Bruce Kison (25) pitching against the Baltimore Orioles at Three Rivers Stadium in Game 4 of the 1971 World Series. (Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
Bruce Kison passed away Saturday. He was 68. Kison pitched for the Pirates’ world championship teams in 1971 and 1979.
Kison was a big part of one of my favorite sports memories.
I was 10 years old in 1971, and just loved the Pirates. I went to 41 games that season. The last of those was Game 4 of the World Series at Three Rivers Stadium. It was the first night game in World Series history.
Luke Walker started for the Pirates, and got killed. Didn’t even finish the first inning. Baltimore led, 3-0, before the Pirates even batted.
Walker was relieved by Kison. A rookie. Twenty-one years old. Six-foot-four, 178 pounds. Skinny as a rail. Threw crazy sidearm.
Kison handcuffed Baltimore for six-and-a-third innings. One hit allowed, and he drilled three Orioles.
Kison would have plunked Anthony Rizzo last week, that’s for sure.
Kison hit Frank Robinson right in the nuts. A Hall-of-Famer, and Kison got him square in the ‘nads.
Kison was a bad-ass. A real competitor. I will remember what Kison did that night as long as I live.
Kison wasn’t scared of the situation. He wasn’t scared of the score. He wasn’t scared of the Orioles. Kison just wasn’t scared.
The Pirates won that night, 4-3, to even the World Series at two games apiece. They won the Series in seven games. Kison’s performance was critical.
In this July 8, 1977, file photo, Mike Schmidt of the Philadelphia Phillies, left, and Bruce Kison of the Pittsburgh Pirates fight after Kison hit Schmidt with a pitch during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh. Schmidt was later ejected from the game (AP)
In 1977, Kison plunked Philadelphia’s Hall-of-Fame slugger, Mike Schmidt. Schmidt said, “The next time you do that, I’m coming after you.” Kison replied, “What about right now?”
Violence ensued. Kison held his own. Schmidt broke a finger.
I bet Kison had just the finger for him.
Bruce Kison, RIP. Today’s Pirates could use a guy like Kison. Any team could.
Check out this highlight video of the 1971 World Series. Kison’s heroics start at the 17:20 mark. Try not to flinch when he hits Robinson. Ouch.