BALTIMORE — Bruce Kison, a pitcher who helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series in 1971 and 1979 and spent three decades in player development and scouting roles, has died of cancer. He was 68.
His wife, Anna Marie, said Kison died Saturday at the Tidewell Hospice in Bradenton, Florida, near his home. He had been diagnosed with renal cancer on Feb. 14.
Kison won Game 4 of the 1971 World Series — the first night game in World Series history — when he threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief against Baltimore as a rookie, allowing only a bloop double to Paul Blair. He started and lost the 1979 opener against the Orioles, getting just one out and giving up five runs. He had a 5-1 record and 1.98 ERA in 10 post-season appearances, including four starts.
“Bruce will always be remembered as a great part of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization,” team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement.
Kison was selected by Pittsburgh in the 14th round of the 1968 amateur draft, made his big league debut on July 4, 1971, and went 115-88 with a 3.66 ERA, 12 saves and 1,073 strikeouts in 1,809 2/3 innings for the Pirates (1971-79), California Angels (1980-84) and Boston (1985).
Known for pitching inside, he hit 68 batters in 15 big league seasons. He was said to have once hit seven batters in a minor league game. On July 8, 1977, he sparked a fight when he hit Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt on the back with a pitch, two batters after giving up a home run to Garry Maddox.
Kison threw a one-hitter at home against San Diego on June 3, 1979, giving up Barry Evans’ two-out double in the eighth. He pitched another one-hitter the following April 23, leading 17-0 at Minnesota when he allowed Ken Landreaux’s one-out double in the ninth.
After retiring as a player in 1985, he was a minor league pitching instructor for Pittsburgh, bullpen coach for Kansas City from 1992-93, the Royals pitching coach from 1994-98 and Baltimore’s pitching coach in 1999. He later worked as a scout for Baltimore until his retirement in December.
“Bruce was pure business,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It’s really sad. He retired basically at the end of the winter meetings. He was so excited. He was a big fisherman. I’d call him sometimes in the off-season. I’d say, ‘Where have you been?’ I didn’t hear from him. He’d say, ‘I’ve been out two miles off the coast.’ He loved to fish and he was looking forward to it.”
Kison was honoured in January as a Legend in Scouting by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.
“Our entire Orioles family is deeply saddened to learn of Bruce Kison’s passing,” Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. “For nearly two decades, Bruce played an integral role in all aspects of our organization as a pitching coach, a scout, and a trusted adviser. Bruce will be remembered for his tremendous work ethic, professionalism, and personality, as well as his dedication to the Orioles.”
He married the former Anna Marie Orlando in 1971, leaving Game 7 of the World Series at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium by helicopter for a private flight to Pittsburgh, where he was met by a police escort to get to the wedding.
Kison is survived by his wife, son Robbie, daughter Jennifer Kison Goedde and four grandchildren. A funeral will be held at the Bridge Church in Bradenton on June 16.