Being that nostalgic type of person, I couldn’t help but grab something out of the junk closet in my office. You know, the place where I’ve thrown all of my memorabilia that’s not worth much to anyone but me.
Saturday at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates honor their 1979 World Series championship team. I’d love to be there, but I’ll be elsewhere sweating out what could be the hottest day of the year.
That’s OK, I’ll record it and enjoy watching the heroes of those years in the pre-game ceremony. It’ll be interesting to see who makes it and who doesn’t or can’t.
Who won’t: The MVP Willie Stargell, who died in 2001, right before the opening of PNC Park. The left-field platoon system of John Milner and Bill Robinson are both gone, leaving us in 2000 and 2007 respectively. Pitchers Jim Bibby (2010), Dave Roberts (2009) and Bruce Kison (2018) have all died.
The rest of the roster is still alive and amazingly, of the 19 other significant players from that season, seven are all 68 years old — “Red Hot” Ed Ott, Rennie Stennett, Tim Foli, Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Mike “Hit Man” Easler and Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven.
Omar Moreno (66), Phil Garner (70), Steve Nicosia (63), Lee Lacy (71), Dale Berra (62), Manny Sanguillen (75), Don Robinson (62), John Candelaria (65), Jim Rooker (76), Kent Tekulve (72), Enrique Romo (72) and Grant Jackson (76) could all be there as well.
But with my trip to the closet, came out a 40-plus year-old scorebook, filled with actual games I watched on TV, some softball games from my dad’s team, Strat-O-Matic baseball games and a couple very memorable Bucco games.
I was 10 years old, by the way, starting my fifth-grade year at Hickory Grove Elementary School. On one page was the complete record of the 1979 All-Star game played at the Kingdome in Seattle. Parker was the MVP, going 1-for-3 with a single and sacrifice fly. But it was his defense, a cannon arm from right field, that got the most attention that night. In the eighth inning, he gunned down would-be tying run Bryan Downing at home plate — future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter making a fabulous play on the blocking of the plate and tag — when Downing was trying to score on a single by Craig Nettles.
In the seventh inning, Parker threw out Jim Rice trying to stretch a double into a triple at third base.
Turn the page and there it was: Oct 4. 1979. Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. The Pirates won 7-1 behind the complete-game effort of Blyleven.
The last out, a strikeout with his Hall of Fame curve ball in the dirt to Cesar Geronimo.
In the comments areas of the scorebook, on the Pirates’ side: “Perfect.”
On the Reds’ side: “The Red(s) did Terrible.”
Just under two weeks later, Moreno squeezed the final out of the World Series on a flyout by Pat Kelly at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. World Series champions.
Saturday will be fun. Yeah, it’s easy to be nostalgic considering we’ve had just a handful of fun seasons of contention since then.
Oh yeah, have you heard of the Sister Sledge song “We are Family”? It may be heard a few times.
Note: If you keep flipping through the scorebook, you’ll find the 1979 season stat sheet of my 10-year-old (first season at Zufall) Little League season with Knights of Columbus.
Throws right, plays third, left field and right field. Height/Weight: 4-feet-8-inches, 65 pounds.
1-for-11, two runs scored, nine strikeouts, two walks, two stolen bases, 10 putouts. At the bottom of the sheet is some long division work that was trying to figure out some percentage.
I do not know who I got my only hit against. The game-by-game report is incomplete.
SPEAKING OF THE BUCCOS — The Pirates had another familiar pre-All-Star break surge and are off to a terrible start to the second half, losing four in a row going into Tuesday night’s game at St. Louis.
The Pirates are a .500 team at best. A hot offense the past two months has gotten them near league average in runs scored per game while still trying to overcome awful pitching that has given up the second-most runs in the National League.
That’s .500 at best.
Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman have been fun to watch. Starling Marte has had his moments, good, bad and indifferent as usual, while Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson are banged-up assets that won’t help the Pirates at all come the trade deadline.
Expect management to treat the deadline as anyone would for a team that I’m sure they projected to be right where they are right now, albeit not quite in the way it was predicted with solid pitching and young and unproven offensive talent.
Trade Felipe Vazquez? If the price is right. Make sure Reynolds and Newman get enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. They’re at .343 and .326 right now, but the point isn’t that they can win a batting crown, it’s that they get enough at-bats to build experience for the future. Newman is much, much better than he showed out of the gate and Reynolds is a professional hitter.
COACH OF THE YEAR — Chris Snyder, a 1988 graduate of Brookville Area High School, finished off his 14th season as head basketball coach at Central Columbia High School in Bloomsburg earlier this year and it was one of his best.
His Blue Jays went 17-8 and a late-season injury to one of his top players derailed a deeper playoff run. The Blue Jays, with a state playoff berth on the line, lost in the District 4 Class 3A consolation game, 49-48, to Mount Carmel. They dropped a 59-57 decision in the semifinals to eventual district champion Loyalsock which advanced to the second round of the state playoffs.
Snyder wound up sharing the Heartland Athletic Conference Division II Coach of the Year honors with Mike Mussina of Mountoursville.
Yep, it’s the same Mike Mussina who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. Mussina, a 1987 high school graduate, finished his sixth season at his alma mater.
Snyder is 166-163 in his career at Central Columbia where he serves as an assistant secondary principal. He’s been at the school since 1999.
Rich Rhoades is the sports editor of the Jeffersonian Democrat and the Leader-Vindicator in New Bethlehem. E-mail: email@example.com or twitter @TheSkinny1969.