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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1979 Baseball Season Headlines
Willie Stargell led the motley Pirates to victory in the 1979 World Series. Here are some of the headlines from the 1979 baseball season:
Larry Bowa Makes Marks on Field
In 1979, Larry Bowa established a major league record for highest career fielding percentage for a shortstop (1,000 or more games) with a .982 mark. He also set the single-season fielding mark at .991. Some critics, however, consider these marks to be tainted and claim that Bowa was helped by a generous official scorer in Philadelphia who rarely credited fielders with errors.
Willie Stargell Posts Glittering Year
The leader of the Pirate "Fam-a-lee," Willie Stargell was an inspiration to his teammates both on and off the field. As team captain, Willie dispensed "Stargell Stars" to his teammates for great plays and key hits. Sharing 1979 National League MVP honors with Keith Hernandez, Stargell hit .281 with 32 home runs and 82 RBI. He was also named MVP in both the Championship Series and the World Series that season.
Carl Yastrzemski Reaches a Milestone
American League history was made in 1979 as Carl Yastrzemski, the captain of the Red Sox, became the only player in the junior circuit to hit 400 home runs and gather 3,000 hits. Prior to Yastrzemski, the only player to come close to the milestone was former Tiger right fielder Al Kaline, who retired in 1974 with 399 home runs and 3,007 hits.
Phil Niekro Breaks Even
A player whose name became synonymous with the Braves franchise in the 1970s, Phil Niekro was the winner of the 1979 Lou Gehrig Award, which honored his exemplary character and plentiful contributions to the Atlanta community. A pitcher whose name became synonymous with the knuckleball, the 40-year-old Niekro won 21 games and lost 20 in 1979.
Joe Torre Stuck in Cellar
In his first three years as manager (1977-1979), Joe Torre guided the Mets to three consecutive last-place finishes. The former slugger's three-year won-lost record totaled 178-263.
Thurman Munson Dies in Crash
Baseball lost a fiery competitor, one destined for the Hall of Fame, when Thurman Munson died in the crash of his private jet in Canton, Ohio, on August 2, 1979. The Yankee captain/catcher was in his prime, having just turned 32 years of age. His 11-year career totals boast a .292 batting average, 113 home runs, and 701 RBI.
Dave Kingman Slugs 48 HRs
In 1979, Dave Kingman became known as the new "Mayor of Waveland Avenue" in honor of his National League-leading 48 home runs, many of which landed on front yards and door stoops in the Wrigleyville region of Chicago. Kingman's 115 RBI and loop-high .613 slugging average that year also earned him the nickname of "Kong." Kingman tied a major league record by smacking five homers in two consecutive games in 1979.
Ron Guidry Mows Down Hitters
Although Ron Guidry didn't match in 1979 what he had accomplished the previous season, the cagey southpaw did sport a record of 18-8 while leading the American League with a 2.78 ERA. Guidry, who would continue on into the 1980s, could "bring it" with the best of them.
Fred Lynn Reaches His Peak
In the year that followed his fullest season (150 games in 1978), oft-injured Fred Lynn enjoyed his greatest performance. Leading the American League with a .333 batting average and a .637 slugging mark, he smacked 39 home runs and drove in 122 runs.
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More 1979 Baseball Season Headlines
Dave Winfield Knows RBI
Drafted by four ballclubs in three sports (baseball, basketball, and football) after his senior year at the University of Minnesota, Dave Winfield was a decade ahead of Bo Jackson in the versatility department. In 1979, Winfield hit .308 (for the second consecutive year) with 34 homers (third in the National League) and 118 RBI (tops in the circuit). The 12-time All-Star also led the loop with 333 total bases and came in fourth with a .558 slugging average that year.
Bruce Sutter Wins 1979 National League Cy Young Award
In 1979, Bruce Sutter saved 37 games for the fifth-place Cubs and won his second consecutive All-Star Game, as he mastered what some considered at the time to be a spitter or a trick pitch. His efforts earned him the 1979 National League Cy Young Award. Sutter took the Cubs to arbitration that year, winning a $700,000 salary -- a staggering amount for that era.
Joe Niekro Wins 21 Games
Despite being viewed as the lesser of the two knuckleballing brothers, Joe Niekro fashioned a career year in 1979, winning 21 games to tie brother Phil Niekro for the lead in the National League. Unlike his older sibling, however, the Astro hurler lost just 11 games to yield a .656 winning percentage (second in the loop).
Baylor Named 1979 American League MVP
Don Baylor enjoyed his greatest season, winning the 1979 American League Most Valuable Player Award while leading the Angels to a West Division title. Batting .296 and smacking 36 homers that season, Groove headed the loop with 139 RBI and 120 runs scored.
Kent Tekulve Saves Pirates
Following an eight-year apprenticeship in the minors, Kent Tekulve emerged in the mid-1970s as the bullpen stopper for the Pirates. In 1979, the stork-like righty saved 31 games and set a World Series record by protecting the lead in games two, six, and seven of the fall classic.
Willie Stargell Shines on Defense during 1979 World Series
Although his bat did most of his talking during his career, Willie Stargell was a better than average fielder who won more than a few of the stars on his cap for outstanding defensive play.
Lou Brock Hangs Up Spikes
Lou Brock topped off his 19-year career with a .304 average and 21 stolen bases in 1979. While becoming the career leader in swipes (938), Brock stole 50 or more cushions for a record 12 consecutive seasons. At the plate and on the bases, he usually won the psychological battle against the pitcher.
Mike Flanagan Wins 1979 American League Cy Young Award
Following in the footsteps of Mike Cuellar and Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan in 1979 became the third Oriole pitcher to win the American League Cy Young Award. The lefty's 23-9 record led the loop and his five shutouts tied for first place that season. Traveling to the World Title in 1979, Flanagan won one game in both the Championship Series and the 1979 World Series.
Phil Garner Heats Up in 1979 World Series
Phil "Scrap Iron" Garner posted a solid regular season in 1979, batting .293 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. It was in postseason action, however, that Garner hit full stride. He batted .417 in the National League Championship Series, finishing second on the Pirates. He went all out in the 1979 World Series, leading the team with a .500 batting average.
Find highlights from the 1979 baseball season on the next page.
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1979 Baseball Season Highlights
Willie Stargell was the star of the 1979 baseball season, batting .400 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and leading his team to World Series victory. This season was also marked by the tragic death of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. Below, you will find the highlights from the 1979 baseball season:
- Orioles return to the top in the American League.
- Pirates win in the National League to set up a repeat of exciting 1971 World Series.
- Angels succumb to Orioles in four games in the American League Championship Series after winning their first division crown.
- The Pirates sweep the Reds in National League Championship Series.
- Pirates snatch 1979 World Series after trailing three games to one -- this is the second time in franchise history they've pulled off this feat.
- Willie Stargell is the World Series hitting star for Pittsburgh with .400 batting average, three homers, and seven runs batted in.
- Pirates keystone combo of Phil Garner and Tim Foli combine for 22 hits and ten runs scored in Series; Garner bats .500 in the affair.
- Stargell, age 39, becomes oldest MVP in history, as he and Cardinal Keith Hernandez finish in flat tie for the National League award.
- Angel Don Baylor wins the 1979 American League MVP after leading the major league in runs (120), RBI (139), and runs produced (223).
- Boston's Fred Lynn wins the American League bat crown (.333), and also leads in SA (.637).
- Baltimore's Mike Flanagan leads the major league in wins with 23, and cops the 1979 American League Cy Young Award.
- Cubs reliever Bruce Sutter wins the 1979 National League Cy Young Award, as he tops the majors with 37 saves.
- After 1979 season, Astros sign free agent Nolan Ryan for estimated $1 million.
- Cub Dave Kingman tops the major league in homers (48) and the National League in SA (.613).
- San Diego's Dave Winfield tops National League in RBI (118) and total bases (333).
- Yankees star Thurman Munson dies in plane crash on August 2.
- Phillie Larry Bowa sets a major league record for shortstops with .991 FA.
- Pete Rose gets 200 or more hits for record tenth time in career.
- Billy Martin takes over from Bob Lemon as Yankees skipper 64 games into season, only to be fired again after season.
- National League wins the 1979 All-Star Game 7-6 at Seattle.
- Rick Sutcliffe of the Dodgers wins 1979 National League Rookie of the Year.
- John Castino of Minnesota is named 1979 American League Rookie of the Year.
- Lou Brock gets his 3,000th hit.
- Brock retires with a major league record for career stolen bases (938).
- Carl Yastrzemski collects his 3,000th career hit.
- Phillie Del Unser homers in three consecutive pinch-hit plate appearances.
- Cardinal Garry Templeton is first switch-hitter to get 100 hits from each side of the plate in a season.
- The Astros are last team in the majors to hit more triples (52) than home runs (49).
- On May 31, Detroit's Pat Underwood makes his major league debut against brother Tom of Toronto; Pat beats Tom 1-0.
- Ken Forsch of Astros no-hits Atlanta on April 7.
- Hernandez tops the National League in batting (.344), doubles (48), runs (116), runs produced (210), and OBP (.421).
- Phil Niekro of Atlanta and his brother Joe of Houston tie for the National League lead in wins (21).
- Phil Niekro both wins and loses 20 games as he goes 21-20.
- Phil Niekro makes 44 starts, most by any National League pitcher in a season since 1917.
See the next page for more highlights of the 1979 baseball season.
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More 1979 Baseball Season Highlights
Below are more highlights from the 1979 baseball season, including George Brett's record-breaking year and an umpire strike:
- Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas leads the American League with 45 homers; he also has 123 RBI.
- Houston's J.R. Richard leads the major league in Ks (313) and ERA (2.71).
- The Hall of Fame inducts Willie Mays, Warren Giles, and Hack Wilson.
- Ranger Buddy Bell wins first of six consecutive Gold Gloves given to an American League third basemen.
- KC's Willie Wilson leads the American League in steals with 83.
- Omar Moreno tops the National League with 77 swipes.
- Phillie Bob Boone, after ending Johnny Bench's skein of ten straight Gold Gloves in 1978, wins second Gold Glove as a National League catcher.
- Garry Templeton leads the National League with 211 hits.
- Oakland's Matt Keough loses 14 straight games and finishes the season at 2-17.
- Joe Niekro sets an Astros record when he wins nine consecutive games.
- Detroit sends Ron LeFlore to Montreal for Dan Schatzeder.
- Twins send Rod Carew to the Angels for four players.
- Dodgers play a major league record 11 straight errorless games in May.
- Atlanta's Gene Garber loses a major league record 16 games in relief.
- Rob Picciolo of the A's has just three walks in 348 at-bats.
- KC's Darrell Porter tops the American League with 121 walks and sets loop record for most walks by a catcher.
- Porter becomes the first catcher since Mickey Cochrane in 1933 to top the American League in OBP (.429).
- Rangers play an American League record 135 night games.
- An umpire strike on March 7 forces teams to use sandlot and semipro umps in spring training games.
- Walter O'Malley dies.
- The average player's salary shoots up to $113,500, as salaries approach $1 million for the first time.
- Buddy Bell is first in American League history to make 200 or more hits and not hit .300.
- George Brett becomes second player in American League history to collect 20 or more homers, doubles, and triples in a season.
- Brett tops the majors with exactly 20 three-baggers.
- Brett paces major league with 212 hits, is second in the American League in batting (.329).
- Templeton leads the National League with 19 triples -- first time since 1931 that both leaders have amassed that many.
- Mike Schmidt tops the National League in walks (120) and is second in homers (45).
- Chicago's Chet Lemon and Brewer Cecil Cooper tie for the American League lead in doubles with 44.
- Phil Niekro tops the National League in innings (342) and CGs (23).
- Phil's brother Joe ties with Tom Seaver and Montreal's Steve Rogers for loop-lead in shutouts with five.
- Seaver leads the National League in win pct. (.727).
- Milwaukee's Mike Caldwell is American League win pct. leader (.727).
- Ron Guidry tops the American League in ERA (2.78).
- Mike Marshall of the Twins leads the American League with 32 saves.
- Dennis Martinez of the O's paces the American League with 18 CGs and 292 innings.
- Nolan Ryan leads the American League with 223 Ks in his last season with California.
- Tommy John wins 21 for Yankees, and is second in the American League in wins, ERA (2.97), innings (276), and CGs (17).
- Jim Rice tops the American League in total bases (369) and is second in homers (39), hits (201), RBI (130), and runs produced (208).
- Oakland tumbles into the American League West cellar again with a 54-108 record.
- Toronto loses 109 games -- the most in the American League on a 162-game schedule.