Roberto Clemente and the 10 Strongest Arms in Pittsburgh Pirates History

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2012

Roberto Clemente and the 10 Strongest Arms in Pittsburgh Pirates History

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    Professional baseball has been in Pittsburgh since 1876. Since then, the Pirates have had their share of legendary teams and players.

    Pirate players like Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner and the Waner brothers were known for their clout at the plate along with their ability to stroke the ball for average.

    Doug Drabek, Bob Friend and Wilbur Cooper were known for their ability to mow opposing batters down on the mound.

    Other players were known for their ability to field their positions, and in this case throw runners out with their rocket arm.

    Here are the 10 strongest arms in Pittsburgh Pirate history:

Jay Bell

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    Jay Bell played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1989 to 1996.

    During that time, Bell established himself as one of the best shortstops in the National League.

    Bell won a Gold Glove in 1993. He was the first Pirate to grab the honor since Gene Alley won back-to-back Gold Gloves in the late-1960s.

    He didn't have great range but Bell made up for it with his mentality and strong arm. Bell understood where he needed to be before the pitch, and had the arm to make up for any mistakes made in positioning.

    Doug Drabek, Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla are the headliners from the Pirates in the early-90s. However, Bell brought smart play and an outstanding arm to the table.

Bob Veale

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    Bob Veale played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1962 to 1972. He was the top Pirates' strikeout pitcher for seven of those illustrious seasons.

    He finished in the top three among strikeout pitchers in the National League three times, and led the league in 1964. Veale's 276 strikeouts in 1965 are still a Pirates' franchise record.

    Veale had a liefetime 7.96 strikeout per nine innings ratio. That's still a Pirate record, and ranks in the top 25 in MLB history.

    Over his career, Veale was known as one of the hardest throwers in the league. He may have led the National League in walks four times, but the fiery southpaw could hurl the ball with the best of them.

Pie Traynor

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    Pie Traynor played his entire career for the Pittsburgh Pirates, from 1920 to 1937.

    Traynor is widely considered one of the best fielding third baseman of his time. He led the National League in fielding percentage once, assists and double plays three times and putouts seven times.

    He was able to do this, in part, because of his excellent arm across the diamond.

    Traynor's 2,289 putouts are ranked fifth all time among third baseman.

    He had a unique career. Traynor became the Pirates' player-manager in 1934 and spent the final three seasons of his career filling that position.

    Whether he was managing or not, Traynor could field his position. His great arm and range allowed him to play the hot corner better than anyone of his time.

Joel Hanrahan

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    Joel Hanrahan joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009.

    In 2010, Hanrahan struck out 100 batters in 69.2 innings. These power numbers grabbed him the closer's role heading into the 2011 season.

    Hanrahan, aka The Hammer, throws consistently in the mid-90s. He can crank it up to triple digits on the radar gun because of his incredibly strong arm and throwing mechanics.

    The Pirates have suffered through abysmal seasons after their 1992 squad made the playoffs, but there is great hope for Hanrahan.

    Hanrahan's rocket arm should save its share of games in the years to come.

Bill Mazeroski

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    Bill Mazeroski donned the Pittsburgh uniform from 1956 to 1972.

    The 1960 World Series is still the only World Series decided by a walk-off home run in Game 7. Mazeroski's home run to beat the Yankees in Game 7 is known as The Shot Heard 'Round the World.

    Besides his late-inning heroics, Mazeroski is known as one as of the best defensive second baseman in baseball history.

    He won eight Gold Gloves. He also led the National League in assists nine times.

    Mazeroski had a .983 fielding percentage and holds the record for most double plays ever turned by a second baseman.

    The Pirates have a storied history, and Mazeroski is a big part of that. His walk-off blast to beat the Yankees is a large portion of his fame, but his strong arm and fielding ability is as well.

Barry Bonds

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    Barry Bonds played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1986 to 1992.

    During that span, Bonds earned two Gold Glove awards and covered a ton of ground in left field.

    Bonds will go down in history for his unbelievable hitting statistics, and the question of how he earned those numbers. However, he won eight Gold Gloves in his career and could absolutely field his position.

    The Pirates used Bonds in their leadoff spot, and his range in left field. His arm and athletic ability allowed him to field his position easily.

    Bonds won't go down in history because of his arm, but it was there without a doubt.

Honus Wagner

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    Honus Wagner wore the Pirate uniform from 1900-1917. During that time, Wagner established himself as one of the best players in the game.

    Since Wagner's career ended, many consider him the greatest shortstop of all time.

    Part of this is because of his bat. Wagner grabbed eight batting titles during his career.

    However, a lot of credit goes to his arm and overall fielding ability. Wagner fielded his position extremely well, and had the arm to play anywhere on the diamond.

    It is tough to gauge success of player's from a long-forgotten time. It isn't hard to gauge one of the first five players ever inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Wagner could hit but he could throw the ball on a rope when needed, as well.

Andy Van Slyke

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    Andy Van Slyke was one of Pittsburgh's most popular players from 1987 to 1994.

    Van Slyke dominated right field because of his incredible throwing arm. Fans in Three Rivers Stadium established the Slyke Zone because of his proven ability to gun runners down on their way to the next base.

    He posted four consecutive seasons with at least 10 assists from 1985 to 1988. Van Slyke then won five straight Gold Gloves from 1988 to 1992.

    Van Slyke could swing the bat, but his arm brought a special element to the Pirate defense. He displayed great range, and struck fear into the heart of any runner thinking about stretching a base hit.

Dave Parker

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    Dave Parker rendered his services in Pittsburgh from 1973 to 1983.

    Parker established himself as a force at the plate, but was best known for his cannon in right field.

    The Pirates won the World Series in 1979. Parker was an important piece to that puzzle, both offensively and defensively.

    Parker wasn't necessarily popular. Fans were outraged when he became the first player in the majors to earn a million-dollar contract. However, Parker had undeniable talent.

    Pittsburgh must like right field. Parker wasn't the first great right fielder in Pittsburgh, and he wasn't the last.

Roberto Clemente

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    Roberto Clemente played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972.

    Clemente is one of the greatest players in baseball history, and the best player to ever patrol right field.

    He had obvious talents at the dish, but his incredible arm stole headlines on a consistent basis. Clemente won 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1961 to 1972.

    Clemente struck fear into the heart of a pitcher whenever he approached the plate. The fear was strong for runners, as well, when he picked up the ball, took a crow's hop and came up firing.

    He was a special talent. Finding a weakness in Clemente's game is nearly impossible. The best of these qualities may just be his arm.