In the bottom of the eight inning of Game Two of the 1971 National League Championship Series, in a 1-1 pitching duel, Richie Hebner belted a solo homer against Juan MArichal to give the Pittsburgh Pirates their winning margin. The next day he hit a three-run shot off another future Hall of Famer (Gaylord Perry) to tie the game as his Pirates went on to clinch a sweep and advance to the World Series. It was the brightest spot of a solid 18-year career for Hebner.
In 11 seasons with the Bucs, Hebner was a starting third baseman on teams that featured the famed Lumber Company lineups of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and more. Hebner had a short left-handed stroke that generated power, hitting as many as 25 homers for the Pirates.
Hebner earned the nickname “Gravedigger” because that’s the off-season job he held for much of the first part of his baseball career. Wielding the shovel kept his upper body strong and he was able to log more than 1,900 games for five teams. After his stint with the Pirates he was a valuable platoon player for the Philadelphia Phillies, helping them to two division titles in the late 1970s. In fact, from 1970 to 1970, Hebner played on seven of the nine NL East Division winners. Later he had short stints with the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers before winding his career down with a return to Pittsburgh and two seasons on the north side with the Chicago Cubs.