The World According to Keitho

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The Bumblebee Bucs

Posted by keithosaunders on June 18, 2010

Between the years of 1977 and 1983 the Pittsburgh Pirates wore what was arguably the most garish uniforms in the history of baseball.  Their color scheme, like their Pittsburgh brethren Penguins and Steelers, was banana yellow and black.  The combination of colors changed every day.  One day they might wear a black jersey with yellow pants — the next it could be the opposite.  Or they could go straight black jersey and pants.  They also had white jerseys and pants which gave them nine different combinations.  I always looked forward to seeing the Pirates on their bi-annual trips to Dodger Stadium –for me the holy grail was all yellow.

Nowadays it’s common for a team to wear an alternate black jersey to go along with their regular pants.  Back then, however, it was a radical idea to have more than two possible uniform combinations, the norm being home whites and travelling greys. 

  The Pirates were dominant in that era and featured players every bit as colorful as their uniforms.  Kent Tekulve was a reed-thin submariner relief pitcher with a rubber arm.  He regularly would throw more than 100 innings a year.  In those days closers weren’t only used in the 9th inning, but when they were needed the most, which often as not was the 7th. 

Bill Madlock was a batting champ — a pure line drive hitter who regularly batted over .300 .  Willie Stargell, Pops, was my favorite.  Even though by the late 70s he was nearing the end of a great career, he was still a feared home run hitter.  To this day he is one of three players to hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium.  (Mark McGwire and Mike Piazza are the other two)  He did it twice.    He also owns the record for the longest home run ever hit in Dodger Stadium — 506 feet.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention two-time batting champ Dave Parker, the Cobra.  He was a tall, burly right fielder with a howitzer for an arm.  In the late 70s we thought he was on track to become one of the all time greats but injuries and cocaine use hampered the latter part of his career, largely spent with the Cincinnati Reds.

So let’s have a drink to the Pirates of the ’70s, a team that along with the Dodgers and Reds, dominated the post season.  The decade was framed by their twin championships of 1971 and 1979, but they also appeared in the NLCS in 1970, ’72, 74, and ’75.  As of now the Pirates have not appeared in a post season since 1991 which is a dubious record:  No other sports franchise has suffered through this long of a drought.  Perhaps they should bring back the Bumblebee Bucs unis.   

For those of you interested in sports uniforms here is a link to a great blog called uniwatch.

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5 Responses to “The Bumblebee Bucs”

  1. bkivey said

    I was going to say that the Astros of the 70’s had the most garish uniforms, then took a look at the Pirate yellow banana look. I concede.

  2. Those teams also had several other guys who could hit like Mike (Hitman) Easler, Manny Sanguillen, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk, and Richie Hebner (who dug graves in the off-season.) Not a lot of pitching, but John (CandyMan) Candeleria was a good one for a short period of time. Great pics! Bill

    • Thanks for reminding me of those great players. Outside of the Dodgers, who were my home team, they were the team I most enjoyed watching. It’s too bad they have fallen on such hard times.

  3. wkkortas said

    I have always figured there was a direct link between the mix-and-match Bucco uniforms of the day and the drug issues that surfaced in the clubhouse later. I mean, if that’s the reality you have to deal with day-to-day, wouldn’t you be looking for an escape hatch?

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