Nobody knew it at the time, but July 21, 1982 would end up being more significant than they originally thought. It wasn’t the game itself, as neither the Pittsburgh Pirates nor the Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs. It was an event that occurred in the eighth inning that was a milestone when it happened, but turned out to be more by the end of the season.
The Pirates had a 47-43 record, as they took on the Reds, a team that was struggling all season, owning a 34-58 record at the time of this game. It was a Wednesday night at Riverfront Stadium and 16,543 fans showed up to witness a close game, with strong pitching throughout. Two lefties with ERAs over 4.00 were on the mound, with Larry McWilliams taking on Cincinnati’s Bob Shirley. McWilliams was just three weeks into his time with the Pirates. He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves for Pascual Perez on June 30th.
This game started quietly for the Pirates, as Omar Moreno, Lee Lacy and Bill Madlock went down in order in the first. McWilliams allowed a single in the bottom of the first, but he retired the other three batters without issue.
Jason Thompson drew a walk in the second, then was immediately erased on a double play ball off of the bat of Dave Parker. Tony Pena popped out to shortstop for the final out. McWilliams worked around a Paul Householder double, getting a strikeout and two ground outs, to keep the game scoreless through two innings.
The Pirates got the ball rolling in the third inning. After a pop out by Johnny Ray, Dale Berra homered, his seventh of the season. In the bottom of the frame, McWilliams allowed a double to Eddie Milner with two outs, then got Dave Concepcion to ground out to end the inning.
After the Pirates went down in order in the fourth, McWilliams ran into trouble in the bottom of the inning. He gave up another double, this one by Cesar Cedeno. That was followed two batters later by a two-run homer from Paul Householder.
The fifth inning saw a walk by Tony Pena and a single by Eddie Milner, but that was it for each side. McWilliams reached on an infield single in the sixth, then was immediately erased on a double play ball from Omar Moreno. The Reds got a walk and stole base by Cesar Cedeno in the bottom of the sixth, but the score remained 2-1.
Bill Madlock reached on an infield single to start the seventh inning. He stole second base, then moved to third base on a Jason Thompson ground out. After Dave Parker couldn’t bring home Madlock, Tony Pena hit a two-out, game-tying double. Johnny Ray ended the inning with a pop up and sent the contest to the stretch with a tie score.
McWilliams finally retired the side in order in the seventh inning. He got two strikeouts, including Mike Vail, who pinch-hit for Bob Shirley.
Tom Hume came on in the eighth for the Reds and he retired Dale Berra to start the inning. That brought up Willie Stargell to hit for McWilliams. Stargell took a 1-1 pitch and deposited over the right field wall for his third home run of the season, all of them off of the bench.
That gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead and brought on Kent Tekulve, who was all business on this day. No one from either side reached base after Stargell’s homer. Hume set down the final five batters, while Tekulve retired all six batters he faced, holding on to that one-run lead for his 15th save of the season.
The homer from Stargell was significant on that day because it was the 475th of his career, tying him for 14th place all-time on the home run list with Stan Musial. It became more significant once the year ended and he didn’t hit another homer. It seemed fitting that he finished tied with Musial, as both players spent their entire career with one NL team. Stargell’s 474th home run also came against Hume.
The July 21st homer tied a Pirates record for pinch-hit homers in a season. One of the people who held that record was Bob Skinner, who was the batting coach of the Pirates at the time. He was asked about it after the game and noted that Stargell tied the season record in half of a season. He also predicted that Stargell would break the record, saying “He has more in his bag”. That didn’t come true obviously, but Stargell only batted 35 more times the rest of the season. This home run also resulted in the final run of his career. He scored 1,194 runs, which ranks fifth in team history.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference.