Pirates Home Run Leaders Through the Years

Most Pittsburgh Pirates fans can tell you the team’s all-time home run leader is Willie Stargell with 475. A lot of them could tell you whose record he broke as well, Ralph Kiner with 301. Prior to that is where it gets cloudy. I thought for today, why not go all the way back to the beginning of the franchise and show just how the Pirates to that current record held by Stargell. The Pittsburgh Alleghenys played their first game on May 2,1882 against the Cincinnati Red Stockings. That game was played five years prior to their move to the National League. The first home run in franchise history was hit by George Strief on May 3,1882. Before he could hit another home run, six of his other teammates all hit their first homer. It wasn’t until July 11 did someone hit their second home run when Mike Mansell took over the team lead. He was tied nine days later by Billy Taylor, then almost a month later by Ed Swartwood. Ed would hit his third homer on August 12, then get tied by Chippy Lane on September 12, who he passed two days later. After one season the HR record looked like this(with the first to each mark):

Strief 1
Mansell 2
Swartwood 3
Swartwood 4

It gets easier to follow after that, trust me. Swartwood hit three homers in 1883 and never relinquished his lead so when the season ended he was the all-time leader with seven.

Swartwood remained the team leader through the franchises existence in the American Association. He was finally tied on May 30,1887 by Fred Carroll, who passed him on August 9 that year, hitting his 8th homer with Pittsburgh off Hall of Fame outfielder/catcher Mike King Kelly. Carroll finished the year with 11 homers and the franchises all-time lead.

Carroll last homered for the Pirates on July 30,1891 his 19th homer with the team and it came off of Cy Young. On July 11,1892 Hall of Famer Jake Beckley hit his 20th homer for the Pirates, giving him the team lead. He finished the season with 10 homers, setting a club single season record. In 1894 Jake Stenzel set the team record with 13 homers in a season but Beckley was still the franchise leader with 35 homers.

During the 1896 season the Pirates traded Beckley, leaving his with the team record of 43 home runs. His record stood alone until July 20,1908 when Honus Wagner hit his 43rd off Harry McIntire. It took nearly two months for him to hit his record-breaking home run on September 11,1908. By the time he retired after the 1917 season Wagner, had hit 82 home runs with the Pirates and still held the team record.

Honus held that record for nearly 27 years before he was passed by another all-time great in team history. On May 11,1934 Paul Waner tied Wagner with his 82nd homer in a Pirates uniform, then passed him two days later with a shot off Phillies pitcher Jim Bivin. Waner finished his Pirates career in 1940 with 109 homers.

On September 2,1948, in just his third season in the majors, Ralph Kiner hit his 110th homer for the Pirates. Before he was done he would finish with 301, hitting his last homer for Pittsburgh on May 27,1953. On July 3,1973 Willie Stargell hit a 9th inning pinch hit grand slam of Diego Segui for his 301st home run. Eight days later he set the team record which he still holds till this day and at 475 it is likely safe. It also means the last five all-time home run leaders for the Pirates all went on to the Hall of Fame.

The final rundown if you’re scoring at home:
George Strief hits the first homer in team history
Mike Mansell is first to two.
Ed Swartwood is first to three
Swartwood ends 1882 with the team lead at four and finishes with seven.
Fred Carroll first to eight in 1887 and holds record until 1896 with 20
Jake Beckley breaks the record in 1896 and finishes with 43
Honus Wagner breaks Beckley’s record in 1908 and finished with 82
Paul Waner breaks Wagner’s record in 1934 and finishes with 109
Ralph Kiner breaks Waner’s record in 1948 and finishes with 301
Willie Stargell breaks Kiner’s record in 1973 and hold the record with 475

As mentioned above the single season record was set by Jake Stenzel with 13 but before he got there the records were as follows.
Swartwood hit four in 1882 and was tied by Tom Brown in 1885
Fred Carroll hit five in 1886 then broke that record with six in 1887.
Jake Beckley hit nine in 1888 then ten in 1892
Stenzel hit 13 in 1894
Kiki Cuyler and Glenn Wight each hit 18 homers in 1925 setting the new record
George Grantham tied them in 1930 then was passed by Arky Vaughan with 19 in 1935
Johnny Rizzo hit 23 in 1938 then was tied by Ralph Kiner in 1946
Kiner set the record with 51 in 1947 and topped in 1949 with 54 which is where it stands now

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.
  • http://twitter.com/jlease717 John Lease

    Nicely done!  I’ve always wondered why the Pirates seem to pretend that they weren’t in the American Association first, glad you are pointing out the franchise started then, and those players were the first Pirates, not the 1887 NL squad.

  • JohnDreker

    Very rarely do you see them mention 1882 as the first year of the franchise and I have no idea why. I’ve seen the Reds mention 1882 as their first season, yet by the standards the Pirates use the Reds should say their first year was 1890. I’ve also seen the Reds call themselves the oldest franchise in baseball just because the first pro team was also called the Cincinnati Red(Stockings) when in reality the Braves should have that claim because that 1869-70 Cincinnati team(the owner and 4 players) became the Boston Red Stockings in the National Association and that team led to the Boston Braves(among many other names) in the NL in 1876 which is currently the Atlanta Braves franchise.

    It will be interesting to see if they do anything for the 10,000th win in franchise history or if they actually wait for the 10,000th win since 1887.