The 1971 Pirates were one of a kind.
The year displayed the team’s first full season at Three Rivers Stadium, four All-Stars, a World Series championship, and a lineup unlike ever seen before in Major League history.
50 years ago today on September 1, 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates made history, penciling in the first all-minority starting lineup in MLB history.
Hosting the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh started future Hall of Fame outfielders Willie ‘Pops’ Stargell in left and ‘The Great One’ Roberto Clemente in right, current or future All-Stars Al Oliver at first, Dave Cash at third, and Manny Sanguillen behind the plate. Dock Ellis took the mound for the Bucs, who previously threw one of the most unique no-hitters in history, walking eight and striking out six batters against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970 while on LSD.
Gene Clines (center field), Rennie Stennett (second base), and Jackie Hernandez (shortstop) made the lineup complete, leaving a lasting impact on the game 24 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947.
The full historic Pirates lineup:
- Rennie Stennett, 2B
- Gene Clines, CF
- Roberto Clemente, RF
- Willie Stargell, LF
- Manny Sanguillen, C
- Dave Cash, 3B
- Al Oliver, 1B
- Jackie Hernandez, SS
- Dock Ellis, P
Manager Danny Murtaugh sat regular starters including first baseman Bob Robertson, third baseman Richie Hebner, and shortstop Gene Alley, who all saw consistent playing time over the course of the season, in favor of the one-of-a-kind—to its point in time—lineup, providing his players the opportunity to break their own barrier in the Major Leagues during an evolving but tense time period.
On a Wednesday night in front of 11,278 fans, the 138th game of the regular season, the Pirates defeated the Phillies 10-7, giving doubters no reason to speculate on the potential success of an all-minority batting order and defensive unit, topping it all off with the Pirates’ first championship since 1960.
The Bucs celebrated the 1971 World Series Champions in a weekend series at PNC Park against the New York Mets on July 16-18.
The organization also paid tribute to the Negro League's Homestead Grays this past homestand, wearing replica Grays’ jerseys on Friday, August 27 hosting the St. Louis Cardinals to recognize African American players, including the great Josh Gibson, who represented Pittsburgh for 17 seasons in the league, winning three Negro World Series (1943-44, 1948).
As the Pirates and City of Pittsburgh honor the 1971 club in 2021 for a number of feats and milestones, the September 1 lineup of Stennett, Clines, Clemente, Stargell, Sanguillen, Cash, Oliver, Hernandez, and Ellis opened the door for those to follow in America’s national pastime, being recognized with increased notoriety and recognition than originally depicted a half-century ago for one of baseball’s most historic franchises.