Black History Month web exclusive: Pirates field first all black and Hispanic line-up plus an Atlanta Braves history lesson

1971 Pirates

The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates were an interesting team.

The pitching rotation was led by Dock Ellis who claimed that he pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970, while tripping on LSD.

The Bucs roster of position players included three players destined for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, including the incomparable Robert Clemente, 1978 Most Valuable Player Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski who won eight gold gloves and hit a walk-off home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series to beat the heavily favored New York Yankees at Forbes Field.

The Pirates returned to the World Series in 1971, and defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4 games to 3, winning game 7 2-1 on home run by Clemente and a double by Jose Pagan that scored Stargell.

But the Pirates made history a month before the World Series.

On Sept. 1, 1971, the Pirates fielded the first starting nine in baseball history without a white player.

Everyone on the lineup card manager Danny Murtaugh showed to home plate umpire Stan Landes was either black or Hispanic or a combination of both.

Rennie Stennett of Panama led off for the Bucs followed Gene Clines of California. The third hitter was Puerto Rico’s favorite son Clemente. Clean-up hitter Willie Stargell was born in Oklahoma.

Catcher Manny Sanguillen of Panama hit fifth, and Dave Cash of Utica, New York hit sixth. Ohio native Al Oliver hit seventh, followed Cuban shortstop Jackie Hernandez. Ellis was on the mound.

Only Ellis knows if his mind was clear of mind-altering chemicals that day, but one thing is for certain: The predominantly white players hitting against him for the Philadelphia Phillies were not fooled (only two Phillies in the game were not white – Willie Montanez of Puerto Rico and Oscar Gamble of Alabama).

Ellis gave up two runs in the first inning.

However, his teammates picked him up by scoring five runs in the bottom half.

Ellis gave up a two-run homer to Ron Stone in the top of the second and Murtaugh replaced him with Bob Moose, the first white dude to enter the Pirates lineup that day.

Moose promptly gave up a two-run homer himself and Phillies led 6-5.

But the Pirates scored three more runs in the bottom half to retake the lead.

The Pirates went on to win 10-7.

Nobody noticed it, but Atlanta Braves manager Luman Harris filled out a line-up card that was nearly as remarkable.

Of the eight position players behind white pitcher Ron Reed none were white.

Lead-off hitter Felix Milan came from Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Louisiana native Ralph Garr, a Grambling State alum, hit second, and future Hall of Famer Henry Aaron hit third.

One of the game’s few black catchers, Earl Williams, hit clean-up and Zoilo Versalles of Cuba hit fifth. Henry’s brother Tommie Aaron hit sixth followed by centerfielder Mike Lum.

According to SABR, Lum, the son of Japanese woman and an American soldier, was the first first American of Japanese ancestry in the major leagues. At the time he was the only Hawaiian native in the major leagues.

Even the Pirates weren’t that diverse.

Shortstop Marty Perez, the son of a Mexican soccer player -- again according to SABR -- batted eighth.

The only pinch hitter the Braves used that day was Oscar Brown, a black man straight out of Compton, California.

But even if Braves manager Luman Harris had wanted to match Pirate skipper Danny Murtaugh, he wouldn’t have been able to: while the Pirates had four pitchers who were black or Hispanic (Ellis, Bob Veale, Jim “Mudcat” Grant and Puerto Rican Ramon Hernandez), the Braves didn’t have any.


And here's a tune from 1971 as a bonus.


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