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On This Date in Sports October 17, 1979: We Are Family

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-1 in Game 7 of the World Series, winning their fifth World Championship. It was the second time that the Pirates won a seventh game at Memorial Stadium in the decade, as they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Leading the way for the “The Family” was Willie Stargell, who was named World Series MVP going 4-for-5 with a two-run home run.

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With the Sister Sledge Disco Anthem “We Are Family” driving as their theme song, the Pittsburgh Pirates closed out a successful decade, winning the National League East with a record of 98-64 to beat out the Montreal Expos by two games. It was the sixth divisional title for the Pirates since 1970. While the Pirates ruled the Eastern Division in the 70’s they were often frustrated in the NLCS, winning just one of five previous appearances. This included losses at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds in 1970, 1972 and 1975. Led by manager Chuck Tanner, the Pirates would face the Reds again in 1979, this time winning in three straight.

The Pirates would face the Baltimore Orioles as they did in the 1971 World Series, which they won in seven games, winning the finale with Steve Blass on the mound, as Roberto Clemente was named MVP. The Orioles managed by Earl Weaver, won the American League East for the sixth time in 11 seasons, reaching their fourth World Series in that time. Baltimore posted a 102-57 record before beating the California Angeles 3-1 in the ALCS.

The 1979 World Series marked the height of the colorful double-knit uniforms as the Pirates clad in black and yellow, with hats adorned by Stargell Stars took on the orange outfitted Orioles. Mike Flanagan, 1979 Cy Young winner, made the start for the Orioles in Game 1 at Memorial Stadium as the series start was delayed one day by poor weather conditions including snow flurries. Bruce Kinson got the start for Pittsburgh but failed to finish the first inning, as the Orioles scored five runs highlighted by a home run from Doug DeCinces. The Pirates bullpen kept them in the game, as the Pirates comeback fell just shy in a 5-4 loss, with Willie Stargell hit his first Series home run in the eighth inning.

In Game 2, Bert Blyleven started for the Pirates against Jim Palmer. The Pirates got two runs in the second, while Eddie Murray answered with a home run for Baltimore. Murray added a double to even the score in the sixth inning. In the ninth inning, Manny Sanguellen gave a lead to Pittsburgh with a pinch-hit single of Dave Stenhouse. The Pirates would win the 3-2 a perfect inning in relief by Kent Tekulve.

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In Game 3, at Three Rivers Stadium, the Pirates had John Candelaria on the mound, while the Orioles countered with Scott McGregor. With big hits from Dave Parker and Phil Garner, the Pirates jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning. The Orioles began clawing back in the third inning with a two-run home run by Benny Ayala. In the fourth, they took the lead with a bases-loaded triple by Kiko Garcia. The Orioles added two more runs, building a 7-3 lead. Garcia, who went four-for-four, added another RBI single in the seventh, as Baltimore won the game 8-4.

With Dennis Martine and Jim Bibby starting Game 4, the Pirates jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning as Willie Stargell began to the rally with his second home run of the series as Ed Ott added a two-run double, scoring on a single by Omar Moreno. The Orioles answered quickly, scoring three runs in the third on back-to-back doubles by Kiko Garcia and Ken Singleton. The Pirates would get doubles by John Milner and Dave Parker to extend the lead to 6-3. However, in the eighth inning, Don Robinson and Kent Teckluve stumbled out of the bullpen. The Orioles erupted for six runs, winning the game 9-6 as John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley each had two-run doubles while reliever Tim Stoddard and Al Bumbry added RBI singles.

Up 3-1 in the series, the Orioles had a chance to close out a World Championship, with Mike Flanagan on the mound. Jim Rooker got the start for the Pirates, giving up a run in the fifth before being replaced by Blyleven. In the sixth inning, the Pirates rallied to take the lead on RBI from Stargell and Bill Madlock. Pittsburgh added two more runs in the seventh and broke the game open with three in the eighth to win the game 7-1 to keep their hopes of winning the World Series alive.

John Candelaria pitched brilliantly in Game 6, combining with Kent Tekulve to blank Baltimore 4-0 as Jim Palmer took the loss. In the seventh inning, the Pirates took the lead thanks to the bats of Stargell and Parker, while Bill Robinson and Omar Moreno had RBI hits in the eighth.

It was the second time the Pirates and Orioles staged a seventh game at Memorial Stadium. The Pirates had been perfect in World Series Game 7, winning 1909 against the Detroit Tigers, 1925 against the Washington Senators, 1960 against the New York Yankees and 1971 against the Orioles. Jim Bibby started for the Pirates, while Scott McGregor started for Baltimore. The Orioles had an early lead thanks to a home run by Rich Dauer in the third. Grant Jackson would come on in relief, as the Orioles failed to extend the lead. Finally, in the third inning the man they called Pops, Willie Stargell, who was the co-MVP in the National League with Keith Hernandez hit a two-run home run to give the Pirates the lead. Stargell on his way to World Series MVP. Pittsburgh added two more runs in the ninth, winning the game 4-1 as Teckulve got Pat Kelly to fly out to end the game.

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