Doug Drabek was the ace back then, even winning the NL Cy Young award in 1990 with a 22-6 record and a 2.76 ERA. Bob Walk was also a regular starter for years, starting 24 games in 1990, somehow only going 7-5. In the next two seasons, in which the Pirates also won the division, Walk went 9-2 and 10-6. I've posted Walk's rookie card before, as part of my posts about the 1980 Phillies.
John Smiley was another successful starting pitcher with those Bucs, debuting with Pittsburgh in 1986, and staying through the 1991 season before being traded to the Twins. His best year was 1991, in which he went 20-8 with a 3.08 ERA and was an All-Star. He was an All-Star once more in his career, in 1995 with the Reds. Bill Landrum was the Pirates' closer until being replaced by Stan Belinda. I remember Belinda, but I'm sorry to say that I have no memory of Landrum at all.
Andy Van Slyke.
That's it for the pitchers, and we move on to the offensive stars. Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, and Barry Bonds were the outfield for the Pirates in 1990, although Bonilla had just moved there from third base, where he played all season in 1989. In 1990, Bonilla had 32 home runs and 120 RBI, leading the team in RBI but one behind Bonds in homers. Van Slyke was third on the team in both categories, with 17 home runs and 77 RBI. In their years with the Pirates, Bonilla won 3 Silver Sluggers and made the All-Star team 4 times, and Van Slyke earned 5 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers, and made 2 All-Star teams. Although I quit watching baseball after the 1994 strike, I would sometimes watch the World Series, and I was glad to see Bonilla and manager Jim Leyland reunited on the Marlins in 1997 to win it all.
Moving to the infield we have Jose Lind at second and Jay Bell at shortstop. Lind was known for his defense, in 1992 becoming the first Pirate second baseman to win a Gold Glove since Bill Mazeroski. Bell won a Gold Glove in 1993, becoming the first Pirate shortstop to win one since 1967. With their Gold Glove wins, Lind broke Ryne Sandberg's consecutive streak, and Bell broke Ozzie Smith's. Bell was also known for his bunting, oddly enough. Bell also went on to win a World Series that I watched, in 2001 with Arizona. Honestly, though, the only thing that I remember about that 2001 series is the dominant pitching of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
Here we have one more infielder, Wally Backman, late of the 1986 Mets. I have Phillies team-issued cards of him from around the same time period; he was only with the Pirates in 1990 before moving on to Philadelphia. He batted .292 as a backup third baseman with the Bucs. Then, we have catcher Mike "Spanky" LaValliere, who came to Pittsburgh with Van Slyke and Mike Dunne in the deal for Tony Pena. Like many of these guys, LaValliere won a Gold Glove with the Pirates, in his case in 1987. He had some good hitting years, with a .316 average in 1989 and .289 in 1991.
Now we get to the villains of the piece. Sid Bream was a Pirate, until he wasn't. And with the Braves, he cost the Pirates the pennant. You can read about it in Bream's own words; it breaks your heart. And then we have Barry Bonds. I do post the occasional card of Bonds, or magazine cover. But I'm no fan, anymore. Using steroids to break the all-time home run record is a terrible thing to do to baseball.
That's it for this week. Next week, we'll switch divisions and take a look at the Dodgers.