PITTSBURGH -- The 1971 Pirates became baseball legends in October, winning the franchise's fourth World Series championship. A month and a half before their Game 7 triumph, they made history.On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pirates fielded the first all-black lineup in Major League Baseball history. Their starting lineup that day
PITTSBURGH -- The 1971 Pirates became baseball legends in October, winning the franchise's fourth World Series championship. A month and a half before their Game 7 triumph, they made history.
On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pirates fielded the first all-black lineup in Major League Baseball history. Their starting lineup that day against the Phillies at Three Rivers Stadium: Rennie Stennett at second base, Gene Clines in center field, Roberto Clemente in right, Willie Stargell in left, Manny Sanguillen behind the plate, Dave Cash at third base, Al Oliver at first, Jackie Hernandez playing shortstop and Dock Ellis pitching.
Interestingly, the watershed moment -- which took place 24 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier -- went largely unnoticed and underreported locally.
Official attendance that Wednesday night was listed as 11,278. Pittsburgh's newspapers were on strike at the time. The Bucs' radio broadcast didn't draw much attention to the historical event -- the first Major League lineup comprised entirely of African-American or Latin American players.
"I don't think we even realized it until the second inning," broadcaster Nellie King told the Pittsburgh Press newspaper 15 years later. "We didn't make a big thing about it on the air. We mentioned it, I'm sure, but we didn't dwell on it."
Manager Danny Murtaugh wrote out the lineup, straying from his typical starting eight due to injuries and illness. First baseman Bob Robertson, third baseman Richie Hebner and shortstop Gene Alley were sidelined. So Cash moved from second to third, Oliver from center to first base, and into the lineup stepped Stennett, Clines and Hernandez.
"The key to that whole night is that Woody Fryman was pitching for Philadelphia," Oliver told MLB.com in 2011, before the game's 40th anniversary. "He was a left-hander. At that time, on occasions, Danny Murtaugh would platoon a player like me. But on that night, for whatever reason, I played first base and Bob Robertson, who usually played against all left-handers, did not play.
"It really wasn't a major thing, until around the third or fourth inning, and Dave Cash was sitting next to me and one of us said: 'You know, we got all brothers out there, man,' and we kind of chuckled, because it was no big deal to us. We really had no idea that history was being made."
The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin wrote about the game the following day and quoted Murtaugh as saying, "When it comes to making out the lineup, I'm colorblind, and my athletes know it."
The Pirates went on to beat the Phillies, 10-7. The all-minority lineup didn't stay on the field long, as Ellis pitched only 1 1/3 innings and Luke Walker, a white pitcher, earned the win by pitching six innings in relief. Clemente, Stargell and Sanguillen each drove in two runs.
Many of those players helped the Bucs beat the Orioles in the 1971 World Series. The starting lineup for Game 7 included Cash, Clines, Clemente, Sanguillen, Stargell and Hernandez behind pitcher Steve Blass. Clemente became the first Latin American player to win the World Series MVP Award.
Their Sept. 1 lineup was littered with All-Stars, and both Clemente and Stargell have been enshrined in Cooperstown. But all nine of them, together, made history.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.