Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Cardboard Tribute to the World Champion 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates!

Remember when the Pittsburgh Pirates were good? Can you believe that they used to retain their star players? Believe it or not Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente (18 years) Bill Mazeroski (17 yrs) and Willie Stargell (21 years) spent their entire careers with the Pirates. How long do you think that Andrew McCutchen will last in the 'Burgh?
That stuff aside, I submitted my 22-page thesis (a major source of stress for me) on the play "A Streetcar Named Desire" with a focus on lead actress Vivien Leigh's film career today. I had to pull an all-nighter to do it, then had to spend a marathon day in class presenting it orally. Needless to say I am wiped out, running on empty and I have to be at work at 3:30 PM today and will be there till after midnight. It's gonna be a long night. I didn't get home from school until 1:30 and I thought about grabbing a nap which probably would have been a good idea-instead I decided I wanted to reward myself with a nice LONG, old school, Troll post, so here I am at a friend's house struggling to keep my eyes open and ready to bore the blog-o-sphere to tears, are you ready? Here we go! Earlier this summer I was at a card show in Orlando, I was trading like crazy at the time and I was hunting for cards for other bloggers, but I was also on a mission to build up my very small Roberto Clemente collection. I had my focus set on upgrading his 1972 cards as that was his final season (.312/10/60), the year he hit his 3,000th hit and the year that he passed away and I was born (same day). I already owned a copy of card # 309 of Clemente, but it was well-traveled, well-handled, well-loved and also well-worn. I found a dealer that had very sharp copies of both cards 309 and his In Action card #310, but he wanted to sell them as part of a team set. I wasn’t really a big Pirates collector, I wasn’t working on the ’72 set and really only wanted those 2 cards, but he gave me an amazingly low price for the lot and I walked away with about 30 cards for less than the "list price" of the 2 cards I was seeking. It was pure bonus to get 4 different cards of Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, too, and more bonus came in that many of these photos were taken in my home town of Pirate City (Bradenton) Florida.
I traded a couple of those cards to help people out with their want lists, but I hung onto most of them in the same team set bag that they came in. I planned on blogging about them (of course) but I couldn’t think of a story that would include all of the cards until now. Please bear with me as I set this up and take you back to the fall of ’71. It was actually September 1, 1971 and the Pittsburgh Pirates were taking on the Philadelphia Phillies. Danny Murtaugh (who belongs in the Hall of Fame and didn’t have a card in ‘72) was the Bucs skipper and he filled out the lineup card with these names. I don’t know if it was his plan to make history, but he did. I would imagine that he just wanted to win the ball game and give a few of his regulars the day off, but he made history in the process. The Pirates batting order follows.
Rennie Stennett, then a 20-year-old rookie batted lead-off and played second base. He only played in 51 games for the Bucs that year, but fared extremely well in limited use, batting .353. Gene Clines batted second and played centerfield. Clines played in 97 games that year and led the Pirates with 15 stolen bases. Roberto Clemente as usual, was in right field and batted 3rd, the position in the order that he held for the bulk of his career. He was an All-Star for the 12th time in 1971, he batted .341 and placed 5th in MVP voting. Left fielder Willie Stargell handled the clean-up spot. He led the NL with 48 homeruns, played in his 4th All Star game and placed 2nd in the MVP vote behind Joe Torre. First time All Star, Manny Sanguillén batted 5th for Pittsburgh that day. He would finish the season with a career high .319 batting average and would rank 7th in the MVP vote. Dave Cash, the Pirates normal 2nd baseman, batted 6th and played 3rd base in place of Richie Hebner. He would finish the year with a .289 batting average. Al Oliver, who got most of his playing time in center field, started at first base and batted 7th. AO would go on to bat .284 with 14 homers and 64 RBI that year. Light hitting, but slick fielding shortstop Jackie Hernandez got the start at short and batted 8th in favor of former All Star Gene Alley. Hernandez only played in 88 games that year and batted just .206. Dock Ellis, who gained fame and notoriety the year prior when he pitched a no-hitter while on LSD was the starting pitcher. He also started the All Star game that year, in 1971. He didn’t fare that well that day and the NL lost the game, but overall he was 19-9 that year with a 3.06 ERA and he finished 4th in Cy Young voting. The Pirates were managed by Danny Murtaugh in 1971 (97-65) and he put together this historic line-up. Murtaugh led this team, the 1971 Pirates, to a Worlds Championship that year; it was his second WS win personally. He also led Roberto Clemente and the Pirates to a World Title in 1960. Over his career he won 1115 games against only 950 losses, leading his teams to the Postseason 5 times in his illustrious managerial career. The Sporting News named him Manager of the Year in both 1960 and 1971 and he is one of only 36 managers in baseball history to win more than 1,000 games. Sport Magazine named him Man of the Year in 1960. I am putting emphasis on Murtaugh because he was an incredible skipper and also because he was just snubbed again in the Hall of Fame voting, again. The line-up that I listed above won that game, but also made history as that was the first time a team started an All Black Team in the Major Leagues. It wasn’t an All-African-American team-Clemente; Sanguillén, Hernandez and Stennett were all black Hispanics. It was the first all-black team, however, to start a game in the big leagues and they won that game and went on to win the World Series that year, beating the Orioles in 7 games. Of the nine men who started that game, six were regular starters, although not necessarily at that position. The regulars who didn’t start that game were third baseman Richie Hebner who batted .271 with 17 homers and 67 RBI in 112 games that year. Former All Star shortstop Gene Alley started the most games at that position (97 games) but his star was fading and he batted just .227 in ’71. The only true regular who didn’t start that game was Bob Robertson, one of the main sluggers on the team, who batted .271 with 26 homers and 72 RBI that year. He started in 126 games that year at first base during the regular season. Robertson had an amazing series at the plate in the NLCS that year against the Giants. He batted .438 with 4 homers and 6 runs batted in. He had the game of his career in game 2 when the Pirates crushed the Giants 9-4. Robertson, batting 5th, was 4 for 5 with 3 homeruns, a double and 5 runs batted in. He added one more homerun in the series in game 3 against Juan Marichal, the Pirates won that game 2-1, then won game 4 as well and advanced to the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. Of course the Pirates won, it was Roberto Clemente’s final World Series appearance and he made a lasting impression-he batted .414 with a pair of homers and took home the Series MVP Trophy. Steve Blass, who won 15 games during the regular season and led the NL with 6 shutouts, was 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in the Series. He started and finished both games he appeared in and only yielded 2 runs in 18 innings of work. I hope this wasn’t too much of a stretch to tie in all of these ’72 Topps cards. The fact of this being the first All-Black starting lineup stemmed from conversations with Richie Hebner (who didn’t start the game) and Bob Veale (who will recieve his own personal cardboard tribute post) who pitched in relief that day. From there I hit the ol microfilm machine at the library and found the box score and went from there. I haven’t found any information to suggest otherwise in my research, but if you know differently don’t hesitate to correct me. I said at the beginning of the post that I didn't care to collect the Pirates or '72 Topps (gotta love the In Action cards!)-both have grown on me considerably this afternoon. I love the game of baseball and its rich history; I love to write about it and I really LOVE THIS HOBBY!!! I hope y'all enjoyed this 27-card salute to the Pirates. Troll out.


  1. It is tough to believe the Pirates were ever good. Too bad a proud franchise has fallen this far.

  2. my first baseball on tv memories are the Pirates/Orioles games....

    good times

  3. If you ever wanna trade that dock let me know and if you have any more also....

  4. Love the old Pirates. Love the '72 set.

  5. My first TV memories of baseball was the "We are Family" Pirates. Nice post Troll.

  6. The Pirates were a good team throughout the 70s. Lots of good and interesting players. That's a nice pickup you made with the team set.