Earlier today we posted a bio for former Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers Steve Nagy and Bob Kuzava. Sadly, both players have passed on, but at one point they were both among the oldest living former Pirates. We posted an article about that on Pirates Prospects at least 7-8 years ago. I thought I’d update that list now to pay respect to the elder statesmen in the former Pittsburgh Pirates circle. So here are the current ten oldest living former Pirates players, along with some quick details about each player.
Eddie Basinski, turned 98 years old back on November 4th. He’s also the oldest former Brooklyn Dodgers player. He was a 24-year-old second baseman for the 1947 Pirates, getting into 56 games during his only season in Pittsburgh. He’s the lone player remaining for the Pirates who played in the 1940’s, one of nine players from that decade still with us. He’s the third oldest living MLB player before Eddie Robinson and George Elder, who both topped the century mark in the last year.
Bobby Shantz, turned 95 on September 26th. He’s the oldest living member of the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Colt .45’s (Astros) and Chicago Cubs. He also played in the 1940s, but he didn’t play for the Pirates until 1961. He was an eight-time Gold Glove winner, a three-time All-Star and the American League MVP in 1952 when he went 24-7 for the Philadelphia Athletics. He’s the ninth oldest living MLB player.
Bob Oldis, turned 93 on January 5th. The oldest remaining member of the 1960 World Series champs. He was a catcher for the 1960-61 Pirates. He also played for the Washington Senators (1953-55) and Philadelphia Phillies (1962-63)
Felipe Montemayor, turned 93 on February 7th. He the oldest player who spent his entire big league career with the Pirates. He was the first player from Mexico to play for the Pirates, spending the 1953 and 1955 seasons with the team as an outfielder.
Elroy Face, turned 93 on February 20th. Second member of the 1960 world champs on this list, he’s one of the greatest relief pitchers of all-time, back from an era where they were able to pitch more than one inning to close out a game. He’s the Pirates all-time saves leader and games pitched leader. He played for the 1953 and 1955-68 Pirates.
Gail Henley, turned 92 on October 15th. He was a 25-year-old right fielder for the 1954 Pirates, his only season in the majors. He played pro ball from 1948 until 1961.
Hank Foiles, turns 92 on June 10th. Catcher for the 1956-59 Pirates. He was an All-Star during the 1957 season. He was a member of the Pirates in 1960 for one day. He was traded to the Kansas City Athletics after the 1959 season. The Pirates reacquired him in a trade on June 1st, then traded him again the next day. Foiles played 11 years in the majors and has something in common with Montemayor and Face. All three debuted in 1953, didn’t play in the majors in 1954, then returned in 1955.
Frank Thomas, turns 92 on June 11th. The original Big Hurt, he played for the 1951-58 Pirates, seeing time at all four corner spots. He was a three-time All-Star and he received MVP votes during five of his seasons in Pittsburgh. His trade to the Cincinnati Reds in 1959 brought in three important pieces for the 1960 season, Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak.
Vern Law, turned 91 on March 12th. The Deacon won 162 games for Pirates during his 16-year career, all spent in Pittsburgh. He is one of two Cy Young winners in franchise history, winning the award during the magical 1960 season when he won 20 games for the only time in his career. He played for the 1950-51 Pirates, missed 1952-53 doing military service, then returned for the 1954-67 seasons.
Roman Mejias, turned 90 on August 9th. Cuban-born player who was with the Pirates in 1955, then again from 1957-61. He was a small part of the 1960 champs, but a part of the team nonetheless. He played three games off the bench in early May of that season. He was also an original member of the Houston Colt .45’s and he played for the Boston Red Sox.
Those are the top ten, but I decided to throw in the others who have reached their 90th birthdays, including a very recent one.
Dick Hall, turned 90 on September 27th
Dick Groat, turned 90 on November 4th
Johnny O’Brien, turned 90 on December 11th
Jim Marshall, turned 90 on May 25th