Sunday, February 18, 2018

Steve Blass (#562)

Steve Blass was the Pirates' ace from 1968 to 1972. This is his high-numbered 1967 card.  Oddly enough, there are FOUR Pirates among the 47 cards that follow Blass' card in the 1967 set.

After winning 19 games in '72 and finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting, Blass seemingly forgot how to pitch in 1973. That year, he led the NL with 12 hit batters (IN ONLY 88 INNINGS!), while compiling a 3-9 record and a 9.85 ERA. After pitching 5 innings in April 1974, his career was over.

Blass was signed by the Pirates in 1960, and pitched in the minors from 1960-63. He made his major-league debut in May 1964, and pitched 24 games as a starter and reliever in his rookie season.

He returned to the minors for all of 1965, making 25 starts for AAA Columbus.

Blass returned to the Pirates in 1966, joining a rotation led by Bob Veale that also included rookie Woodie Fryman, Tommie Sisk, and long-time Pirate Vern Law. After 1967, Law retired and Fryman was traded to the Phillies, leaving Veale and Blass as the Bucs’ top 2 starters.

Blass became a full-time starter in 1968, winning 18 games and leading the NL with a .750 winning percentage. He followed that up with 16 wins in 1969. By now Dock Ellis had joined the squad, supporting Blass and Veale.

Steve won 15 games in 1971 and 19 in 1972, and pitched in 6 games in the ’71 and ’72 post-seasons, including 2 complete game wins in the ’71 World Series. During his 5 prime seasons with the Pirates (’68-’72) he struck out 652 while walking 368 – a 1.77 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

In 1973, Blass came down with what became known as “Steve Blass disease” – an inability to find the plate. In 1973 he pitched 88 innings in 23 games, only striking out 27 while walking 84 (the same number he walked in 249 innings the previous season). His strikeout-to-walk ratio in 1973 was 0.32. His ERA also ballooned to 9.85.

After pitching just 1 game in April 1974, Blass spent the remainder of the season in the minors, trying to find his control. It never returned and he was released in January 1975.

Blass has been broadcasting Pirates’ games since the 1980s.

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