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World Series Rings Abound at Pirates’ Hall of Fame Ceremony

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Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH – Being a Pittsburgh Pirates’ fan has been a trying experience over the last three decades.

The Pirates haven’t won a division title since 1992. They haven’t been to the World Series since 1979 when they beat the Baltimore Orioles, a triumph that still stands as the last time the Pirates won a postseason series.

Then there was the nightmarish streak of 20 straight losing seasons from 1993-2012, which remains the record for major North American professional team sports.

So, it was a nice touch that Kent Tekulve made it a point to put the spotlight on the fans Saturday during the Pirates’ Hall of Fame induction ceremony at PNC Park. Tekulve, the Pirates’ all-time saves leader, was one of four inductees along with three heroes of the 1960 World Series championship team – Elroy Face, Bob Friend and Dick Groat.

“What was really amazing and makes Pittsburgh so much different from other places is the day we weren’t able to play anymore. In a whole lot of places, the day you can’t play anymore, you’re forgotten by the fans because you can’t help the team win a game,” Tekulve said. “Pittsburgh is just the opposite. Pirates’ fans honor us. They remember us. They treat us as if we’re royalty. That really is not usual.”

The four inductees gave the fans plenty of reasons to celebrate.

Tekulve played the first 12 seasons of his career with the Pirates from 1974-85. and got the final out of the 1979 World Series. He is the franchise’s all-time leader with 158 saves and holds the National League career record for innings pitched by a reliever with 1,436 2/3.

Face still holds the Pirates career record with 802 games pitched even though his 16-year career ended in 1969. His 96 lifetime wins in relief is the NL record and his 18-1 record in 1959 remains the major league single-season record for wins by a reliever.

Friend holds the Pirates’ career records for starts (477), innings pitched (3,481) and strikeouts (1,682). He pitched for the Pirates from 1951-65 and died in 2019.

In 1960, Groat was voted the NL MVP while winning the batting title with a .325 average. He was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates after graduating from Duke University as its all-time leading scorer in basketball.

Tekulve’s time with the Pirates did not overlap with that of Friend, Face and Groat, but was around them plenty of times during team alumni events.

“I’m very proud, after I got to know them, that they all played the game with the same thoughts that I did,” Tekulve said. “That was every day when you walked into the clubhouse, when you pulled on your jersey, you looked down, and it said ‘Pirates’ across the front. For that day, what the Pirates meant was, ‘How much can I do to help the other 24 guys.’”

Friend and Groat were honored posthumously.

“My dad, to this day, is the best man I’ve ever met, and it’s not even close,” said Friend’s son, Bob Jr., “He was just such a wonderful guy, he was very, very humble. He never looked for the spotlight, never searched for the spotlight. But any accolades that he received, he received them with humility, and he was very gracious. He would probably be surprised of all the attention he’s garnering.”

Groat died on April 27, nine days after learning he was part of this year’s Hall of Fame class.

In 1960, Groat was voted the NL MVP while winning the batting title with a .325 average. He was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates after graduating from Duke University as its all-time leading scorer in basketball.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Allison DeStefano, Groat’s daughter. We’re so proud and so happy about everything. He would have just been so honored to be here today with his teammates.”

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

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