Richie Zisk (Trading Card DB)

June 9, 1974: Richie Zisk hits for cycle, Willie Stargell homers twice as Pirates slam Giants

This article was written by Mike Huber

Richie Zisk (Trading Card DB)The 1974 season was only about two months old. Yet on June 9, two National League teams – the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants – played a game that was a turning point in both of their seasons.

The Pirates were on a 12-game road trip against NL West Division clubs. They had begun the season by losing six games in a row. More recently, they had lost five straight, a slide stopped a day earlier by a 5-2 win over the Giants. They had scored just five runs in the losing streak, getting shut out twice. At 19-32, Pittsburgh was nine games behind the NL East Division leaders, the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Giants had started the season by winning their first four games, but then they struggled, too. By the end of May, even with a 27-25 record, San Francisco was in fifth place in the NL West, 10 games behind the red-hot Dodgers. The Giants came into the Sunday afternoon series finale with the Pirates with a winning record (30-29), and they had climbed into a virtual tie with Houston for fourth place in the standings, both teams 12 games back.

Both teams needed a spark. Only one got it – the visiting Pirates. Right fielder Richie Zisk hit for the cycle while teammates Willie Stargell and Bob Robertson each broke out of batting slumps in big ways. The heart of the Pittsburgh lineup (Zisk, Stargell, Robertson, and Manny Sanguillén) combined for 12 hits and 13 runs batted in as their Pirates slammed the Giants, 14-1, before a Candlestick Park crowd of 8,786.

Left-hander Ron Bryant was on the mound for the Giants. Bryant had led the majors with 24 wins in 1973,1 but in 1974, he was struggling to get batters out. He was 2-5 with an ERA of 8.17.2 He had made it past the fifth inning in only three of his nine previous starts. Bryant had trouble finding the strike zone in the first, walking Rennie Stennett and Gene Clines to start the game.

Since the death of Roberto Clemente on New Year’s Eve 1972, the Number 3 spot in Pittsburgh’s batting order had belonged to Al Oliver. But Oliver was scratched with a minor injury, so Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh decided to move the 25-year-old Zisk, who had been batting fifth throughout the road trip, up to third.3

Zisk responded with his sixth home run, over the wall in right-center, giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead before Bryant had recorded an out.

Bryant was again in trouble in the second, loading the bases on two singles and a hit batsman before manager Charlie Fox made a change. Right-hander Jim Barr entered in relief and retired the Pirates without allowing a run.

Pittsburgh lefty Jerry Reuss maintained the early lead, stranding Giants in scoring position in the second, third, and fourth innings. Reuss had won 16 games for the Houston Astros in 1973. Now with the Pirates after an offseason trade,4 he had been inconsistent in his 1974 performance, ranging from a 10-runs-in-2-innings disaster in Chicago on April 17 to three straight complete-game wins in late May.

Barr retired nine in a row before yielding a one-out double to Zisk in the fifth, followed by an intentional walk to Stargell. Coming into the game, Stargell – whose 44 home runs in 1973 had led the majors – had fallen into an 0-for-21 slump. His batting average had dropped to .261, and the Pittsburgh slugger had not homered since May 18, a span of 18 games.

Barr retired Robertson on a fly ball, but he wouldn’t escape the inning unscathed. Sanguillén singled to center, driving in Zisk. Richie Hebner then doubled, and Stargell scored. Trying to score from first, Sanguillén was thrown out at the plate, but Pittsburgh had increased its advantage to 5-0.

In the top of the sixth, with Jim Willoughby, another righty, now pitching for San Francisco, rookie shortstop Mario Mendoza reached on an error by shortstop Bruce Miller. Reuss forced Mendoza at second and Stennett flied out, but then the Pirates blew the game wide open. Clines and Zisk both singled, loading them up for Stargell.

With one swing, Stargell sent the ball over the fence and Willoughby to the showers. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette described the grand slam as “an old-time Stargell line drive, deep into the seats in right.”5

Don McMahon – at age 44 appearing in his 870th major-league game – was next for the Giants.6 Robertson, who had battered San Francisco for three home runs in Game Two of the 1971 NL Championship Series at Candlestick Park, had broken an 0-for-13 slump with a third-inning double. He greeted McMahon with a home run of his own, and the Pirates led 10-0.

Meanwhile, Reuss was cruising, having allowed six hits through the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, though, the Giants ended the shutout. With one out, Miller walked and John Boccabella singled. Chris Speier pinch-hit for McMahon and drove an RBI single to left, plating Miller. Bobby Bonds also singled, loading the bases, but Tito Fuentes grounded sharply to third baseman Hebner, who stepped on the bag and threw to first for the inning-ending double play. The score remained 10-1.

Righty Charlie Williams came on to pitch in the eighth, and again the Pirates loaded the bases, but they did not score. In the top of the ninth, Stennett doubled to right with two down. Clines walked and Zisk, who had flied out in the eighth, stepped into the batter’s box for the sixth time.

He knew he needed a triple to complete the cycle. He drove Williams’s offering to right-center field and just kept running. After the game, he told reporters, “When I got near second base, there was no way I was going to stop there. They would have had to shoot me to stop me.”7 This was Zisk’s first triple of the season. “How often do I get a triple? Sure, I might get one once in a while but it’s usually because the outfielder fell down or something else strange happening.”8

The Pirates still weren’t done, though. Stargell blasted another home run, his second of the game, eighth of the season, and the 329th of his career. Regarding his two round-trippers, the slugger remarked, “I felt more comfortable at the plate today than I have in some time. I hope this is the beginning of a streak.”9

Reuss retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth, giving him another complete-game victory, his fourth win in five starts.10 The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Pirates had a “bat-goring 17-hit barrage against five Giants pitchers.”11 The 14 runs scored tied a season high.

Zisk, in hitting for the cycle, had scored four runs and driven in five. His batting average jumped to .321. His cycle was the 19th in Pittsburgh franchise history and the first in 10 seasons, dating back to Stargell’s own accomplishment (July 22, 1964).12

The move up in the batting order had benefited Zisk. “When you hit in front of Willie (Stargell), you see a lot of good pitches,” he said.13 Stargell himself was 3-for-5 with six runs batted in.

Zisk’s homer in the first was the beginning of the end of Bryant, in more ways than one. After the game, Fox announced that Bryant would be sent to the bullpen, “with the hopes that he would be of some use there.”14 The papers pounced on Fox’s ability to guide the Giants. San Francisco lost 12 of its next 15 games, falling nine games below .500 by June 26 and 17 games out of first place in the NL East. Fox quit on June 27.15

This blowout victory was part of a turnaround for the Pirates. They were not out of the woods yet; a day later in San Diego, they took an 8-0 lead into the eighth inning but lost 9-8 to the Padres. Still, they won about as many games as they lost between mid-June and mid-July. It took a brawl-marred win over the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of a July 14 doubleheader to ignite a 40-15 surge that eventually carried the Pirates to their fourth NL East title in five seasons.

Stargell finished the 1974 season batting .301, 40 points higher than when he faced the Giants on June 9. Zisk finished the year batting .313. Both players were in the top 10 in Most Valuable Player Award voting in the National League.

The Pirates turned into a power team, ranking first in the NL in hits (1,560), second in doubles (238) and triples (46), fourth in home runs (114), and third in OPS (.726). With an average pitching staff, they often clubbed their way to victory.16



This article was fact-checked by Jim Sweetman and copy-edited by Len Levin. The author thanks John Fredland, Gary Belleville, and Jim Sweetman for their insights and suggestions.



In addition to the sources mentioned in the Notes, the author consulted,,, and



1 Bryant finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 1973, behind Mets ace Tom Seaver and Expos closer Mike Marshall.

2 On March 15 Bryant fell off a pool slide in a hotel and injured his right side. He required 25 stitches and started the season on the disabled list (see “Bryant, Giants’ Pitcher, Hurt in Diving Accident,” New York Times, March 17, 1974: 217). His first start for the Giants was on April 26, and he faced 16 batters, getting only seven outs.

3 Bob Smizik, “Zisk Boom Bah! Richie Hits Cycle,” Pittsburgh Press, June 10, 1974: 23. In the second half of the 1973 season, Zisk had emerged, in Clemente’s absence, as Pittsburgh’s most frequent starter in right field. The Pirates had opened 1973 with Manny Sanguillén, primarily a catcher during his first five major-league seasons, starting in right field and rookie Milt May catching. In mid-June, Clines became the regular right fielder, with Sanguillén moving back behind the plate. But Clines injured his ankle in early July and missed three weeks, and Virdon turned to a platoon of the right-handed-batting Zisk and lefty Dave Parker, a rookie promoted from Triple-A Charleston in the International League. Zisk’s hot hitting – a .352 batting average and .552 slugging percentage from July 1 through the end of the season – led to regular playing time as the season progressed. See also Charley Feeney, “Sangy Back Catching, Clines Goes to RF,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 15, 1973: 10; “Pirates Lose Clines, Tap Parker to Fill Hole,” Pittsburgh Press, July 11, 1973: 66; and Charley Feeney, “Playing Games,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 18, 1973: 19.

4 After two seasons with the Houston Astros, Reuss was traded to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed-hitting catcher May on October 31, 1973. Two years earlier, Reuss had been traded by the St. Louis Cardinals to the Houston Astros for Lance Clemons and Scipio Spinks because owner August Busch II “didn’t approve of a blond mustache.” See Paul Hirsch, “Jerry Reuss,” SABR Baseball Biography Project.

5 Charley Feeney, “Pirates’ Big Bombs Flatten Giants, 14-1,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 10, 1974: 18. This was the ninth grand slam of Stargell’s career. By the time he retired in 1982, he had cracked 11 bases-loaded home runs.

6 McMahon made four more appearances and then was released, ending his playing career at 18 seasons. After clearing waivers, he served as the Giants’ pitching coach through the 1975 season. He then was a pitching coach for the Minnesota Twins in 1976-77, and returned to the Giants as pitching coach from 1980-82. For the next three years after his second stint in San Francisco, he was hired by the Cleveland Indians as pitching coach.

7 Feeney.

8 Bob Smizik, “Zisk Boom Bah! Richie Hits Cycle.” This was Zisk’s eighth triple in 541 career at-bats.

9 Bob Smizik, “Bucs, Stargell Slam Way Out of Slump, 14-1,” Pittsburgh Press, June 10, 1974: 23. Stargell added five hits in seven at-bats in his next two games (against the Padres). In the three-game span, he went 8-for-12 with seven extra-base hits and seven runs scored. He batted .390 in July and .349 in August, propelling the Pirates into the pennant race.

11 Feeney.

12 Fred Carroll (Pittsburgh Alleghenys) was the first player in franchise history to accomplish the rare feat, when he hit for a natural cycle in his first four at-bats of the season (May 2, 1887).

13 Smizik, “Zisk Boom Bah! Richie Hits Cycle.” For the next five games, Zisk batted third. He had 8 hits in 18 at-bats. By mid-June (with Oliver back), Zisk had returned to the fifth spot in the lineup.

14 Roger Williams, “Giant Shakeup Follows Rout; Bryant in Bullpen,” San Francisco Examiner, June 10, 1974: 47.

15 The Giants finished the 1974 season in fifth place. In the season’s first 76 games, Fox’s record at the helm was 34-42. His successor, Wes Westrum, skippered to a record of 38-48 in the next 86 games.

16 The Pirates won 88 games with an ERA of 3.49 (seventh-best in the NL). They did have 51 complete games, but they also had only 17 saves (next to last in the NL).

Additional Stats

Pittsburgh Pirates 14
San Francisco Giants 1

Candlestick Park
San Francisco, CA


Box Score + PBP:

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