By John Mehno
Beaver County Times
June 20, 2011
Middle Row: Team Physician Dr Joseph Finegold, Trainer Tony Bartirome, Bill Mazeroski, Jackie Hernandez, Dave Cash, Gene Alley, Gene Clines, Willie Stargell, Dave Giusti, Al Oliver, Luke Walker, Charlie Sands, Traveling Secretary John Fitzpatrick, Equipment Manager John Hallahan
Front Row: Vic Davalillo, Jose Pagan, Coach Bill Virdon, Coach Don Leppert, Coach Frank Oceak, Manager Danny Murtaugh, Coach Don Osborn, Coach Dave Ricketts, Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen
PITTSBURGH--The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates were defending National League East champions.
They picked up where they left off, winning their first three games en route to a 97-65 season in which they were never at or below .500.
The Pirates spent 131 days in first place, taking over the top spot on June 10 and holding it.
Their lead shrunk to 3½ games on Aug. 15 when they lost to St. Louis the day after Bob Gibson's no-hitter against them at Three Rivers Stadium.
August was the lone bad month (14-17), but the Pirates rebounded with a 16-9 September to take the Eastern Division again.
It was tough for some people to compile a scrapbook on the season; the Pittsburgh newspapers were on strike for much of the summer.
The 1971 ticket prices: $4.15 for box seats, $3.15 for reserved, $1.90 for general admission. Youth general admission tickets were $1.
Dock Ellis always seemed to be in the news, and not just because he led the staff with a 19-9 record.
Ellis loved controversy and knew how to manipulate the media.
When he was a candidate to start the All-Star game, he loudly predicted that he wouldn't be chosen because Vida Blue was the presumptive starter for the American League.
"They'll never start two brothers," Ellis said.
By saying that, he practically forced National League manager Sparky Anderson to start him.
Perhaps he wished the plan hadn't worked so well. Ellis was the losing pitcher, giving up two-run homers to Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson, the latter a majestic shot onto the roof of Tiger Stadium.
In the postseason, Ellis complained his hotel bed in San Francisco wasn't long enough.
Equally short was his only appearance of the World Series. Ellis started the first game and was charged with four runs in 2 and 1/3 innings.
The Pirates carried a third string catcher for the entire season, even though he was used sparingly.
Charlie Sands was a Yankees farmhand who had struck out in his only major league at-bat as a 19-year-old in 1967.
He made just two starts all year for the Pirates, and wound up with 32 plate appearances. He did pinch hit a home run on May 25 when the Pirates were losing 7-0, and his batting average stood at .500 (4-for-8) on June 23.
But his last hit was a pinch double on July 19, and he was 0-for-12 the rest of the season. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the second game of the World Series.
When Sands is remembered, it's probably for his unusual nickname.
Why did teammates call him "Muncle?"
"Because m'uncle has a Cadillac dealership in Newport News," the Virginia-born Sands drawled.
Nellie Briles wasn't the biggest star on the 1971 Pirates, but few players cashed in on the World Series victory more effectively than he did.
Briles parlayed the fame into a weekend sportscasting job at KDKA-TV.
He also worked up an act of songs and jokes and played nightclubs in the Pittsburgh area that winter.
The centerpiece of his comedy material was an imitation of Paul Lynde, who was big on "Hollywood Squares" in those days.
The 1960 Pirates had "Beat ‘Em Bucs" by Benny Benack and the band. The 1979 team danced to Sister Sledge's "We Are Family."
The ‘71 Pirates had a song, too.
When it became apparent either the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers would represent the National League West in the playoffs, Iron City beer commissioned special lyrics for "California, Here I Come," a song that had debuted in a Broadway musical in 1921.
Sample: "California, here we come/We'll show you where the runs come from/The pennant, the Series, we'll never stop."
The song was featured in Iron City's commercials throughout the second half of the season.
Baltimore manager Earl Weaver's gamesmanship backfired in the seventh game of the World Series.
Weaver protested that starter Steve Blass' foot wasn't in contact with the pitching rubber when he delivered the ball.
Weaver charged out of the dugout, citing Rule 801 to the umpires.
That caused a delay, and angered Blass.
"I was kind of all over the place and not locked in before that," Blass said. "When he came out and started yelling about Rule 801, I got so mad at him trying that nickel and dime stuff that I forgot about everything else and got focused."
Blass pitched his second complete game of the Series and leaped into the arms of first baseman Bob Robertson after the last out.
The usual starting lineup included seven players who were signed and developed by the Pirates:
Manny Sanguillen (catcher), Robertson (first base), Dave Cash (second base), Gene Alley (shortstop), Richie Hebner (third base), Willie Stargell (left field) and Al Oliver (center field) were all signed and developed by the Pirates.
The lone import was right fielder Roberto Clemente, who was drafted from the Brooklyn Dodgers' Class AAA team after just one season of professional baseball.
Starting pitchers Blass, Ellis and Bob Moose were also products of the Pirates' system.
There was no free agency in 1971, so there were no multi-year contracts.
If there had been, Robertson would have been a good candidate for a long-term investment.
Robertson was a power hitter who batted a combined .278 with 53 home runs and 154 RBIs in 1970 and ‘71. He was also surprisingly nimble around first base for a big man.
He hit three home runs in one NLCS game, and famously hit a three-run Series homer after missing a bunt sign.
But an early-season back injury in 1972 ruined Robertson's career.
He played five more seasons for the Pirates, compiling a .227 average with 50 home runs in 1,192 at-bats over the five years.
Until Oct. 13, 1971, all 397 World Series games had been played during the day.
The World Series had started in 1903, and night baseball was introduced in 1935. The two didn't converge until Game Four at Three Rivers Stadium.
Baseball officials figured to draw a larger television audience by playing in prime time.
Within a few years, daylight Series games would become a rarity.
Left-hander Bob Veale had been the leader of the Pirates' starting rotation for much of the 1960s.
By 1971, though, he was in the bullpen, hanging on at age 35.
Veale was 6-0 with a 6.99 ERA. Maybe that was his reward for the 1968 season, when he had a sparkling 2.05 ERA and a 13-14 record. In that season, Veale was the first pitcher since 1914 to have an ERA that low with a losing record.
Veale lost his 1971 World Series ring in a fire.
Several years later, the participants in a Pirates Fantasy Camp found out about that and pitched in to have a replica ring made for him.
The Pirates had the local sports spotlight all to themselves when they played Game Seven of the 1971 World Series on Sunday, Oct. 17.
The Steelers were in Kansas City, awaiting the second Monday Night Football appearance in franchise history.
The Pittsburgh Condors had played the night before, going double overtime to beat the Denver Rockets 140-136 in their ABA home opener at the Civic Arena.
The Penguins wrapped up a western trip that night, defeating the California Golden Seals 4-2 in Oakland.
There was never a no-hitter in the Pirates' 60 years at Forbes Field.
It took only 102 games to get one at Three Rivers Stadium.
Bob Gibson was at his best on Saturday night, Aug. 14 and beat the Pirates 11-0. Gibson walked three and struck out 10 for the only no-hitter of his career.
The closest call was Milt May's seventh inning fly ball to left center that Jose Cruz chased down.
In the ninth, Vic Davalillo and Al Oliver grounded out before Willie Stargell looked at a third strike.
The Pirates had a close call with a no-hitter on July 18 when Luke Walker pitched the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against the Dodgers.
Joe Ferguson led off the ninth with a home run, and Walker settled for a one-hitter and 7-1 complete game victory.
The 1971 Pirates didn't produce any future major league managers, but nine members of the team went on to coach in the major leagues:
Cash, Hebner, Stargell, Gene Clines, Bill Mazeroski, Jose Pagan, May, Bruce Kison and Bob Miller.
Mazeroski, hero of the 1960 World Series, was limited to one pinch hitting appearance in the ‘71 Series.
By ‘71, Mazeroski was Cash's back-up at second base and had 213 plate appearances during the season.
He also made seven appearances at third base, his first major league work at a position other than second base.
The oldest surviving 1971 Pirates player is Veale, who is 75. Davalillo is 74.
The youngest is Rennie Stennett, who turned 60 on April 5. He was not on the World Series roster, though.
The youngest player from the 25-man Series roster is May, who turns 61 in August.
Manager Danny Murtaugh wrote baseball's first all-minority lineup for a home game against the Phillies on Sept. 1.
The lineup: Stennett 2B; Clines CF; Clemente RF; Stargell LF; Sanguillen C; Cash 3B; Oliver 1B; Jackie Hernandez SS; Ellis P.
The Pirates won, 10-7.
The most obscure member of the ‘71 Pirates was Lorenzo "Rimp" Lanier, a left-handed hitting infielder called up in September.
He was 0-for-5 as a pinch hitter and pinch ran once. He was the Pirates' 37th round pick in the 1967 draft.
Of the five pitchers he faced, two were Hall of Famers -- Ferguson Jenkins and Tom Seaver.
Lanier played two more seasons of pro baseball, most of it at the Class AA level.
A full winners share was worth $18,164.58.
For rookies like May and Sands, who spent the entire season on the major-league roster, it was a windfall.
The minimum major league salary in 1971 was $12,000.
Stargell appeared to be on his way to a monster season when he hit 11 home runs in April.
He had 36 home runs by the end of July. But knee injuries slowed Stargell in the second half, and he had just 12 home runs over the last two months of the season, finishing with 48.
He still led the National League and had the biggest total by a Pirates player since Ralph Kiner hit 54 in 1949.
His 48 homers still represent the third best single season total in Pirates' history.
The Pirates made a late-season change of veteran right-hander relievers.
They sold Jim "Mudcat" Grant to Oakland on Aug. 10, and immediately acquired Bob Miller from San Diego for John Jeter and Ed Acosta.
Miller made 16 appearances and was 1-2 with three saves and a 1.29 ERA.
The Pirates were the ninth of Miller's 10 major league clubs. The ‘71 team was his third as a World Series champion.
Miller legally changed his name before he got into baseball, much to the relief of announcers. Miller was born Robert L. Gemeinweiser.
There were strange voices in the Pirates radio booth in 1971.
KDKA cut back to two announcers, dropping Gene Osborn after one season.
Prince and Nellie King were left to call the games. When they did both radio and TV, they picked up a freelance announcer in each city to help out.
Prince missed part of the season because of illness.
His replacement was Jack Fleming, the Steelers' radio voice.
Clemente had a typically solid season at age 37: .341 average, 13 home runs, 86 RBI. He finished fifth in Most Valuable Player voting and won the 11th of his 12 Gold Glove awards.
Clemente finished the season 118 hits short of 3,000.
He got the last stolen base of his career on July 17, 1971, two days after he played 17 innings in a win over San Diego.
While everyone remembers his World Series performance against Baltimore, Clemente also batted .333 (6-for-18) in the NLCS against the Giants.
Pitcher Luke Walker didn't do much to help himself at the plate.
Walker was 1-for-46 (.022) with 30 strikeouts. And shame on the pitchers who walked him six times. Jerry Reuss, then with the Cardinals, walked Walker twice in the same Sept. 16 game.
The Pirates remained pretty much intact in 1972.
Veale was demoted to the minor leagues early in the 1972 season, then sold to Boston in September.
The dismantling of the ‘71 club began after the disappointing 1973 season.
The next time you see the video of the last out, note how Merv Rettenmund's ground ball appears to be headed up the middle.
But shortstop Jackie Hernandez was able to grab it and throw out Rettenmund to start the Pirates' celebration.
Hernandez was shading Rettenmund up the middle, the result of an extensive report filed by legendary super scout Howie Haak and Harding "Pete" Peterson, who was then the Pirates' minor league director.
They spent weeks shadowing the Orioles and preparing the scouting report.
How deep was the Pirates farm system?
As Clemente and Mazeroski neared the ends of their careers, the Pirates had prospects stacked behind them.
Richie Zisk and Dave Parker were on the way up to play right field. The second basemen behind Mazeroski were Cash, Stennett and Willie Randolph.
He was married in Pittsburgh hours after the Pirates won the Series in Baltimore on Oct. 17.
Prince enlisted the help of some corporate friends and got Kison back to town with a helicopter and a private plane.
Bruce and Anna Marie Kison are still married, by the way.
Pittsburgh's top five songs on KQV's Hit Parade on Oct. 17, 1971:
1. Yo Yo (Osmonds), 2. Maggie May (Rod Stewart), 3. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Joan Baez), 4. Do You Know What I Mean (Lee Michaels) and 5. Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (Paul McCartney).
The San Francisco Giants were the team that gave the Pirates the most trouble in the regular season.
The Pirates were 3-9 against the Giants.
They beat them in four games in the NLCS.
Murtaugh's classic line when baby-faced rookie Kison was promoted from the minor leagues:
"I looked older than he does the day I was born."