Baseball History

Pittsburgh Pirates all Time Home Run Leaders

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Throughout their history, the Pittsburgh Pirates have only had three players who have led the National League in home runs and one of them, Tommy Leach, did so in 1902 and he only had a total of nine that season. Since the home run became a legitimate weapon in baseball with the arrival of Babe Ruth, the Pirates have only had two players who have led the league. Ralph Kiner won the home run title an amazing seven years in a row, from 1946 through 1952. Willie Stargell led the league twice, in 1971 and 1974. Stargell is the all-time leader in career home runs for the Pirates with 475. Kiner is second with a total of 301 before the Pirates traded him to the Cubs. A main reason for the lack of home run titles in Pirates history has been the ballparks they have played in.

Forbes Field was the home of the Pirates for over sixty years, beginning in 1909. It was a park not designed for power hitters but for fast outfielders and line drive hitters. Forbes Field had mostly huge dimensions, especially to left and center field. It was over 450 feet to straight-away center, and over 400 feet to left and right center. The fences were so distant that the batting cage used for batting practice was kept on the field in left-centerfield during the game. There were also some high fences throughout the park as well as a scoreboard in left-center that was over 25 feet high and in play. It is a tribute to Ralph Kiner's power that he led the league all those years playing his home games in that park. The Pirates' next home field was Three Rivers Stadium, the park where Stargell won his home run titles. The fences at Three Rivers weren't as distant as they were at Forbes Field, but the stadium, with its fast artificial surface, was also designed more for speed and line drives.

The Pirate who is third on their all-time list was one who took advantage of the Pittsburgh ballparks, though he would likely have succeeded anywhere he played. He was Roberto Clemente, probably the most notable player in the team's history, at least since Honus Wagner a century ago. Though Clemente hit over 250 home runs in his career, power was just one feature of his game. He also won four batting titles and 12 Gold Gloves before his life was ended by a plane crash in 1972. The greatest home run hitter in baseball history, Barry Bonds, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though his career totals are tainted by likely steroid use, none of those accusations were present when he played the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh.

Early on in his time with the Pirates, he was a leadoff hitter. Then his manager Jim Leyland moved him down to the third spot in the order in order to take more advantage of his power. Bonds' biggest year in Pittsburgh was his last season as a Pirate in 1992, when he hit 34 home runs. That was not even close to the 73 he would hit a decade later for the Giants, but in his days in Pittsburgh, Bonds had a lean, sleek body, far different from the heavily-muscled physique he carried in the years when he was breaking home run records. Even so, Bonds was fourth on the list of all-tine Pirates home run hitters with 176 (he hit nearly 600 more for the Giants). His career statistics certainly warrant induction into baseball's Hall Of Fame, where he would join Stargell, Kiner and Clemente. Whether his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs will prevent his accomplishments from being recognized is up to those baseball writers who will have a vote.

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