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On This Day 50 Years Ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates Made History With an All-Black Lineup

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On Sept. 1, 1971, Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh did what he did before any game. He submitted the lineup card he thought would give his club the best chance of winning that night.

Nothing struck the Pirates’ players as anything out of the ordinary until the game had already started, and Dave Cash said to Al Oliver on the Pirates’ bench, “You know, we got nine brothers out there, man,” as they both shared a laugh. The team didn’t realize they had done something that would be talked about half a century later.

The Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in Major League Baseball history to field an all-black lineup. 24 years after baseball’s color barrier was broken, the Pirates made history on their way to what turned into a historic season.  The starting nine consisted of players from across the United States and Latin America – a group of nine that came from different walks of life, but shared the same goal.

After the game, Murtaugh delivered a memorable statement, saying, “When it comes to making out the lineup, I’m colorblind, and my athletes know it.”

Here’s what his lineup looked like that night at Three Rivers Stadium.

  1. Rennie Stennett 2B
  2. Gene Clines CF
  3. Roberto Clemente RF
  4. Willie Stargell LF
  5. Manny Sanguillen C
  6. Dave Cash 3B
  7. Al Oliver 1B
  8. Jackie Hernandez SS
  9. Dock Ellis P

Stennett, the Panama-native, collected a pair of hits in that game and played nine seasons with the Pirates. Clines, who was born in San Pablo, California, also picked up two hits on the history-making night and played five seasons in Pittsburgh.

Clemente, from Puerto Rico, is arguably the best player in team history. He won two World Series, an MVP, was named an All-Star 12 times and earned a Gold Glove the same number of times. Clemente was tragically killed in a plane crash just over a year later.

While Clemente may be the best Pirate of all time, Stargell wasn’t too far behind. The Ohio-born Stargell, wore the black and gold for his entire 21-year Major League Career. He too won a pair of World Series and was named an MVP. To this day, he remains the club’s all-time home run leader.

Sanguillen, another Panamanian, hit a two-run homerun in the game. He was a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series Champion in his 12 seasons with the Bucs.

Oliver, who like Stargell was born in the state of Ohio, played a total of 10 seasons with the Pirates after debuting in 1968. He was a three-time All-Star in Pittsburgh who could flat out hit.

Hernandez from Central Tinguaro, Cuba, only played three seasons with the Pirates. The slick-fielding shortstop is best known for fielding the groundball that turned into the final out that gave the Pirates four World Championships.

Ellis, born in Los Angeles, picked up 96 wins and an All-Star appearance in his nine seasons with the Pirates. He is remembered for the no-hitter – yes that no hitter – he threw during the 1970 season.

The Pirates won the game 10-7 against the Philadelphia Phillies, improving their record on the season to 82-56 en route to winning the National League East. That historic night at Three Rivers Stadium foreshadowed even more history as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles and won the franchise’s fourth World Series trophy.

What makes this monumental occasion so special is the fact that it was unplanned – just a group of talented baseball players penciled into the lineup by the their manager to try and get a win that night. It did not matter who they were, what they looked like or where they came from, they just wanted to win.

The tight-knit group of teammates cared about winning, but more importantly, winning together as a team.

The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates went down in history for winning the World Series, but it was this night 50 years ago that stands alone as the one-of-a-kind piece of history in this beautiful game called baseball.

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