They are turning into the feel-good story of the 2011 baseball season — like the movie “Major League,” only with the Pittsburgh Pirates standing in for the Cleveland Indians.
Pittsburgh has spent part of the past week in first place in the NL Central Division. Considering that it’s only July, that wouldn’t be a big deal if we weren’t talking about the Pirates.
But because we are talking about the Pirates, maybe it’s time for some factoids about one of baseball’s oldest franchises:
1) Since winning the NL East in 1990, 1991, and 1992, Pittsburgh has endured 18 straight losing seasons. That’s the longest streak in North American sports history, and it includes a major-league worst 57-105 mark last year.
2) Not all that long ago, the Pirates won three World Series titles in 20 seasons (1960, 1971, 1979). They haven’t been to the Series since beating Baltimore in seven games in 1979.
3) Pittsburgh also won the World Series in 1909 and 1925.
4) All five of the Pirates’ World Series titles have come in seven games.
5) In 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off homer to win Game 7 against the Yankees. Pittsburgh was outscored 55-27 in the series and outhit .338 to .256.
6) Here’s my favorite Pittsburgh factoid: Despite being in existence since 1882, the Pirates have never had a Hall of Fame pitcher. Or at least not one who earned Hall of Fame credentials with the club.
7) Wilbur Cooper, who pitched for Pittsburgh from 1912-24, holds the franchise record with 202 wins.
8) Since beginning life as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in 1882, the franchise has 9,861 wins and 9,728 losses.
9) Through 1992, they were 501 games over .500. They are 368 games under .500 since then.
10) Honus Wagner holds franchise records in games (tied with Roberto Clemente), runs, triples, and times on base. He’s second in at-bats, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, stolen bases, singles, extra-base hits, and hit by pitch. Honus Wagner was the greatest player in Pirates history.
11) In 1908, when the typical NL team scored 517 runs, Wagner batted .354 with 100 runs and 109 RBI. According to baseball-reference.com, his contributions were the equivalent of a .403 average with 50 doubles, 25 triples, 144 runs, and 158 RBI when placed into a more normal context of 750 team runs.
12) Most impressive Pirates record: In 1912, outfielder Owen Wilson hit 36 triples. No other major-leaguer has ever had more than 26 in a season.
13) The full name of Pittsburgh’s Hall of Fame rightfielder from the 1920s and 1930s was Paul Glee Waner. His Hall of Fame brother has a more mundane middle name: Lloyd James Waner.
14) On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pirates became the first major-league team to field an all-black starting lineup.
15) After coming to the major leagues with the Pirates in 1946, Ralph Kiner led the NL in homers each of his first seven seasons. No other player in history has won seven straight home run titles. Kiner hit 54 homers in 1949 and 51 homers in 1947, the only Pirate with 50 in a season.
16) Willie Stargell holds the club record with 475 career home runs.
17) Pittsburgh appeared in the first World Series, losing a best-of-nine series 5-3 in 1903 against the Boston Pilgrims, the AL champions.
18) With Fred Clarke, Max Carey, and the Waner brothers, the Pirates had a Hall of Famer in their starting outfield for 38 of 39 seasons from 1901-39. Then, with Kiner, Clemente and Stargell, they had a Hall of Famer in their starting outfield for 27 of 29 years from 1946-74.
19) All-time Pirates team:
C — Jason Kendall
1B — Willie Stargell
2B — Bill Mazeroski
3B — Pie Traynor
SS — Honus Wagner
LF — Barry Bonds
CF — Max Carey
RF — Roberto Clemente
SP — Wilbur Cooper
SP — Bob Friend
SP — Babe Adams
SP — Sam Leever
RP — Roy Face
RP — Kent Tekulve
20) Starting rotation among pitchers from the past 40 years or so: John Candelaria, Doug Drabek, and … I don’t know. It’s slim pickings. Maybe the Pirates are due for something memorable to happen.
Question or comment for By the Numbers? You can reach Greg Jayne, Sports editor of The Columbian, at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To “Like” his Facebook page, search for “Greg Jayne – The Columbian”