Sunday, June 10, 2018

Catching Up - Absent Friends: Alan Bean and Bruce Kison

The Grandstander catches up with two significant deaths that occurred during his recent vacation.

Alan Bean

Like all astronauts, Alan Bean, who died on May 26 at the age of 86, was a remarkable individual. A pilot in the United States Navy and an aeronautical engineer, Bean was part of the crew of the Apollo 12 lunar mission in November, 1969, and he became the fourth man to walk on the surface of the moon.  He later was part of one of the manned missions to the Skylab spacecraft.

Upon his retirement from the astronaut corps, Bean devoted his life to art and became a painter.  Many of his works depicted astronauts and manned space missions, including many on the lunar surface.

Bean's death now leaves only four living persons to have set foot on the moon, Buzz Aldrin,  Dave Scott, Charles Duke,  and Harrison Schmitt.   Duke and Schmitt are the youngest of these four, and they will turn 83 in 2018.


Bruce Kison

During their pennant winning season of 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates brought up from the minor leagues tall, skinny, and baby-faced pitcher Bruce Kison as temporary fill in for an injured pitcher.  He was only one year older than I was at the time!  His stay in Pittsburgh was going to be temporary, but he never went back to the minor leagues after that, and went on to have a fifteen year major league career.  He died on June 1, a cancer victim, at the age of 68.

Kison spent nine of those fifteen seasons with the Pirates.  In Pittsburgh, he went 81-63 with an ERA of 3.49.  His career numbers, including six seasons with the Angels and Red Sox were 115-88, 3.66.  He will be forever remembered as being the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the 1971 World Series, the first World Series game to ever be played at night.  Trailing the Series two games to one, the Pirates fell behind 3-0 early in game three, and Pirates fans were seeing the Series quickly slipping away, when Danny Murtaugh called in Kison from the bullpen early in the game to relieve starter Luke Walker.  Kison responded with 6.1 innings of one hit, scoreless pitching and the Pirates rallied to win the game.  The rest of the Series, as they say, is history.  

Game 4 vs Baltimore, 1971
Three Rivers Stadium

Kison was also a part of the Pirates 1979 championship team, going 13-7, 3.19 that season.

Stories abounded about Kison in the wake of his death this past week about how competitive and tough he was, despite his boyish appearance.  He knew what part of the plate belonged to the pitcher, and he was never afraid to plunk a batter if he felt he was moving into that part of home plate that was his.  Not even Hall of Famers like Frank Robinson or Mike Schmidt intimidated him, as the scene from a 1977 game with the Phillies will attest.

RIP Alan Bean and Bruce Kison

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