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The Top Baseball Trivia Questions to Stump Pirates Fans

With apologies to George Will, we present 10 Pittsburgh Pirates trivia questions to stump the most ardent fan. Questions will be presented first, followed by a discussion of the answers.

  1. Who was the last player to pinch-hit for Roberto Clemente?
  2. On the day Clemente tallied the 3,000th hit of his career, who started at second base for the Pirates?
  3. Who was the Pirates’ Opening Day third baseman in 1952?
  4. Who was the Pirates’ Opening Day pitcher in 2002?
  5. In 1973, a Pirates rookie call-up walked into the clubhouse for the first time. Shortstop Dal Maxvill declared, “I don’t know what he does or who he is, but I’m glad he’s on our side.” To whom was Maxvill referring?
  6. Who was the Pirates’ Opening Day first baseman in 1974?
  7. This gentleman was a member of two Pittsburgh championship teams in different sports. Who was he?
  8. Who was the last left-handed throwing catcher in the major leagues?
  9. This Pirates manager was ejected from a game and returned to the field with his cap on backward and his uniform shirt unbuttoned while sipping on an orange drink. He proceeded to stroll around the diamond and offer a sip of his drink to each umpire. Who was this colorful manager?
  10. After another rough outing by this starting pitcher, Pirates manager and future Hall-of-Famer Jim Leyland famously announced his removal from the rotation by loudly declaring to the media, “He’s out! Out! Out! O-U-double-T – Out!” Who was this pitcher?

Clemente’s 3,000th Hit

Pirates Trivia Questions Nos. 1-2

The 1972 Pirates clinched the National League East Division title on September 21. Clemente wanted to rest for the remainder of the regular season to be rested for the postseason. He needed to be talked into playing until he achieved hit number 3,000. Finally, he reached that milestone on September 30,  a Saturday afternoon at Three Rivers Stadium, against the New York Mets. It was the fourth inning when he hit a double into the left-center field gap against Jon Matlack. When Clemente’s next turn at bat came up in the fifth inning, finally he would begin resting. Manager Bill Virdon sent Bill Mazeroski to the plate to pinch hit.

Vic Davalillo then went into right field in Clemente’s place. It’s unknown why Virdon chose Mazeroski to hit. Perhaps Virdon knew it would be an unpopular move. No Pirates fan would dare boo “Maz,” the popular hero of the 1960 World Series. The Pirates’ second baseman on that date was Chuck Goggin, called up from the minors when the September rosters expanded. From 1972-74, Goggin played 72 games at five positions for three major league teams. Goggin was a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Marines from 1966-67, during which time he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

Opening Day Oddities

Pirates Trivia Question No. 3

The Pirates have had some Opening Day highlights and some strange ones, too. The Pirates’ Opening Day third baseman in 1952 was Dick Hall. Yes, that Dick Hall, who pitched in the majors for 16 seasons, most notably with the Baltimore Orioles for nine years. He was on their 1966 and 1970 World Series winners and 1969 and 1971 American League pennant winners. As an Oriole, Hall’s ERA was 2.89 and his WHIP was 1.005. Even more incredulously, on this 1952 Opening Day, Hall batted fifth in the order, behind Ralph Kiner. Hall was a .210/.271/.259 hitter for his career. The 1952 Pirates finished 42-112 and are considered one of the worst teams in baseball history.

Pirates Trivia Question No. 4

Jumping ahead to 2002, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon named journeyman left-handed pitcher Ron Villone as his Opening Day starter. To say the least, it was a puzzling choice. From 1995-2001, Villone was 29-31 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.555 WHIP for seven teams. He had appeared in 274 games, of which 57 were starts. In 2001, he was 6-10 with a 5.89 ERA and 1.622 WHIP for the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies. On this day against the Mets at Shea Stadium, Villone lasted five innings and was behind 4-0 when he exited. He made just six more starts for the Pirates and was back with the Astros in 2003.

“I’m glad he’s on our side”

Pirates Trivia Questions Nos. 5-6

That was Dave Parker to whom Maxvill was referring. It was also Parker who was the Pirates’ Opening Day first baseman in 1974. Manager Danny Murtaugh had quite the dilemma in spring training. First baseman Bob Robertson had just finished 1973 in a two-year slump. The Pirates had four outfielders who were great hitters: Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk, and Parker. It made sense to move one of them to first base. Stargell played first base in 1972 and spring training, in 1973 before being returned to left field at the last minute. The Pirates didn’t want to keep jerking him around. Oliver had come up as a first baseman but didn’t like playing there. The Pirates turned to Parker. Despite making no errors at first base, Parker played just six games there.

Versatile Athletes

Pirates Trivia Question No. 7

How many Pirates trivia questions involve a bullpen coach? This one does. Note the question said “member,” not “player.” Dave Ricketts was the Pirates’ bullpen coach in 1971 when they won the World Series. He also starred in basketball at Duquesne University and was a member of the Dukes team that won the National Invitational Tournament in 1955. At that time, the NIT was the more prestigious tournament, and its champion was considered the national champion. (The 1955 NCAA tournament was won by the University of San Francisco. Perhaps because Bill Russell starred on that team, some revisionist historians have since claimed that USF was the national champion. They weren’t.)

Dave and his brother, Dick Ricketts, starred in both baseball and basketball at Duquesne. Both played major league baseball. Dave was a seldom-used catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1963-69 and the Pirates in 1970. He was 1-for-4 as a pinch hitter in two World Series. Dick played in the NBA from 1955-58 and was the No. 1 overall draft pick of the St. Louis Hawks in 1955. However, Dick gave his all to baseball. He pitched in the minors from 1955-64 for three different organizations. He got into 12 games for the Cardinals in 1959 and was 1-6 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.760 WHIP.

Pirates Trivia Question No. 8

Benny Distefano was the last left-handed throwing catcher in MLB. The left-handed hitter came up as a first baseman/outfielder. He made his major league debut for the Pirates on May 18, 1984, for the Bucs against the Atlanta Braves at Three Rivers Stadium. In his first at-bat, he crushed a Pete Falcone pitch off the top of the right field wall for a triple, a silly millimeter from a home run. The media dubbed him “Mr. Excitement.” But a new regime took over the Pirates in 1986 and they didn’t seem as enthused about Distefano. To add to his attractiveness, he learned how to catch in 1989 and was used in three games as a late replacement. His 1990 Fleer baseball card listed his position as a catcher.

Angry Managers

Pirates Trivia Question No. 9

In 1957, Pirates manager Bobby Bragan was ejected four times, all by the same umpiring crew – Frank Dascoli, Stan Landes, Frank Secory, and Bill Baker. The fourth time occurred on July 30 in Milwaukee against the Braves. Bragan thought Braves pitcher Lew Burdette was throwing spitballs. In the top of the fifth, Bragan instructed each Pirates batter to take the first pitch and ask home plate umpire Baker to inspect the ball. After the third batter, Baker walked toward Bragan, who was in the third base coaching box, and said, “I’m not looking at any more pitches!” Third base umpire Landes said, “Come on, Bobby, it looks like rain. Let’s get going.” To which Bragan replied, “I’m not concerned about the rain! I’m concerned about spitballs!” Landes said, “You’re not concerned about the rain? Take a hike!”

Bragan returned to the dugout where there was a carton of orange juice waiting for him. He returned to the field, hat on backward, shirt unbuttoned, drinking from a straw. He stopped at each base to offer each umpire a sip and let him know they were the only crew who ejected him in 1957. Bragan had ordered the drink and a hot dog before he was ejected. NL president Warren Giles fined him $100 for the incident. Bragan said his only regret was that the hot dog never arrived.

Of all these Pirates trivia questions, this one is without a happy ending. The Braves won the game, 5-2. The rain never came. When the Pirates got to Chicago on August 1, general manager Joe L. Brown fired Bragan.

Pirates Trivia Question No. 10

Paul Wagner was a young pitcher for whom the Pirates had high hopes. Somehow the right-hander was never able to put it together. On August 14, 1995, when his record stood at 1-11, Wagner started against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium. He lasted five innings in a 6-5 loss. The floodgates opened in the third when he couldn’t retire the bottom of the order. Scott Livingstone walked, Archi Cianfrocco was hit by a pitch, and Brad Ausmus hit a long triple. After the game, a furious Leyland told the assembled media, “He’s out! Out! Out! O-U-double-T – Out!”

But after four relief appearances, Wagner was pressed into service as a starter against the Rockies at PNC Park just 15 days later. That evening, he had a no-hitter going for 8-2/3 innings. One strike away, Andres Galarraga spoiled it by bouncing a single up the middle. Wagner finished with a one-hit shutout and a 4-0 victory. He remained an enigma. He finished 1995 at 5-16, leading MLB in losses. The Pirates gave up on him in 1997. Four separate organizations gave him another look, but he never reached his potential and was out of baseball in 2001.

The Last Word

The rich history of the Pirates is full of interesting facts and stories. Hopefully, these Pirates trivia questions will liven up your next watch party.

Main Photo: © Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports


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