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1979 Baseball Season

Lou Brock stole 938 bases -- more than any other player in history.
Lou Brock stole 938 bases -- more than any other player in history.

The Pittsburgh Pirates led the league in outfits during the 1979 baseball season. Their arsenal of uniforms was so vast -- black caps and yellow jerseys, yellow caps and white jerseys -- that they had 64 possible combinations at their disposal.

The Pirates' lineup of players was just as varied as their line of garb. They featured an outfielder who looked like a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker (6' 5", 230-pound Dave Parker), and a pitcher who looked more like a placekicker (6' 4", 170-pound Kent Tekulve).

And, of course, the Pirates had Willie "Pops" Stargell, an inspiring presence at bat and in the clubhouse. The Pirates, whose theme song was "We Are Family," won the National League East by 2 games over Montreal.

The World Champion Yankees didn't even come close to repeating, as they lost two key players. Relief ace Goose Gossage was sidelined for two months by an injury he incurred in a fight with teammate Cliff Johnson. And catcher Thurman Munson was killed in an airplane crash in August.

The Baltimore Orioles ended the Yankees' three-year divisional reign, winning 102 games. Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan (23-9) paced the pitching staff, while veteran Ken Singleton (111 RBI) spearheaded the offense. They beat the Brewers by 8 games and the Red Sox by 11-1/2.

Boston boasted a fearsome offense, as Fred Lynn and Jim Rice tied for second in the league in homers with 39. However, the pitching, hurt by the departure of Luis Tiant to the Yankees, was too weak to beat the Orioles.

The American League West was tight to the end, as four teams ranked within 6 games of first place. The California Angels, starring MVP Don Baylor (139 RBI), took their first division crown. The Twins, who finished 6 back, were pleasantly surprised by their off-season pickup of Jerry Koosman. Koosman, 11-35 in his previous two years with the Mets, won 20 games for the Twins.

The big news in the senior circuit was Pete Rose's preseason defection to the Philadelphia Phillies. His arrival did not promote the Phils to champs just yet, as they settled for fourth place.

St. Louis first baseman Keith Hernandez won the batting crown (.344) and shared the MVP honors with Stargell (.281, 32 homers, 82 RBI). Lou Brock retired, having stolen more bases (938) than any player in history. The Cubs boasted a Cy Young winner, Bruce Sutter, who saved 37 games.

The Rose-less Reds were still good enough to win the National League West. Though the Big Red Machine was losing its hitting punch, its pitching was as strong as ever -- Tom Seaver went 16-6. Cincinnati edged out the strong-armed Houston Astros, whose staff included Joe Niekro (21-11), J.R. Richard (313 strikeouts), and Ken Forsch (who pitched a no-hitter April 7 against the Expos).

Pittsburgh swept Cincinnati in the National League Championship Series, though it took two extra-inning wins to do it. Stargell cracked two homers as the Pirates outscored the Reds 15-5. Baltimore defeated California in four games in the American League Championship Series, which included three nail-biting finishes and a shutout.

The Orioles and the Bucs battled through a seven-game 1979 World Series. After losing the opener, Pittsburgh evened it up when Manny Sanguillen drove in Ed Ott with a ninth-inning single off Don Stanhouse. Baltimore won the next two games to go up three games to one, but the Pirates stormed back. They won the final three games -- 7-1, 4-0, 4-1 -- to take the 1979 World Series.

Find headlines and summaries of the major stories from the 1979 baseball season on the next page.

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