A fine third baseman who played his glory days in the age of Mike Schmidt, Hebner never made an All-Star team because the Philly man had a stranglehold on the nomination. Later in Hebner’s career he joined Schmidt with the Phillies and was naturally shifted to first base to accommodate the Hall of Famer.
A first round pick by the Pirates in 1966, Hebner had a two-game trial with the Bucs in ’68. Up for good in ’69, the rookie was the only .300 hitting hot corner custodian in the Major Leagues. The Pirates had a strong team under skipper Danny Murtaugh and Rich helped the Pirates reach the postseason in 1970. On fire in the NLCS, Hebner hit .667 with a pair of doubles but the Pirates ship was sunk by the Big Red Machine.
The Pirates won the NL East again in 1971 and Rich blasted a pair of long balls in an NLCS victory over the Giants. He added his third postseason homer off the Orioles in the World Series as his Pirates bested the Birds and won a championship. The Pirates were a strong team and Hebner was a key ingredient to their success. In 1972 the left-handed hitting Hebner was the only Major League third baseman to slug over .500. He continued his slugging ways on into 1973 when he blasted a career high 25 homeruns.
The Pirates captured the NL East flag again in 1974 as Rich led the team with 97 runs scored. In the NLCS, Hebner drove in four runs but in a losing cause. From 1974 to the end of his career, Hebner would appear in five more NLCS matchups but would never again make the World Series. The Pirates were nipped in the ’75 NLCS when Rich hit .333 but Pittsburgh as a team hit a lowly .198.
After six straight years of ten or more homeruns, he fell to eight in 1976 and was allowed to leave Pittsburgh via free agency. Although he played just one game at first base his entire tenure with the Pirates the Phillies signed him as a free agent to play first because Schmidt was entrenched at third. The move worked for the Phillies as Hebner helped the Phillies reach the playoffs his two years with the organization. His power bat returned in ’77 as Rich hit 18 long balls for the Phillies. A good all-round batsman, he was one of just two NL first basemen to walk more than he struck out.
Before the ’79 season, the Phillies traded Rich to the Mets for pitcher Nino Espinosa and he missed out on the Phillies championship season of 1980. After an injury cut short his 1980 season, he was never again an everyday player. He enjoyed success as a spot starter at the infield corners and pinch hitter for the Pirates and Cubs late in his career
G 1,908/R 865/H 1,694/2B 273/3B 57/HR 203/RBI 890/SB 38/BB 687/SO 741/BA .276/SA .438/OBP .352