40th anniversary: the lineup that changed baseball

Forty years ago today, the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates made history on the way to their world championship. That day, as recounted in the book The Team That Changed Baseball by THT’s very own Bruce Markusen, they fielded the first all-minority lineup, featuring nine men who all would’ve been too dark to play in the pre-Jackie Robinson days.

Going through the lineup, position by position on Sept. 1, 1971.

On the mound was Dock Ellis, the team’s only black starting pitcher. He has a knack for appearing in many 1970s stories. He famously threw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. He once beaned three consecutive Cincinnati Reds to send a message. Earlier in 1971, Ellis also surrendered Reggie Jackson’s famous All-Star Game moon shot homer in Detroit.

Behind the plate was Manny Sanguillen, in his third season as Pittsburgh’s regular starting catcher. While he didn’t have much power or draw many walks, Sanguillen was one of the few catchers of his day that could hit over .300, earning him three All-Star game selections. He stayed with the Pirates until he was involved in an unusual trade, sent to Oakland for manager Chuck Tanner.

At first base was Al Oliver. Normally the team’s center fielder, Oliver played at first today in the place of Bob Robertson, who was a little banged up. This was in the middle of a five-game stretch where Robertson only had one pinch-hit attempt. This helped the Pirates make history, as Robertson was white.

As for Oliver, two years before he was runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting, and he was still in the early phases of a career that would have seven All-Star Game selections and over 2,700 hits.

At second base was 20-year-old Rennie Stennett, making just his 16th start in a big league game. He got his break in August when starting infielder Richie Hebner went down with an injury. Stennett came up and hit so well, the Pirates kept him in the lineup for a while after Hebner got healthy. This game on Sept. 1 was in the middle of a 16-game hitting streak for Stennett, and incredibly, he got at least two hits in 14 of them, going 35-for-73 in all.

Not too surprisingly, after 1971, Stennett became the regular second baseman for Pittsburgh. His most famous moment came later, when he went 7-for-7 in a 22-0 drubbing of the Cubs. He was an effective hitter through age 26 but then got really old really quick and played his last game at age 30.

At third base was Dave Cash. Normally, Cash was the starting second baseman, but when normal third sacker Hebner went down with an injury a week and a half earlier, the team moved Cash here and gave Stennett his shot at second.

Cash was another guy who specialized in base hits and made a trio of All-Star teams in his career. His most notable distinction came in 1975, when he set a major league record with 699 at-bats in a season. Willie Wilson broke that record shortly after, but for a while Cash held the mark.

At shortstop was the team’s weakest link, Jackie Hernandez. He batted .206 on the season and .208 over an eight-year career. I can only assume he had a good defensive reputation, but on this day he committed an error that led to some unearned runs. Normally the team started Gene Alley at short, but this was the 12th consecutive game Hernandez got the nod.

Alley, like Robertson and Hebner, was white. While the 1971 Pirates did have three normal starters missing on the day, Alley was the only one they really missed. Not that he was the best player, but he would have been a better alternative than Hernandez.

In left, the Pirates had franchise stalwart Willie Stargell. He’d top the circuit with 48 homers (and 154 strikeouts) en route to a runner-up finish in the MVP voting for 1971. He went on to become a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.

In center was Gene Clines. In his first season with any meaningful playing time, the 24-year-old Clines batted .308 with 24 homers despite playing in just 96 games. He had another good season in 1972 and then tanked.

Clines played that day in center because Oliver was at first. Also, the opposing pitcher was Woodie Fryman, a southpaw, and Pirate manager Danny Murtaugh had been platooning Clines with Vic Davalillo in center when Oliver played first. Clines batted righty and Davalillo lefty, so Clines got the start.

Finally, Roberto Clemente patrolled right for Pittsburgh, just as he had since the mid-1950s.

So the team had it’s all-minority lineup, and the lineup was not a stunt; it’s just how it worked out for Murtaugh. The team came close a few other times to a similar lineup, but always had at least one other man who could’ve played for Pittsburgh before 1947.

In Dock Ellis’ previous start on Aug. 27, Pittsburgh had a nearly identical lineup, except normal first baseman Robertson played. Similarly, Robertson was the team’s lone white face in Ellis’s starts on Sept. 15 and 21. Pittsburgh’s darkest starting lineup without Ellis on the mound came on July 24. Steve Blass pitched with Oliver, Stargell, Clemente, Clines, Sanguillen, Hernandez, and Stennett (in his fourth start) behind him. Rounding out the lineup was Jose Pagan, a fairly light-skinned Puerto Rican.

Flipping it around, the lightest colored lineups Pittsburgh had all year came in late June and early July. Hebner, Alley, and Robertson all started regularly. Milt May frequently spelled for Sanguillen behind the plate. Aging veteran Bill Mazeroski started 10 straight games at second base for them. Whenever the pitcher wasn’t Ellis, the team had a two-thirds white lineup.

But on Sept. 1, 1971, the Pirates made history, fielding the first lineup full of men barred from a game a quarter-century earlier. Oh, and they won the game 10-7. Ellis didn’t have it, earning an early yanking, but the bullpen and offense pulled Pittsburgh through. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s Woodie Fryman didn’t have it, either.

Lost random fact from that game: Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa walked three times. In 1970, Bowa went 43 straight games without walking once. In 1972, he experienced 35 consecutive games without a walk. In his career, he went 20 or more games without a base on balls 10 different times. But today he had three, all by the fourth inning. Yeah, Ellis didn’t have it.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) or anniversary. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim.


1,000 days since Greg Maddux announces his retirement.

4,000 days since Corey Patterson makes his big league debut.

4,000 days since Vladimir Guerrero homers twice in his second straight game.

5,000 days since the Cubs trade Doug Glanville to the Phillies for Mickey Morandini.

6,000 days since the players vote to return from the 1994 strike only if the court supports the NLRB complaint of unfair labor practices by the owners.

9,000 days since reliever Jose Mesa makes his big league debut.

15,000 days since the Yankees retire number 37 for Casey Stengel.

15,000 days since Tony Perez drives in a personal best six RBIs in one game. He’s 3-for-5 with a pair of home runs in Cincinnati’s 10-5 win over LA.

15,000 days since Giants pitcher Skip Pitlock hits an inside-the-park home run in a 6-5 win over the Astros.


1850 Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke is born.

1872 22-year-old National Association outfielder Albert Thalke drowns while fishing, one of the first (the first?) players at Baseball-Reference.com to die.

1880 Boston suspends slugger Charley Jones for demanding $378 in back pay and refusing to play when he doesn’t get it.

1886 Ed Crane walks 14 and tosses five wild pitches in a 15-2 win.

1887 Boston fires star player King Kelly as their manager.

1890 Pittsburgh and Brooklyn play in baseball’s first tripleheader, one game in the morning and two in the afternoon. Brooklyn sweeps Pittsburgh on the day.

1892 Pirate pitcher Mark Baldwin is arrested in his hometown of Homestead, PA, during its famous steel strike (which is actually a lockout, but no matter). He’s charged with alleged complicity in recent violence there but claims only to be a bystander.

1900 The Cubs release Roger Bresnahan, which is a mistake.

1902 Johnny Evers makes his big league debut. He plays shortstop with the Cubs while Joe Tinker mans third, and Frank Chance plays first. The Cubs got the right guys, they just need to put them in the right places.

1904 The Reds get pitcher Orval Overall from Tacoma in the PCL in the Rule 5 draft.

1905 By some accounts, Honus Wagner becomes the first pro athlete to do a commercial endorsement, for the Louisville Slugger baseball bat company.

1905 Rube Waddell injures his shoulder in a fight with teammate Andy Coakley over straw hats.

1906 The A’s beat the Red Sox, 4-1 in 24 innings, with Philadelphia’s Jack Coombs and Boston’s Joe Harris both going the distance on the mound. Harris’ record falls to 2-18, as he suffers from what is literally the worst run support ever by any pitcher over a full season.

1906 The Tigers pick up Hughie Jennings as a Rule 5 guy from Baltimore in the Eastern League. He’ll become their manager and stick around until 1920.

1906 When the umpires for today’s Cub-Cardinal game come down with food poisoning, a player from each team umpires. The Cubs win their 14th straight game.

1907 The Cubs Ed Reulbach enters the top of the ninth up 2-0, but he then allow seven runs on eight straight hits.

1908 In the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees claim Jack Quinn.

1909 In the Rule 5 draft, Brooklyn takes Jake Daubert.

1910 The Phillies make probably the greatest Rule 5 draft pick ever: pitcher Pete Alexander. On the same day, the White Sox take Buck Weaver, and the Giants claim Dick Rudolph.

1912 Pitcher Bill Doak makes his big league debut.

1913 Frederick W. Thayer, inventor of the catcher’s mask, dies at age 65.

1917 The Indians all-time cumulative record hits .500 (1,264-1,264). It’s the 32nd time it’s done that from 1915-17.

1922 AL president Ban Johnson suspends Babe Ruth for the fifth time this year, this time for his on-field behavior on Aug. 30.

1923 Hall of Famer George Kelly fans four times in one game for the only time in his career.

1925 Babe Ruth, who recently received a record fine and suspension from Yankee manager Miller Huggins, goes to team owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert to plead his case, but Huggins already has received the owner’s approval. The penalty stands, and Ruth will be forced to apologize.

1926 The Red Sox and Senators combine for a record 11 sacrifices in one game. Washington wins 7-4; that’s the score and the breakdown in sacrifices.

1928 George Sisler has his fourth and final walk-off home run. That’s a lot for a guy with barely 100 career homers.

1928 President Herbert Hoover shows up at a Senators-Yankees game and asks to pose for photos with Babe Ruth. “Nothing doing. I’m for Al Smith!” says the anti-prohibition Ruth.

1930 White Sox starter Ted Lyons loses his 100th game, for a 123-100 career record.

1931 Lou Gehrig belts the 11th of his record 23 grand slams. It’s also the sixth straight game he’s gone deep. His line in that time: 11-for-27 with two doubles and six homers, 10 runs, 21 RBIs and a .407/.429/1.148 AVG/OBP/SLG for a 1577 OPS.

1933 Bobo Newsom outduels Lefty Grove in a 14-inning duel, 2-1 Washington over Boston. Both starters go the distance in the contest.

1937 The Giants sign Bill Terry to manage and serve as farm director for five years at $40,000/year. He’s on the verge of clinching his third pennant in five years as team manager, but he’ll never have another one.

1939 Cub Gabby Hartnett catches his 1,722nd game, breaking Ray Schalk’s old record.

1939 Super-genius and US spy Moe Berg plays his last game.

1939 Rico Carty is born.

1941 Rudy York belts three homers in one game.

1942 The Chicago Tribune reports that Cleveland has invited three Negro Leguers to try out with them in early 1943: Sam Jethroe, Parnell Woods, and Gene Bremmer.

1944 Brooklyn releases Paul Waner, who the Yanks sign on the same day.

1945 Vince DiMaggio ties a big league record with his fourth grand slam of the year.

1946 Bob Feller tosses his 13th consecutive Quality Start, his longest such stretch. During this run his line is: 109.2 IP 67 H, 24 R, 15 ER, 52 BB, 87 K for a 1.23 ERA. Feller also tosses his 300th inning of the year on this day.

1947 The Giants club their 183rd homer of the year, breaking the old record by the 1936 Yankees. They’ll end up with 221.

1948 The Indians sign Minnie Minoso.

1948 Yogi Berra belts the first of his seven walk-off home runs.

1949 Senators starting pitcher Dick Weik walks 13 against the White Sox.

1949 Garry Maddox, great defensive center fielder, is born.

1951 Don Mueller of the Giants belts three homers in one game, just a day after he hit two in a game.

1957 It’s the last Giants-Dodgers game at Ebbets Field. New York wins, 7-5.

1957 The Yankees take Sal Maglie off waivers from Brooklyn.

1958 For what’s almost certainly the last time in big league history, all major league teams play in doubleheaders.

1958 Vinegar Bend Mizell wins a 1-0 shutout despite walking nine.

1961 Brooks Robinson enjoys the first of eight multi-homer games.

1962 Cuno Barragan of the Cubs hits a homer in his first at-bat. He never homers again.

1963 Willie Mays gets his 2,000th hit in his 1,669th game.

1963 Yankee switch hitter Tom Tresh becomes the 11th player to homer from both sides of the plate in one game.

1964 Masanori Murakami makes his big league debut, the only Japanese player prior to Hideo Nomo.

1965 Lee May makes his big league debut.

1967 Alan Foster with Spokane of the PCL tosses his second no-hitter of the year.

1967 Gaylord Perry becomes the last pitcher to last more than 15 innings in a game. His line: 16 IP, 10 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, but he gets a no-decision as the Giants defeat the Reds, 1-0, in 21 frames. Perry’s Game Score is 112 and his WPA is 1.601.

1967 Defensive whiz Aurelio Rodriguez makes his big league debut.

1969 Astros second baseman Joe Morgan has possibly the greatest moment of his broadcasting career. As recounted in Ball Four by Jim Bouton, Morgan explains to teammate Norm Miller the difference between a normal curve and a m*****-f***ing curve.

1969 Jim Palmer wins his 11th straight game, a personal high he’ll later tie. His line in that span: 11-0, 14 G, 11 GS, 94 IP, 59 H, 18 R, 18 ER, 34 BB, 66 K, and a 1.72 ERA.

1969 Steve Garvey makes his big league debut.

1970 The White Sox hire Chuck Tanner as their new manager.

1970 Fergie Jenkins belts two homers in one game, leading the Cubs to a 5-2 win over the Expos.

1971 Harmon Killebrew plays his last game at third base.

1972 With two outs in the 10th inning, Rod Carew steals home for a 5-4 Twins win over the Indians.

1974 Lou Brock ties his personal best by stealing four bases in one game.

1974 With an injured Carlton Fisk out for the rest of the season, Boston purchases Tim McCarver from the Cardinals.

1974 In a Tigers-A’s game, Oakland’s Gene Tenace plays the entire day at first without a single defensive chance. Catfish Hunter gives up an enormous number of fly balls. The only groundball out results in a force at second base.

1975 It’s Bob Gibson Day in St. Louis, and they beat the Cubs 6-3. Gibson doesn’t pitch, and will have his last game two days later.

1975 Dick McAuliffe plays his last game.

1976 Fergie Jenkins tears his Achilles tendon while covering first base for Boston against Texas.

1976 Lyman Bostock has a walk-off sacrifice hit, allowing Minnesota to defeat Milwaukee, 3-2.

1978 Baltimore’s Sammy Stewart fans seven straight White Sox in his major league debut.

1979 Carney Lansford homers three times in one game.

1980 In a pre-game exchange of lineup cards, White Sox’s Ed Farmer and Detroit’s Al Cowens shake hands. A few years ago, Farmer threw an inside pitch that broke Cowens jaw. The next time Cowens faced Farmer, he charged the mound on an infield grounder. This handshake settles that bad blood.

1980 Lee Smith makes his big league debut.

1980 Tony Pena makes his big league debut.

1980 The Phillies sign free agent Tim McCarver, which will make him a four-decade player.

1981 Future manager Ron Gardenhire makes his big league debut as a player.

1982 Manny Mota plays his final game.

1982 The Padres signed Benito Santiago as an amateur free agent.

1983 A nearly 34-year-old Mike Schmidt tries to steal home and is caught. This is at least the second time in his career he’s tried this.

1983 Jack Morris sets two personal records with his 10th straight win and his seventh straight complete game. His ERA was 1.83 ERA during the winning streak.

1983 Orel Hershiser makes his big league debut.

1984 Tony Perez hits his 11th and final career walk-off homer. That’s a lot; the record is 12.

1986 Jim Presley of Seattle hits three home runs in one game.

1987 Billy Hatcher of Houston is ejected for using a corked bat in a 3-2 loss to Cubs.

1987 Boston trades Dave Henderson to San Francisco.

1989 Baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti dies.

1989 Juan Gonzalez makes his big league debut.

1990 Mike Greenwell belts an inside-the-park grand slam as Boston smashes the Yankees, 15-1.

1990 Mickey Morandini makes his big league debut.

1991 Paul Molitor plays his final game at third base.

1991 Eric Karros plays in his first major league game.

1991 Vinny Castilla plays in his first game in the big leagues.

1992 Mike Piazza makes his big league debut as Dodgers catcher.

1995 Bobby Cox has battery charges dropped against him. He was arrested on May 7 and now tells the judge that counseling has helped him.

1996 Bobby Abreu makes his big league debut.

1997 Curt Schilling fans 16 in eight innings, his most in a start that goes fewer than nine innings.

1997 Vladimir Guerrero knocks out his first walk-off home run.

2000 Rogers Communications purchases four-fifths of the Toronto Blue Jays.

2004 Ryan Howard makes his big league debut for the Phillies.

2005 John Olerud belts his 500th double.

2007 Boston’s Clay Buchholz tosses a no-hitter in his second career start, topping Baltimore, 10-0.

2008 For only the second time in history, two players hit for the cycle on the same day: Adrian Beltre and Stephen Drew. It also happened on Sept. 17, 1920.

2008 Minor leaguer Koby Clemens, son on Roger Clemens, and two teammates are arrested for their role in a restaurant fight.

2010 Washington’s Nyjer Morgan, already appealing a seven-game suspension for tossing a ball into the crowd, starts a brawl against the Marlins.

newest oldest most voted
Rick Meyer
Rick Meyer

2 points regarding the Pirates lineup.
1. Gene Clines had 24 RBIs in 1971, not HRs. He had 5 HRs in his career.
2. Rennie Stennett “got really old really quick” due to a broken leg. He was hitting .336 in 1977 when he broke his leg sliding into 2nd base. He was never able to recover completely from that injury.


Rennie Stennett broke his leg in 1977 while in the BA race.  He wasn’t the same after.  Lefty Grove was still with the A’s in 1933.

Chris J.
Chris J.

Rick – good catch on Clines.  Just read the wrong column.  D’OH! 

Didn’t know that about Stennett.  That makes sense.

kds – thanks for the heads up on Grove. (checks).  Well, Grove WAS a Red Sox in that game, I just got the year wrong in my file—it took place on 9/1/1935, not 1933.  I’ll correct that in my file.

Thanks again for all the corrections.


Clines had 24 RBI in ‘71… he had 1 home run. Five HR in his career. Good stuff though!

Matthew E
Matthew E

“1991 Paul Molitor plays his final game at third base.”

Final regular-season game, maybe, but he played two games at third during the 1993 World Series. (The Jays wanted to get his bat in the lineup in the National League park.)

Bruce Markusen
Bruce Markusen

Chris, thanks for writing about the all-black nine. This is an event that has been so under-reported for so long; I’m glad to see other writers taking an interest.

The best part of the story is that this Pirate team went on to win it all six weeks later. They never again started an all-black nine, but the black and Latino players continued to have a huge impact.