Bats: Right • Throws: Right
6-4, 178lb (193cm, 80kg)
Born: February 18, 1950 in Pasco, WA
Died: June 2, 2018 (Aged 68-104d) in Bradenton, FL
Draft: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round of the 1968 MLB June Amateur Draft from Pasco HS (Pasco, WA).
High School: Pasco HS (Pasco, WA)
School: Central Washington University (Ellensburg, WA)
Debut: July 4, 1971 (Age 21-136d, 10,759th in MLB history)
vs. CHC 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 SO, 4 BB, 4 ER
Last Game: October 5, 1985 (Age 35-229d)
vs. MIL 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 SO, 1 BB, 0 ER
Full Name: Bruce Eugene Kison
View Player Bio from the SABR BioProject
Bruce Eugene Kison (born February 18, 1950 in Pasco, Washington) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He pitched from 1971-1985 for three different teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates (1971–1979), California Angels (1980–1984) and Boston Red Sox (1985). He batted and threw right-handed.
During a 15-year career, Kison compiled 115 wins, 1,073 strikeouts, and a 3.66 ERA.
He is a man who is known for both his independent thinking and his hatred of any batter taking the inside of the plate. Former Pirate pitcher Bruce Kison not only got the reputation of running players off the plate, but also the fact he was a clutch post season pitcher going 4-0 in League Championship Series games.
The tall lanky hurler signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent, but demanded that he be allowed to finish his spring semester of college before he joined them. Kison would also refuse to play winter ball throughout his career.
Bruce spent his first few seasons in the minors and was brought up to the big club to replace Bob Moose, who was serving a military stint in the reserves, after a spectacular 10-1 campaign with the Pirates AAA Charleston team. Kison had a solid rookie season winning 6 of 11 decisions in 1971, but his was his spectacular post-season that the Washington native will always be known for.
While fans remember Buster’s fabulous performance in game four of the ’71 series where he came in for Pirate starter Luke Walker in the first inning after Walker allowed three runs in the first World Series night game ever, to which Kison tossed 6 1/3 scoreless, one hit innings leading the Bucs to an important victory, it was his clutch performance in game four of the NLCS that helped get the squad to the fall classic in the first place. After Pittsburgh star pitcher Steve Blass gave up 5 runs in the first two innings to San Francisco leaving the game with the Giants up 5-2, the young rookie came in and shut the door on San Francisco, limiting the powerful club to only 2 hits in 4 2/3 innings, winning his first NLCS game and sending the Pirates to the National League championship with a come from behind 9-5 victory.
After the Series ended, Kison, who refused to change his wedding date despite the fact that game 7 was scheduled on the same day, hopped aboard a helicopter which was secured fore him by Pirate broadcaster Bob Prince, and flew home to be married immediately following the final and climatic contest.
While Kison enjoyed a couple fine seasons in 1972 and 1974, where Buster also won two of the three Pirate victories in the playoffs during those two campaigns giving up only 3 hits in 8 innings of work, he spent most of 1973 in the minors pitching once again for Charleston. Bruce finally made it into the rotation fulltime in 1975, winning double digit games for the first time, finishing not only with a 12-11 mark, but a fabulous .227 opponents batting average. It was during that campaign when the baby faced pitcher showed why he was known for his wildness, when he broke future teammate Bill Madlock’s wrist in a game versus the Cubs while tossing one of his infamous brush back pitches, which would account for Buster hitting a total of 68 batters in his career as well as dumping several hundred more on their collective behinds.
1976 proved to be Kison’s high watermark in victories for his career when he went 14-9 for the club with a career-low 3.08 ERA. After his best season, he had one of his worst in 1977 winning only 9 games as his ERA ballooned to 4.90. The trouble continued to plague the young pitcher as a painful blister on his pitching hand, which eventually required surgery, limited Kison to only 96 innings in ’78. He had pitched most of the season out of the bullpen not starting a game until he came back from the surgery in mid-July.
Coming off his two-year slump, Buster would save his best for last, as far as he Pirate career went, when he won 13 games for the world champions in 1979, that would also include is the first loss in the postseason for the black and gold, when he gave up 5 runs, 4 earned, in only 1/3 of an inning in game 1 of the fall classic.
When the season concluded, Kison, unfortunately, ended his nine-year stay with the club when he opted to sign a free-agent contract with the Angels in November of ’79.
Kison had a fine 5-year run with the team that not only included a one-hitter in 1980, as Buster lost his no-hit bid with one out in the ninth when the Twins Kenny Landreaux hit a double, but he won his only decision in the ALCS when he started two games for California in 1982 giving up only 8 hits in 14 innings. He signed with Boston as a free agent in 1985 where he ended his career that season.
Kison also has spent time as pitching coach for both the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles.
Nine Other Players Who Debuted in 1971
1971 National League Championship Series
1971 World Series
1972 National League Championship Series
1974 National League Championship Series
1975 National League Championship Series
1982 American League Championship Series
Pittsburgh Pirates Encyclopedia