Tuesday, September 21, 2010

PTWSW #68: The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Danny Murtaugh
Record: 97-65
Ballpark: Three Rivers Stadium
Owner: John W. Galbreath
GM: Joe L. Brown
Coaches: Don Leppert, Frank Oceak, Don Osborn, Dave Ricketts, Bill Virdon

Future Hall of Famers: Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell

All-Stars: Roberto Clemente, Dock Ellis, Manny Sanguillen, Willie Stargell

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Roberto Clemente, .341
OBP: Willie Stargell, .398
SLG: Willie Stargell, .628
OPS: Willie Stargell, 1.026
2B: Al Oliver, 31
3B: Roberto Clemente, Richie Hebner, 8
HR: Willie Stargell, 48 (NL leader)
RBI: Willie Stargell, 125
BB: Willie Stargell, 83
SB: Gene Clines, 15

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Dock Ellis, 19
SO: Dock Ellis, 137
ERA: Steve Blass, 2.85
IP: Steve Blass, 240
CG: Steve Blass, 12
SHO: Steve Blass, 5 (NL leader)
K/BB: Dock Ellis, 2.17
SV: Dave Giusti, 30 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Roberto Clemente (b. August 18, 1934)

Youngest Player: Rennie Stennett (b. April 5, 1951)

First to Leave Us: Roberto Clemente (d. December 31, 1972) Just two months after the 1972 season ended Clemente headed a relief effort for earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente decided to accompany a shipment of supplies personally, but the plane was old and overloaded, and it crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff.

Last Survivor: Most are still living as of the date of this post.

First in Majors: Roberto Clemente (debut April 17, 1955)

Last in Majors: Al Oliver and Bruce Kison both played their final regular season games on October 5, 1985, though Oliver's final appearance in a big league contest came in Game 7 of the ALCS, on October 16. It should be noted that Kison and Oliver both announced their retirements in February 1986, while Richie Hebner, who made his final appearance on October 3, 1985, didn't retire until after he was released by the Cubs in Spring Training.

First to Play For the Franchise: Roberto Clemente (April 17, 1955)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Milt May (September 30, 1984)

Pre-union Team: The 1969 Cardinals had four: Nelson Briles, Vic Davalillo, Dave Giusti and Mudcat Grant.

Reunion Team: The 1977 Athletics (Dock Ellis, Dave Giusti, Manny Sanguillen), 1977 Cubs (Gene Clines, Dave Giusti, Ramon Hernandez), 1978-79 Rangers (Dock Ellis, Al Oliver, Richie Zisk) and 1979 Mets (Dock Ellis, Richie Hebner, Frank Taveras) each had three. Hmmm. It seems that wherever Dock Ellis went in the late '70s he found two of his former '71 Pirate teammates.


Roberto Clemente, NL Outfield Gold Glove

Season Summary

The Pirates were the best offensive team in the NL, mainly due to their proficiency at bashing the ball. They led the NL in homers, triples, slugging percentage and OPS+, and finished second in batting and on-base average. They were strong on the other side of the ball too: Their defense was second in TotalZone, and their pitching staff was fourth in ERA+. Their hurlers generally pitched to contact, as their walk and strikeout rates were low. Though they allowed more hits than average, they mimimized the damage by posting the fourth-best opponents' slugging percentage.

It was close at the top of the NL East for the first two months of the season, but the Pirates took over the lead for good in June. An 11-game winning streak in July gave them a buffer which allowed them to weather a cool spell the next month. On September 1 the Pirates made history by employing the first all-black starting lineup in a win over the Phillies. Given the diversity on their roster, it nearly went unnoticed by some players. Three weeks later Pittsburgh clinched the division title by beating the Cardinals 5-1.

The NLCS matched the Pirates up with the Giants, against whom they'd gone 3-9 in the regular season. All that record indicated was that the Pirates were due. San Francisco took Game 1, but the Pirates won the next three to take the NL pennant. If there'd been an LCS MVP it surely would've gone to first baseman Bob Robertson, who hit four homers and put up an OPS of 1.688 in the four games.

The Pirates' World Series opponent was the Baltimore Orioles, the 1970 champions playing in their third straight Fall Classic. The Orioles were riding a hot streak, winners of their last 11 regular season games and fresh off an ALCS sweep of the Oakland A's. They stretched it to 16 in a row by taking Games 1 and 2 at home. When the Series shifted to Pittsburgh the Pirates were able to get back in it. Buc ace Steve Blass pitched a three-hitter in Game 3, while backup catcher Milt May's single provided the go-ahead run in Game 4 (the first World Series contest played under the lights). Stretch run hero Nelson Briles pitched a shutout in Game 5 to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead heading back to Baltimore. The home-team winner trend continued in Game 6, as Brooks Robinson's tenth-inning sac fly knotted up the Series. Blass returned to the mound for the deciding match, and he outdueled Baltimore's Mike Cuellar for his second complete-game victory. Roberto Clemente, who hit .414 with two homers in the Series, was named MVP.

One month after the World Series ended, manager Danny Murtaugh stepped down citing health concerns. He would be replaced by coach and former player Bill Virdon.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives
Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup by Bruce Markusen

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