'79 Bucs last road team to win World Series Game 7

Pirates rallied for three straight victories over Orioles to claim championship

'79 Bucs last road team to win World Series Game 7

On Oct. 13, 1979, the Pirates' season-long theme was getting a rude rewrite, to "We Are A (Dysfunctional) Family." The Bucs were six outs from knotting the World Series at two games apiece when the Orioles rallied in the eighth for six runs, a 9-6 victory and a 3-games-to-1 Fall Classic lead.

"I was throwing high sinkers. They don't work so well," recalled Kent Tekulve, the submarine-throwing closer whose implosion had seemingly doomed the Bucs.

Not only were the Pirates' backs against the proverbial wall, but even if they survived the next game in Three Rivers Stadium, the next two would be played in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium -- where the Birds had won 55 regular-season games and were already 3-1 in the postseason.

  Date     Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 21     SF 7, KC 1 video
Gm 2 Oct. 22     KC 7, SF 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 24     KC 3, SF 2 video
Gm 4 Oct. 25     SF 11, KC 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 26     SF 5, KC 0 video
Gm 6 Oct. 28     KC 10, SF 0 video
Gm 7 Oct. 29     SF 3, KC 2 video

Detoured from demise, the Bucs instead became legend. They made history by winning the last three, claiming the World Series title with a 4-1 triumph in Game 7.

As it has turned out, the Pirates made ancient history: Those Bucs are the last team to win a World Series Game 7 on the road. Since, nine others have tried and come up empty. Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch) at Kauffman Stadium, the Giants will try to avoid making it 0-for-10.

Members of those '79 Pirates reached Tuesday night by MLB.com were stunned to learn they were the last to pull off a Game 7 road win.

"I didn't realize that. That is a long time, particularly in baseball," said Phil Garner, the second baseman.

"We were the last to do it? I had no idea," exclaimed right-handed reliever Don Robinson, the first man out of the Pirates' bullpen in relief of starter Jim Bibby in Game 7.

Now a media personality, Tekulve -- who looks forward to resuming his role as a studio analyst on Pirates telecasts following his recovery from heart-transplant surgery -- was aware of the distinction.

Yet, Tekulve pointed out that the road aspect of the Pirates' comeback was not regarded as a feat -- for good reason. In the 14 World Series from 1962 through '75, road teams scored seven Game 7 wins; it was not a rarity.

The Bucs' mindset entering their Game 7 was totally different than the burden facing the Giants, who have been outscored 17-2 in the last two Classic games in Kauffman Stadium.

The DH was not used at all in the 1979 World Series; in that era, DH use alternated with years, not with the home team (it was used in the 1978 Classic and again in '80). Returning Billy Butler to their lineup is a major boost to the Royals.

"The difference in the games is you're playing with the DH. I think that's why Kansas City has the advantage," Garner said. "They're clearly better with the DH than the Giants are with the DH, in my opinion. Butler is a big part of their team."

Butler's RBI double

The Pirates pushed their Series to an ultimate game in the same style as have the Royals. Regard the scouting report on the Bucs filed to the New York Times by Sparky Anderson, the late manager whose Cincinnati Big Red Machine had been swept by Pittsburgh in the NLCS:

"They're aggressive in everything they do: hitting, fielding, pitching, running. They do everything with abandon, because that's the way Chuck Tanner wants it. He's an aggressive manager, a manager who doesn't go by the book. That's why Pittsburgh is such an exciting team."

By the time the Pirates took the field for Game 7, they felt invincible.

"Late in Game 5, we started getting some timely hits, and everything in the Series changed," said Robinson.

"It just seemed like it was going to end well," said Garner.

"By the time we got to Game 7," Tekulve said, "it felt like the Orioles were on their heels. All the pressure shifted to them. It was just a matter of continuing to do what we were doing. We were loose. We felt that all the momentum had switched."

There were two hands on the switch: that of Willie Stargell, and that of Anna Tanner.

Following that 9-6 loss in Game 4, Stargell stepped into the middle of the clubhouse and his baritone voice silenced the room.

"We might not win this thing," the late Hall of Famer said, "but before we go out of here, let's show the whole country at least once how the Pirates really play baseball."

Prior to Game 5, Tanner's mother, Anna, passed away, two weeks after having suffered a stroke. The manager learned of her death upon arriving at Three Rivers Stadium and held a brief team meeting before his team took the field.

"My mother was a great Pirates fan," Tanner told the rapt players. "She knows we're in trouble, so she went upstairs to get some help."

The Bucs were still in trouble going into the bottom of the sixth of that Game 5, trailing 1-0. But from that point until Tekulve retired Pat Kelly with the Series' final pitch, the Pirates outscored the Orioles, 15-1.

"We just kind of thought, it's just our year. It's not over," said Garner, who went 12-for-24 in that Classic. "I don't think there was a guy on our team that thought we were done. I'm sure everybody said that because they didn't want to be thought of as saying, 'I give up.' But I don't think anybody thought we were done."

"It's nice that everyone forgot that Game 4. But the guys weren't too happy with me," Tekulve said, "so I figured I'd better save 6 and 7 to get back in their good graces."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.