While surfing the Internet looking for interesting material I found a site entitled "Pirate Near Greats," a feature of "Glenn's (Gearhart) Pirates Page." This site supplied a veritable treasure of information and even additional sites where info on players who played for the Pirates, during their illustrious history, can be found.
There were fifty players listed under the guise of "near greats." The most stringent prerequisite for making the list was they be starters and key players, but not in, or potentially being in the Hall of Fame.
Heading this list was shortstop Gene Alley, recently featured on here, in the top spot. Following old #14 is another Pirate shortstop Jay Bell, remembered for his steady defense, and his selfless attitude, in being willing and quite able, to move runners along with bunts.
The Pirates great defensive catcher, George Gibson is number nine on the list.The all time leader in wins for the club; Wilbur Cooper appears on a second list of "other greats." A rather insulting position for such a valuable player, who should be ranked much higher than that.
On down the list in position number 16 is Frank Gustine, a Pirate from 1939-1948.
Gustine was signed with the Pirates as a 16 year old prospect, by former Pirate great, Pie Traynor, who was the manager when he reached the majors at age 19.
Being shifted around the infield, and a chronic double hernia severely slowed his development in the early portion of his major league career. In 1947 he was put back at third base, and he had his best year of his career, playing in 156 games scoring 102 runs, hitting 9 homeruns, driving in 67 and hitting .297. He played in the first of three All Star Games that season.
Gustine pinch hit in the 1946 and 48 games, was the NL starter at third in 1947.
Gustine did very well in business after leaving baseball. He was in Iowa for the first voyage of "the President" a casino boat owned by his partner John E. Connolly. The two shared ownership of the Sheraton Inn located on Station Square in Pittsburgh, as well as other ventures. He was 71 years old.
1261 Games 4582 At Bats 553 Runs 1214 Hits 222 Doubles 47 Triples 38 Home Runs
480 RBI 60 SB 369BB/427SO 125GIDP 15HBP 71SH
.265 Career Batting Average
Gustine hit 38 home runs off 22 pitchers; 3 off Larry Jenson, 2 off Dave Koslo, Bill VOISELLE, vern Bickford, Hank Borowy. 1 off Monty Kennedy, Bucky Walters, Al Brazle, Harry Feldman, Ed Heusser, Ray Post, Bill Lee, Jim Hearn, Clyde Shoun, Paul Erickson, Schoolboy Rowe, Ewell Blackwell, Bill Werle Harry Gumbert, Monk Dubiel, Johnny Vander Meer, Robin Roberts, Buddy Lively, joe Hatten, Clint Hartung, Hal Schumacher, Hooks Iott,and George Barnicle.
Sources; Glenn's Pirate Page
The Baseball Encyclopedia, 1995 Record and Information Guide
The Bill Mazeroski Story by John T. Bird
Baseball-Reference.com...Frankie Gustine Statistics and History & Frankie Gustine Career Home Runs
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
New York Times...Obituaries April 4, 1991.
Thank you for that intriguing story. You are quite laudatory.
In Pittsburgh, we have a very well known riverboat fleet that has been a part of our city for as long as I can remember. John Connolly owned the fleet which is stationed at Station Square. It is called the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Here is a link:
I could ramble on about it, but some other time.
Gustine also owned a bar in Oakland called 'Gustine's'. I've heard so many stories about the place. Again some other time.
Please keep up the good work. I look forward it tremendously!
BEAT 'EM BUCS
It's been a lot of fun. I have enjoyed researching the Pirates history and the reaction has been more positive than I ever thought it would.
What you added was news to me and really added interesting and vital information to the post. Thanks very much.
I enjoyed the info on Gustine. My old age memory twends to meld the years together, but I think Pete Castiglone followed Gustine as the Pirate third baseman. It was about the time that I began to follow the Pirates as a youngster.
Yes Pete Castiglione, who recently passed away (April 22, 2010 in Pompano Beach, FL), became a regular in 1949. He is listed as the starter in 1949, but in 1950 Nanny Hernandez played more at third than Castiglione, and Danny Murtuagh played more at second.
However Castiglione, played in 132 games combined at third, second, and shortstop, the most games he played in his career. he was the most used third baseman in 1951 and 52.
Others who played third for the Pirates in those days were Bob Dillinger, (probably not related to John?), Wally Westlake, D.ck Smith, (probably not related to John Dillinger either.), and Sonny Senerchia, (Definitely not related to either Dillinger.)
Wally Westlake became my childhood idol (because he had the same first name as I did) when he played for the Oakland Oaks in the PCL in the late 1940's. When the Pirates purchased him, I became a Pirate fan.
He played mostly center field, with Ralph Kiner in left field. They were about the only good players on those teams.
He lives in Sacramento, Ca., about 100 miles from me. I used to call him about once a year, just to chat about his experiences with the Bucs. Don't call him anymore, as with all of us in the later years of our lives, he is battling aging health problems.
I got a good laugh about how he explained having to have two hip replacements. He said that he would tell some of the former Pirate pitchers with whom he played that the hip replacements were a direct result of having to run down all the pitcher's mistakes that were hit over his head in center field.
That's a great story. Maybe you should give him a call and just say hello and that you were thinking of him. It might make his day.
As I get older, any connection to my youth is a tonic, and hearing from an old friend is one of the best.