought back an old favorite to manage the team, Danny Murtaugh.
As successful a manager as Murtaugh had been, he could do no better than Walker, finishing the season with a 39-39 mark. Overall, the team played well at home with a 49-32 record, but seemed to love the home cooking too much as they managed only a 32-49 mark away from Forbes Field. Things got so bad that even the lowly Mets took the season series from the team winning 11 of the 18 games they played.
Overall it was a very substandard season as the team needed a 10-3 victory over Houston the last day of the season, led by Clemente who tripled and homered, to finish at .500. Unfortunately for the Pirates games are not played on paper and 1967 certainly has to go down as one of the most unsatisfactory campaigns in their history.By Pirates Encyclopedia
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- Bill Mazeroski, Bob Bailey, Bob Veale, Danny Murtaugh, Dennis Ribant, Don Bosch, Don Cardwell, Donn Clendenon, Forbes Field, Gene Alley, Gene Michael, Harry Walker, Jim Pagliaroni, Joe Brown, Juan Pizarro, Manny Mota, Matty Alou, Maury Wills, Roberto Clemente, Roy Face, Willie Stargell