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Perrotto: What Happened When Pirates Started 5-0 in Other Seasons?



John Candelaria, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 5-0 for the first time since 1983.

This marks the sixth time the Pirates have won the first five games in a season. So, what does history tell us about what happens when the Pirates get off to a hot start?

Let’s look at those five other seasons and how things eventually turned out:


The Pirates rolled to the National League pennant with a 103-36 record, finishing 27.5 games ahead of the second-place Brooklyn Superbas. That was as far as the Pirates would go that season as the World Series wasn’t instituted until one year later.

The Pirates had quite an outfield with Hall of Famers Honus Wagner (before he moved to shortstop), Fred Clarke, and Ginger Beaumont. Beaumont batted .357 with 33 stolen bases, Wagner hit .330 with 42 steals and Clarke had a .316 batting average and 29 stolen bases.

Jack Chesbro was the ace with a record of 28-6, a 2.17 ERA and 31 – 31!!! – complete games. Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill were 20-game winners.


The Pirates won their first seven games on the way to an 86-64-2 record and a second-place finish in the NL, two games behind the Chicago Cubs

The Pirates took a 1.5-game lead into a late-September series at Wrigley Field and got swept in three games. It was the closest the Pirates came to a pennant during a drought from 1927 to 1960.

Hall of Famer shortstop Arky Vaughan hit .322 with an amazing strikeout/walk ratio of 104-21. Johnny Rizzo batted .301 with 23 homers and 101 RBIs.

Reliever Mace Brown led the team in wins while going 15-9. However, Brown gave up Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett’s famed Homer in the Gloamin’ to lose the middle game of the three-game series.


The Pirates set a franchise record by winning their first 10 games. They ended up with a 93-68 record and in fourth place, eight games behind the pennant-winning San Francisco Giants.

Catcher Smoky Burgess hit 13 home runs and had a .328 average in just 103 games. Bob Skinner also had a fine season, finishing at .302 with 20 homers and 75 RBIs.

Bob Friend was the top starting pitcher with an 18-14 record. Bullpen ace Elroy Face had a 1.88 ERA in 63 games and 91 innings.


The Pirates did not win the NL East for just the second time in seven seasons, going 92-70 and finishing second, nine games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Lumber Company boasted a strong outfield. Al Oliver hit .323, Dave Parker hit .313 with 90 RBIs and Richie Zisk homered 21 times and drove in 89 runs.

Four starting pitchers won at least 14 games. John Candelaria led the team in victories while going 16-7.


The Pirates also were runners-up to the Phillies in the division in 1984, finishing six games back with an 84-78 record.

Third baseman Bill Madlock (.323) and catcher Tony Pena (.301) were both .300 hitters and first baseman Jason Thompson hit a team-high 18 home runs. Candelaria and fellow left-hander Larry McWilliams both went 15-8.

While starting 5-0 is nice, it’s resulted in only one first-place finish for the Pirates in five seasons. And that happened 122 years ago.

The fast start to 2024 is impressive but time will tell if it means anything.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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