The Pirates announced this morning that the former MLB outfielder and veteran major league coach Gene Clines died at the age of 75.
“Gene was a fast outfield player who was a key member of our 1971 World Series team,” Pirates president Travis Williams said in a press release. “He made a huge impact on the game, not only as a player after his career with the Pirates, but also as a long-time coach in the big leagues.
“It was an honor to have Gene back in Pittsburgh this past September to recognize him and his teammates from our 1971 World Cup team that took the field as part of Major League Baseball’s first all-minority series. It was a joy to talk to him about his deep passion for baseball, his love for his teammates and his appreciation for the city of Pittsburgh. Our hearts go out to his wife Joanne, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. ”
Clines spent 10 seasons in the majors, making his debut as a newcomer to the 1970s Pirates and indeed playing a key role in that ’71 champion team when he batted .308 / .366 / .392 to 300 record appearances with the World Series has. Champion Bucs. He would have stayed in Pittsburgh through 1974 before being traded to the Mets before the ’75 season. New York transferred him to the Rangers a year later, and Clines eventually ended up with the Cubs after a third trade.
In total, Clines played 870 major league games and batted a combined 0.277 / .329 / .341 to 2,556 record appearances. He hit just five homers at MLB level, but also scored 85 doubles, 24 tries and 71 steals, while scoring significant time at all three outfield positions. Clines may not have been known for his power, but the first hit after the season of his career was a solo homer in Game 2 of the ’71 NLCS that gave the Bucs a little respite and their lead over the Giants to Brought 4-2. (Bob Robertson finally tackled his second and third homers of the day in what proved to be a 9-4 Pirates victory.)
After his playing career, Clines remained deeply involved in the game. He spent several years as the Cubs’ first base coach before establishing himself as a highly respected hitting coach, and in that capacity worked with the Astros, Mariners, Brewers and Giants before finally joining the Cubs for the 2003-06 seasons have returned. Along the way, Clines coached some of the greatest hits of the generation, along with a young Craig Biggio in Houston, a young Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle and finally Barry Bonds in San Francisco. In addition to that impressive collection of students, Clines also teamed up (and sometimes shared an outfield) with all-time greats like Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell while playing with the Pirates.
Between his 10 years as a player and 20 years as a coach, Clines spent three decades in an MLB camp, leaving his mark on several generations of the country’s pastime. We at MLBTR express our condolences to the friends, family, loved ones and former teammates of Clines, as well as the countless fans who surely also mourn his passing.