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A Death in the Fam-a-Lee

February 17, 2010 - John Mehno

Jim Bibby has died at 65 and after several years of poor health.

Bibby pitched for the Pirates from 1978-83 and was one of the best free agent signings in franchise history. While other teams lavished money on flops like Wayne Garland and Dave Goltz, the Pirates signed Bibby at a reasonable price during spring training in 1978. He was 50-32 with a 3.52 ERA in his years with the Pirates, his most successful seasons in the major leagues.

Bibby was 12-4 in 1979 and started two games without a decision in the World Series. It's interesting that manager Chuck Tanner set up his pitching so Bibby could start two games and Bert Blyleven could start one. Bibby's best year was 1980 when he was 19-6, made the All-Star team and finished third in voting for the Cy Young award. He had injuries and faded after that, wrapping up his career at 39.

If you remember those days, you probably remember Bibby for the way sweat would roll down his face and off the brim of his cap as he looked in for the sign. He was a big man who threw hard. Off the field, he was a quiet guy who stayed in the background among the outrageous personalities on those teams. In later years, Bibby served as a pitching coach for minor league teams near his home in Virginia. He came from an athletic family: His brother Henry played in the NBA and his nephew Mike Bibby is currently in the NBA.

Bibby's health problems prevented him from attending last summer's 30th reunion at PNC Park. Bibby is the fifth member of the 1979 World Series champions to die. The others are Willie Stargell, Bill Robinson, John Milner and Dave Roberts.

So long to No. 26, a big man who was a big part of the Pirates' success in 1979.

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