“Baseball’s Forgotten Stars”: The Pirates’ Bob Friend

“Baseball’s Forgotten Stars”: The Pirates’ Bob Friend

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Bob Friend and the 1960 World Series Photo Gallery
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 Another Edition of “Baseball’s Forgotten Stars”: The Pirates’ Bob Friend

Sometimes you can’t just look at a player’s stats and expect to capture the entire picture of his career. A lot depends on the team on which he played. The era also must be taken into consideration. That bit of “baseball wisdom” certainly applies to the career of Bob Friend.

Although never considered a Hall-of-Fame candidate, he was for many years the ace of some truly miserable Pirates teams. Unfortunately, he was often the “Number One” on a team with no real “Number Two.”  In 1955, he achieved what was probably the highlight of his career as he became the first pitcher ever to lead the league in earned run average while pitching for a last place team.

A native of Lafayette, Indiana and alum of Purdue University, Bob Friend pitched 16 seasons in the major leagues. The 6-0, 190lb right-hander was the anchor of the Pirates staff from 1951-’65, and then split his final season, 1966, with the Yankees and the Mets. Over his career he went 197-230, with a 3.58 ERA. While his career record doesn’t appear to be very impressive at first glance, when you look deeper, you find that the Pirates went 1066-1285, a full 219 games below .500, during his 15 seasons with the team. Where would they have been without Bob Friend?

The four-time All-Star had numerous career highlights. In addition to leading the league in ERA in 1955 (2.83) when he posted a 14-9 (.609) record, he led the league in Games Started three times, and in Innings Pitches twice. His best season was probably 1958, when he went 22-14 (.611), with a 3.68 ERA in 274 innings, his 22 wins leading the league. He also led the league in shutouts (5) in 1962. The extremely durable workhorse averaged 259 innings pitched during his prime years (1955-’65), and averaged 223 inning pitched each year over his entire 16-year career.

Of course, the Pirates during Bob Friend’s tenure with the team are best remembered for winning the 1960 pennant and then the classic 1960 World Series over the Yankees, highlighted by Bill Mazeroski’s famous walk-off home run to win Game Seven. That year, Friend went 18-12 (.600) with a 3.00 ERA over 275 innings. His 4.07 strikeouts-to-walks ratio that year led the league. In the 1960 World Series, he started two games, going 0-2.

Bob Friend currently resides in Pittsburgh, aged 86. Son Bob Friend Jr. was a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Bob Friend Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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