The most recent Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer was born on this date in 1951. Bert Blyleven pitched for the Pirates from 1978 until 1980. He began his major league career in 1970, as a 19 year old, by going 10-9 3.18 in 164 innings for the Minnesota Twins. At age 20 he won 16 games, threw 17 complete games and pitched a total of 278.1 innings. After winning 17 games in 1972, he put up an incredible season the next year. Bert made 40 starts in 1973, finished 25 of them and nine were shutouts. He pitched a total of 325 innings, winning 20 games for the only time in his career. From 1971 until 1976, he threw at least 275 innings every season. His lowest strikeout total during that six season stretch was 219 in 1976. In June of 1976 he was traded to the Texas Rangers. On December 8,1977 the Pirates acquired him in a four team trade involving 11 players. The Pirates part of that deal can be read here.
After going 14-12 2.72 in 30 starts during the 1977 season, Blyleven went 14-10 3.03 in 34 starts with the Pirates in 1978. He pitched 243.2 innings that year and struck out 182 batters for the second straight season. Bert posted his highest ERA, up to that point, in 1979 but for once he didn’t have to be perfect to get wins. He had pitched for some poor teams during his career, resulting in many .500 seasons, despite always posting strong stats. In 1979 the Pirates won the World Series, and Blyleven went 12-5 3.60 during the season and 2-0 1.50 in three playoff games. In 1980 his ERA rose, his record dropped to 8-13 and he was unhappy in Pittsburgh. Blyleven was dealt to the Indians, along with Manny Sanguillen, on December 9,1980 in a trade covered here. He went on to pitch another 11 seasons in the majors, finishing with a 287-250 3.31 record in 4970 innings, with 242 complete games, 60 shutouts and 3701 strikeouts. In 2011, Bert was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, his 14th year on the ballot.
Sonny Senerchia(1931) Third baseman for the 1952 Pirates. The Pirates signed him as an amateur free agent right out of Montclair State University in 1952. He had previously played minor league ball in 1949, prior to beginning his college career. After signing, Sonny played 62 games in the Carolina League, where he hit .296 with seven homers. He joined the Pirates in late August, playing 28 games at 3B and hitting .220 with three homers and 11 RBI’s. Senerchia spent the entire 1953 season in the minors, playing for three different Pirates affiliates. He hit a combined .260 with 16 homers in 127 games. Following the season, the Pirates lost him to the St Louis Cardinals in the December 1953 rule 5 draft. He played five more seasons without making it back to the majors before he retired. His last four seasons in pro ball, he was a pitcher.
On this date in 1971 the Pirates opened their regular season with a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Dock Ellis pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, two walks, a hit batter and he struck out eight. He also drove in a run and dropped down three sacrifice bunts. Richie Hebner had two hits, a walk and an RBI. The three Hall of Famers for the Pirates went: Mazeroski 1-3,RBI, Clemente 0-4, Stargell 1-4, run. The lineup that day was as follows:
Just a reminder, past “This Date” articles can be found in two places. The first is from October until early February. The second has every day since. Over 180 days have already been posted.