|Subject: Grant Jackson, Baseball player (Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates). ...
Dies from COVID at 78.
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Date Posted: Thursday, February 04, 03:32:55pm
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‘He never got enough credit’: Pirates remember unsung hero Grant Jackson. ...
February 2, 2021
Kent Tekulve will never forget the candid conversations and the questions Grant Jackson would ask. John Candelaria appreciated the reliever's punctuality, as the two southpaws grew inseparable during their time together with the Pirates.
Tekulve and Candelaria loved Jackson for what he did on and off the field, and both — along with the rest of the Pirates family — were saddened to learn that Jackson died early Tuesday at Canonsburg Hospital due to complications involving COVID-19. Jackson, of Upper St. Clair, was 78.
“He never got enough credit for what he added to our ballclub,” Tekulve said of Jackson, who was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series. “It’s just a sad, sad day.”
Jackson, a crafty reliever who pitched for six teams over 18 major league seasons, enjoyed two separate stints with the Pirates (1977-81 and 1982).
Though he was an All-Star with the Phillies in 1969, Jackson did some of his best work with the Pirates in 1979, when he went 8-5 with a 2.96 ERA in a career-high 72 appearances. Jackson set another career high with 14 saves while striking out 39 and walking 35 in 82 innings.
Jackson’s role was technically as a setup man, but the converted starter nicknamed “Buck” contributed so much more than that.
“He was a very, very important part of those Pirates teams,” Candelaria said.
The Fostoria, Ohio, native was nearly unhittable in the 1979 postseason, as he gave the Pirates six scoreless appearances (6⅔ innings pitched) during the National League Championship Series and the World Series.
With the Pirates trailing 1-0 in Game 7, Jackson relieved Don Robinson and delivered 2⅔ scoreless innings before Willie Stargell gave the Pirates the lead with a two-run homer. Tekulve recorded the final five outs of the Pirates’ 4-1 victory.
“Winning Game  of the 1979 World Series was my biggest thrill in baseball, no doubt,” Jackson told Ron Musselman, formerly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, in 2005. “People from that era here in Pittsburgh still remember it like it was yesterday.”
In 692 career games (1,358⅔ innings), Jackson went 86-75 with a 3.46 ERA, 889 strikeouts and 79 saves. Before becoming a key component of those “We-Are-Fam-a-lee” Pirates, Jackson pitched in the World Series in 1971 with the Orioles (against the Pirates) and in 1976 with the Yankees.
Acquired for Craig Reynolds and Jimmy Sexton in December 1976, Jackson was a veteran in the Pirates’ revamped bullpen, a group that included not only Tekulve but also Terry Forster and Goose Gossage in 1977.
In spring training that year, Tekulve remembers Jackson peppering him with questions — some involving baseball but more about life and what motivated him. The curiosity stuck with Tekulve.
“He was very knowledgeable about what pitching was, and it wasn’t just how you throw your fastball or curveball,” Tekulve said. “It’s how you work your way through situations.”
Jackson also excelled with identifying and correcting mechanical failures. As a reliever, Tekulve always worried about something getting out of whack; Jackson never allowed it. If Tekulve’s right arm wasn’t patting his shoulder blade after he finished a pitch, Jackson noticed.
“He had a great eye for what I was doing,” Tekulve said. “Literally for all those years that we pitched together, he was my pitching coach.”
Jackson, who went 29-19 with a 3.23 ERA in parts of six seasons with the Pirates, wasn’t too bad himself. After becoming a reliever, Jackson learned the nuances of working out of the bullpen and used his guile and smarts to befuddle hitters.
Tekulve described him and Jackson as “1a and 1b” options when it came to the back end of the Pirates bullpen, crediting his good friend as being sort of a complementary closer.
“In 1979, I was the closer, and he was my setup guy ... until you look at the numbers,” Tekulve said. “I saved 31 games in ’79. He saved 14. How many setup guys save 14 games?”
Candelaria and Jackson became fast friends because they had similar, fun-filled personalities. While Jackson lived in Upper St. Clair, Candelaria wasn’t far away in McMurray. They’d often meet to watch Steelers games on Sundays at the local VFW.
And when they set an arrival time, they meant it.
“On and off the field, we ran together,” Candelaria said. “We’d always meet in the lobby on the road. If we said 1:15 p.m. and someone else was coming with us, do not get there at 1:16. We’d be gone. We were that punctual.”
After his playing career ended, Jackson transitioned into coaching and became the Pirates’ bullpen coach from 1983-85. He then spent time as a pitching coach during several minor league stops.
Jackson was also an active member of the Pirates alumni association and would regularly work the club’s annual fantasy camp at Pirate City.
“Grant was a World Series champion and All-Star who remained dedicated to the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh and was always willing to help make an impact in our community,” Pirates president Travis Williams said in a statement. “More so than any on-field accomplishment, Grant was a proud family man. Our sincere condolences and support go to his wife Millie (Milagro), his children Debra, Yolanda and Grant Jr., as well as his 10 grandchildren. He will be missed.”
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