Culturally, the Pittsburgh Pirates might be best known for their iconic black-and-gold jerseys, eye-patched mascot, or the fact that starting pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while on LSD in 1970. That’s a true story. Look it up.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' all-time best players are right there with any other MLB team’s top 10 team list, except perhaps the New York Yankees. Without revealing too much of the list in advance, players such as Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, and, of course, Roberto Clemente, were some of the most famous one-club men in MLB history.

Pittsburgh Pirates Roster History

All of the Pirates' nine National League pennants came prior to 1980. In fact, the club has not won a division title since 1992.

While the Pirates roster is not particularly strong in 2023, the fightin’ Buccos find themselves in second place in the NL Central as of this writing. Buoyed by surprise ace Mitch Keller and a resurgent season from legendary outfielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates just might find themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Hall of Famers

A total of 42 managers, players, and executives associated with the Pittsburgh Pirates are members of the Hall of Fame.

The first to go in was shortstop Honus Wagner, who was part of the Hall’s inaugural class in 1936. The most recent Hall of Famer with Pirates ties is former owner Barney Dreyfuss, who oversaw the team from 1900-1932. He was elected to the Hall in 2008.

Famous Pittsburgh Pirates Players

There are a big three of one-club-men who have accumulated some of the greatest Pirates stats of anyone in history: shortstop Honus Wagner (although he briefly played for the now-defunct Louisville Colonels), outfielder Willie Stargell, and outfielder Roberto Clemente.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Pirates Players of All Time

  1. Dave Parker

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 1973 to 1983
Career Stats with Pirates: 1,301 games, .305/.353/.494, 166 HRs, 758 RBIs, 123 SBs, 33 bWAR
Honors and Awards: World Series Championship (1979), National League MVP (1978), All-Star Game (1977, 1979, 1980, 1981), NL Batting Champion (1977, 1978), Gold Glove Award (1977, 1978, 1979)

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a graduate of the same high school as Pete Rose, Pirates outfielder Dave Parker was incredible at the peak of his baseball career. He won the National League MVP Award in 1978 and the World Series in 1979. He also made what was probably the greatest play in All-Star Game history when he gunned down California Angels outfielder Brian Downing at the plate.

With his performance in the early 1980s beginning to tail off, Parker was traded to his hometown Cincinnati Reds before the 1984 season and became an All-Star again.

  1. Bob Friend

Position: Pitcher
Years with Pirates: 1951 to 1965
Career Stats with Pirates: 568 games, 3,480.1 IP, 191-218 record, 3.55 ERA, 1,682 Ks, 47.6 bWAR
Honors and Awards: World Series Championship (1960), All-Star Game (1956, 1958, 1960, 1960), NL ERA leader (1955)

Bob Friend came to Pittsburgh from Lafayette, Ind., and went on to set multiple Pirates pitching records, including career strikeouts. He was certainly one of the best Pirates pitchers in franchise history.

He finished fourth in the National League in bWAR for pitchers in 1960 as the Pirates reached the World Series against the Yankees, ultimately winning in seven games.

  1. Ralph Kiner

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 1946 to 1953
Career Stats with Pirates: 1,472 games, .280/.405/.567, 301 HRs, 801 RBIs, 43.3 bWAR
Honors and Awards: All-Star Game (1948, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1952), National League Home-Run Leader (1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952), Baseball Hall of Fame (1975)

Ralph Kiner, a slugging outfielder from Santa Rita, N.M., might have had the greatest peak years in Pittsburgh Pirates history. From 1947 to 1951, Kiner averaged a stunning 7.1 bWAR and consistently finished around the top five in National League MVP voting.

While the team finished over .500 only once during his tenure, that wasn’t Kiner’s fault. He led the NL in Home Runs for an astonishing SEVEN straight seasons. With the team again out of contention in 1953, Kiner was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

  1. Arky Vaughn

Position: Shortstop
Years with Pirates: 1932 to 1941
Career Stats with Pirates: 1,411 games, .324/.415/.472, 84 HRs, 764 RBIs, 75 SBs, 67.5 bWAR
Honors and Awards: All-Star Game (1934, 1935, 1946, 1957, 1948, 1939, 1940, 1941), NL Batting Champion (1925), Baseball Hall of Fame (1985)

Although he never played in the World Series, Arky Vaughn, a native of Clifty, Ark., was one of the most consistent players in MLB history. He made nine straight All-Star Games (eight with the Pirates and one with the Brooklyn Dodgers) from 1934 to 1942.

The sweet-fielding shortstop hit over .300 each season he played in Pittsburgh and his 67.5 bWAR, ranks fourth in Pirates franchise history, trailing only some of the men above him on this list.

  1. Barry Bonds

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 1986 to 1992
Career Stats with Pirates: 1,010 games, .275/.389/.503, 176 HRs, 556 RBIS, 50.3 bWAR
Honors and Awards: National League MVP (1990, 1992), All-Star Game (1990, 1992), Gold Glove Award (1990, 1991, 1992), Silver Slugger Award (1990, 1991, 1992)

In an era where nothing was going right for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a kid from Riverside, Calif., restored the franchise to glory.

Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds joined the team in the midst of the 1985 Pittsburgh Cocaine Trials, and he immediately rejuvenated a moribund Pirates starting lineup. After a decade of falling out of contention, the Bucs were back in the playoffs in 1990. By 1992, Bonds was swatting 42 HRs and swiping 29 bases in the same season while putting up a staggering (and league-leading) OPS of 1.080 and capturing his second NL MVP Award.

After the Atlanta Braves walked off the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, Bonds jumped ship to the San Francisco Giants for a mammoth six-year, $43.75 million contract.

  1. Andrew McCutchen

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 2009 to 2017 and 2023
Career Stats with Pirates (as of June 4, 2023): 1,397 games, .290/.379/.486, 211 HRs, 746 RBIs, 178 SBs, 41.5 bWAR
Honors and Awards: National League MVP (2013), All-Star Game (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), Gold Glove Award (2012), Silver Slugger Award (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

Born in Fort Meade, Fla., Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen triumphantly returned to Pittsburgh this past offseason, coming back to the city he called home from 2009 to 2017.

During his first stint in Pittsburgh, McCutchen played a key role in snapping the Pirates’ ignominious 20-season postseason absence in 2013. That year, he captured NL MVP honors by posting a 7.8 bWAR, playing fantastic defense in the outfield, registering a .911 OPS, smashing 21 HRs, and stealing 27 bases.

All these years later, McCutchen is again one of the Pirates’ best players in 2023 -- hitting in the middle of a lineup that finds itself over .500 in June after finishing the 2022 MLB season with a .383 winning percentage.

  1. Paul Waner

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 1926 to 1940
Career Stats with Pirates: 2,154 games, .340/.407/.490, 109 HRs, 1,177 RBIs, 100 SBs, 70.2 bWAR
Honors and Awards: National League MVP (1927), All-Star Game (1933, 1934, 1935, 1937), NL Batting Champion (1927, 1934, 1936), Baseball Hall of Fame (1952)

A native of Harrah in the Oklahoma territory (born before Oklahoma became a state), Paul “Big Poison” Waner teamed up with his brother Lloyd “Little Poison” Waner on some fearsome Pittsburgh starting lineups of the early 1930s.

Waner hit a stunning .380 at age 24 during the 1927 season that ended with the Pirates losing the World Series to the Murderers Row New York Yankees. He hit over .300 each year he played in Pittsburgh and finished his Pirates career with an astonishing .340 career batting average over 15 years. His 70.2 career bWAR is the third highest in franchise history.

  1. Willie Stargell

Position: Outfield/First base
Years with Pirates: 1962 to 1982
Career Stats with Pirates: 2,360 games, .282/.360/.529, 475 HRs, 1,540 RBIs, 17 SBs, 57.6 bWAR
Honors and Awards: National League co-MVP (1979), All-Star Game (1964, 1965, 1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1978), World Series Championship (1971, 1979), World Series MVP (1979), NL Home Run Leader (1971, 1973), Baseball Hall of Fame (1988)

The Earlsboro, Okla.-born Willie Stargell can make the case (along with the two men ranked ahead of him on this list) for being “Mr. Pirate” as the greatest Pirates player of all time. A one-club man, the bombastic Stargell made Pittsburgh his own during a 21-year MLB career.

At the age of 39 in 1979, Stargell became the first and only MLB player to win NLCS, World Series, and league MVP awards in the same season. He hit a late-inning home run in Game 7 of the World Series to give the Pirates the title, which was his second and also marked the second time he led a team that came back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series (beating Baltimore both times).

Stargell’s 475 career home runs and 1,540 career RBIs are both Pittsburgh Pirates records.

  1. Honus Wagner

Position: Shortstop
Years with Pirates: 1900 to 1917
Career Stats with Pirates: 2,433 games, .328.391/.467, 82 HRs, 1,474 RBIs, 639 SBs, 120.3 bWAR
Honors and Awards: World Series Championship (1909), NL Batting Champion (1900, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1911), Baseball Hall of Fame Inaugural Class (1936)

Look at just about any list of the top 10 baseball players of all time and the Carnegie, Pa.-born Honus Wagner will be there. His 3,430 career hits are the seventh-most all-time, and his 723 stolen bases are 10th. The legendary shortstop did most of his damage in Pittsburgh.

Nicknamed “the Flying Dutchman,” Wagner won a staggering eight NL batting titles and was one of the first five men elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving the second highest-tally of votes to tie Babe Ruth and trail only Ty Cobb.

Wagner's 131.0 career bWAR ranks 10th all-time among MLB players.

  1. Roberto Clemente

Position: Outfield
Years with Pirates: 1955 to 1972
Career Stats with Pirates: 2,433 games, .317/.357/.475, 240 HRs, 1,305 RBIs, 83 SBs, 94.8 bWAR
Honors and Awards: World Series Championship (1960, 1971), National League MVP (1966), All-Star Game (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972), Gold Glove Award (1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972), NL Batting Champion (1961, 1964, 1965, 1967), Baseball Hall of Fame (1973)

Roberto Clemente, born in Barrio San Anton, Carolina, Puerto Rico, is the greatest Pittsburgh Pirates player of all time. While his stats rival numbers posted by Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell, his impact on the sport and the Pirates organization was unrivaled.

Before tragically losing his life in a plane crash after the 1972 season, Clemente racked up 3,000 hits and two World Series titles. The outfielder was the first Latin American player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and was also a renowned humanitarian.

“If you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.”

Parameters of Rankings

Four factors were considered in compiling this list of the top 10 greatest players in Pirates history. Those factors were individual stats with the Pirates, postseason success, the player’s Pirates legacy, and the player’s overall impact on the game of baseball.

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