Pirates Pitcher Joe Gibbon Shares An Intriguing Tidbit On Teammate Roberto Clemente

Love the expression: “Maz will do WHAT?”

Pitcher Joe Gibbon fascinates me.

He made the common transition of hurlers in the 1960s, from starter to reliever.

Which did he prefer? Gibbon wrote me:

“It didn’t matter, as long as I was pitching.”

I asked about the 1960 World Championship. What does he remember most? From a man who had one of the best seats in the house…

“The Seventh Game. Maz walk-off homer.”

Just when I thought I might be able to read the mind of this former Buc, Gibbon threw me a curve. I asked about teammate Roberto Clemente. What were conversations like with him?

“Nice guy. He could tell some wild stories.”

Wild stories?!? Hmmm…

More Gibbon insights can be found in this sterling SABR biography, written by Thomas Van Hyning.

Coming Thursday: a notorious non-signer writes a feel-good baseball book!

Smile With Pitcher Al "Stretch" Grunwald

Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.

Smile With Pitcher Al “Stretch” Grunwald

Still Looking Up!



 Al Grunwald led two baseball lives.

First, anyone spotting his nickname should be clued in that this was no ordinary pitcher. Grunwald was one of baseball’s good sports. Imagine being in an organization seven years, suddenly being told that you might be of more service at another position.

That’s how a first baseman gets relocated.

Upon reading that, I expected Marlon Brando’s “I Coulda Been a Contendah!” Nope. No moaning about finding work in Japan as a first baseman after the majors gave up on the converted hurler.

Instead, Al Grunwald’s still filled with wonder!

He debuted with the 1955 Pirates. Grunwald recalled one talented young teammate:

“What I recall about Roberto Clemente, he was the greatest ballplayer I ever saw! I never talked to Roberto, but watching him play was remarkable!!!”

A 1955 highlight had to be his 5.1 scoreless innings against St. Louis May 1. Grunwald shared:

“Tom, there is always tense moments in baseball. Pitching against Stan Musial was a great thrill! He hit a line drive single over my head.”

Grunwald’s only career save came as a Kansas City Athletic. He shut down the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Sept. 11, 1959. How did that feel?

“Looking at the left field wall, it felt like you could reach out and touch it. Ha! Ha!”

Grunwald opened and closed his letter thanking me. He wished my family ‘Happy New Year’ and prefaced his autograph with “As Ever.”

I hope more former players like Al Grunwald remain “as ever.” That would make a new year happier for all fans and collectors.

Pirate Tony Bartirome: The Forbes Field Family


Tony Bartirome isn’t the Pirate you might think he is.

I wanted to know about all he experienced as a player and trainer. His short reply contained three surprises.

I wrote to Tony to see beyond the brief bio. Bartirome’s signing by Pittsburgh’s legendary Hall of Famer Pie Traynor and hopeful debut on the opening-day Pittsburgh roster at age 19 for the 1952 Bucs faded fast in a nightmarish year of 112 losses.

The first baseman’s career wasn’t short-circuited by the poor season. Drafted into the Army, his career faced a two-year derailment. After hanging up his glove, Bartirome returned to Pittsburgh again in 1967, beginning a career as head trainer that concluded in 1985. Keeping the ailing Roberto Clemente in the lineup must be one of Bartirome’s enduring accomplishments.

After reading Forbes Field: Essays and Memories of the Pirates’ Historic Ballpark, 1909-1971
I wanted the Bartirome take on the place he played and worked.

Tony’s answers on Forbes Field and more?

“1. I remember the people that worked there. The ushers, ticket takers. They were like our family.

2. Roberto was one of the funniest men and most generous man I ever knew.

3. Two years in the service, never picked up a ball. Got hurt in spring training. Set me back.

Proud to have served -“

Beyond statistics, Tony Bartirome remembers the people. I hope Pirates fans remember him.

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