Former Pirates second baseman Rennie Stennett, a member of the club’s 1971 and 1979 World Championship teams and the only player in modern major league history to go 7 for 7 in a nine-inning game, died Tuesday in Coconut Creek, Fla., at the age of 72.
Stennett had been suffering from cancer, according to a statement posted on the Pirates website.
“We are saddened by the loss of such a beloved member of the Pirates family,” team President Travis Williams said in a statement. “Rennie was a great player on the field and an even better person off it.”
Stennett played for the Pirates’ World Championship teams in 1971 and 1979 and was an active member of the club’s alumni association. Williams said Stennett “symbolized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Pirate.”
Williams also noted that Stennett was proud to be a member of MLB’s first all-minority lineup on Sept. 1, 1971. But the one-time second baseman was best known for going 7 for 7 in a 22-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 16, 1975, at Wrigley Field. He collected a triple, a double and five singles that day.
Williams offered the club’s condolences to Stennett’s children – daughters Renee and Nevaeh and son Roberto — and their respective families.
Stennett, who grew up in the same neighborhood in Panama as Rod Carew, burst upon the Pirates scene as a mere 20-year-old in 1971. He started that season with Charleston of the Triple-A International League, where he hit .344/.881 in 323 at-bats, earning a call-up to the big leagues in early July.
Stennett did not miss a beat, hitting .353/.834 in 153 at-bats and helping the club win the National League East division title. He was left off the Bucs’ postseason roster that season, but he had a team-leading six hits in the NLCS in 1972 – the year Bob Moose’s wild pitch ended the club’s postseason run in Cincinnati in the decisive Game 5 at Riverfront Stadium.
Stennett was a free-swinger; he never walked more than 33 times in a season, and that came in 1975 when he had 616 at-bats. In 1974, he totaled 721 plate appearances and walked just 32 times. He did make plenty of contact though; he never struck out more than 63 times in a season, which came in his worst season as a full-time player – 1973, when he batted just .242.
Stennett was on his way to a career year in 1977 at age 26, hitting .336 through 116 games, when he broke his right leg and dislocated his right ankle sliding into second base in a game in late August. He was never the same player afterward, but managed to play four more years in the big leagues. His last year with the Pirates was in the ’79 World Championship season; he batted .238 in 319 at-bats.
Stennett signed what was then a lucrative five-year, $3 million contract with the Giants prior to the 1980 season, but his two-year stay in the Bay Area was not a memorable one. He hit just .242 with a .578 OPS in 484 at-bats in the two years combined, and that 1981 season would be his final one in the big leagues, as he was released by the Giants the following April. He played that season in the Mexican League and part of the next season with Wichita in the Triple-A American Association before retiring for good.
For his career, Stennett finished with a lifetime batting average of .274 and an OPS of .665 with 1,239 career hits. During his nine seasons with the Pirates, Stennett averaged .278/.675 with 1,122 hits and 388 RBIs.