Pittsburgh Pirates: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
12 of 31
Pittsburgh Pirates
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

player. 4. . P. 1974-85. Kent Tekulve. 20

Relief pitcher Kent Tekulve spent parts of 12 seasons with the Pirates. In a time when relievers were still trying to carve out their niche, he was a unique pitcher way ahead of his time.

Tekulve led the league in games three times while with the Pirates. In 1979, he appeared in 94 games and reached 135.1 innings pitched, all as a reliever. It was not uncommon for Tekulve to have years like this. One season prior, he had similar numbers in these categories.

Tekulve was more than a relief pitcher. He was often called upon to close the game. While his season-high in saves is only 31 (done twice) he is listed as second all-time in team history with 158 saves. His 470 games finished may be more notable, as many of those outings likely didn’t provide save opportunities for him.

The one-time All-Star accomplished something more important. In 1978 and 1979, Tekulve finished fifth in the Cy Young vote. He was a multi-inning relief threat for more than half of his team’s games. With a 2.33 and 2.75 ERA in each season respectively, he was a key member of the team’s success.

Tekulve earned three saves in the 1979 World Series. His last came in Game 7 when he tossed a one-two-three inning against the Baltimore Orioles to take the series.

As of 2019, he was the last man to throw a pitch in a Pirates’ World Series game. There aren’t too many other relievers in franchise history they would want on the mound closing out the game than Tekulve.