The Pirates announced this morning that former Major League outfielder and veteran big league coach Gene Clines has passed away at the age of 75.
“Gene was a speedy outfielder who was a key member of our 1971 World Series team,” Pirates president Travis Williams said in a press release. “He made a tremendous 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 Series Championship team who took the field as part of Major League Baseball’s first all-minority lineup. 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 parts of 10 seasons in the Majors, debuting as a rookie with the 1970 Pirates and indeed playing a key role on that ’71 championship team, when he batted .308/.366/.392 through 300 plate appearances with the World Series-champion Bucs. He’d remain in Pittsburgh through 1974 before being traded to the Mets in advance of the ’75 season. New York flipped him to the Rangers a year later, and Clines eventually landed with the Cubs following a third trade.
All told, Clines played 870 big league games, batting a combined .277/.329/.341 through 2556 plate appearances. He hit just five homers at the MLB level but also notched 85 doubles, 24 triples and 71 stolen bases while logging considerable time at all three outfield positions. Clines may not have been known for his power, but the first postseason hit of his career was a solo homer in Game 2 of the ’71 NLCS that gave the Bucs some breathing room, pushing their lead over the Giants to 4-2. (Bob Robertson eventually tacked on his second and third homers of the day in what proved a 9-4 Pirates victory.)
Following his playing career, Clines remained deeply involved in the game. He spent several years as the Cubs’ first base coach before settling in as a highly respected hitting coach, working with the Astros, Mariners, Brewers and Giants in that capacity before finally returning to the Cubs for the 2003-06 seasons. Along the way, Clines coached some of the greatest hitters of the generation, working with a young Craig Biggio in Houston, a young Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle and, eventually, Barry Bonds in San Francisco. In addition to that impressive collection of pupils, Clines also teamed (and at times shared an outfield) with all-time greats such as Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell while playing with the Pirates.
Between his 10 years as a player and 20 years as a coach, Clines amassed three decades in a Major League dugout, leaving his mark on multiple generations of the nation’s pastime. We at MLBTR extend our condolences to the friends, family, loved ones and former teammates of Clines, as well as the innumerable fans who are surely mourning his passing as well.