Today’s featured Pittsburgh Pirates Card of the Day comes from the 1959 Topps set and pictures four pitchers from the 1959 Pirates. The “Buc Hill Aces” as they were dubbed, consisted of right-handed pitchers Ron Kline, Bob Friend, Vern Law and Roy Face.
Back during this time, Topps had a lot of combo cards showing players from the same teams. Those cards included such great cards as the “Keystone Combo” featuring Hall of Famers Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio of the White Sox, as well as the “Fence Busters” showing Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews of the Braves. They also had an “Ace Hurlers” card picturing Robin Roberts of the Phillies and Billy Pierce of the White Sox, so not all of them were teammates. The Pirates had two such cards in the set, one showing their outfielder trio, which I will feature here some day I’m sure, and this card with four of their top pitchers.
The 1959 Topps cards were released prior to the season, so these groups were picked based on 1958 (and prior) performances. During the 1958 season, Bob Friend was the ace of this group. He went 22-14, 3.68 in 274 innings, completing 16 of 38 starts. He led the National League in wins that season, the only time he reached 20 wins in a season.
Ron Kline actually had a better ERA than Friend (3.53 to 3.68), but he didn’t get the support on offense. He went 13-16 for a team that finished with an 84-70 record. He led the NL in losses for the second time in his career.
Law was two seasons away from winning the Cy Young award in 1958. He went 14-12, 3.96 in 202.1 innings. It was his seventh season in the majors and he set career highs in wins and innings. He would top both of those numbers in each of the following two seasons.
Face had the lowest ERA of the group at 2.89, though he was far from the best pitcher on the 1958 Pirates. That honor went to starter Red Witt, who posted an outstanding 1.61 ERA in 106 innings over 15 starts and three relief appearances. Face made 57 appearances that season and threw 84 innings. He had a 5-2 record with 20 saves, though saves were not an official stat at the time.
The “Hill Aces” wouldn’t quite live up to the name as a group in 1959. Law and Face each had outstanding seasons, including an incredible 18-1 record from Face as a reliever. Law continued to build up towards his highlight season, going 18-9, 2.98 in 266 innings. Friend went 8-19, 4.03 in 234.1 innings, while Kline was 11-13, 4.26 in 186 innings.
Here’s the front of the card:
Here’s the back of the card, which I enlarged because it has a lot of writing:
Here are the previous Card of the Day articles. Eventually we will have a better way to organize them, as opposed to just a continuously growing list at the bottom of each article:+ posts
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.