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Pondering Pittsburgh: The Battling Buccos 1971

The Battling Buccos – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the

Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1971 World Series Championship

By Paula Green

The year 1971 was exciting. Moviegoers were entertained by Fiddler on the Roof. The United States lowered the voting age to 18 years old. In Orlando, Florida, Disney World opened its doors. In another exciting event, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the odds and was named World Series Champions.

It was the first World Series appearance for the Pirates since Bill Mazeroski's dramatic walk-off home run against the New York Yankees in 1960. This was no ordinary baseball team; they were one of the most diverse teams in the major league. What made the ’71 battling Buccos so unique was is it featured 13 players of Latin or African-American descent on their roster. They also had two of the best players in the majors: Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Other powerhouse minority players included Rennie Stennett, Gene Cline, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernandez and Dock Ellis. The team was under the leadership of manager Danny Murtaugh.

Heading to the World Series, the Pirates were the underdog. Their opponent was the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s were the defending World Champions and winners of 318 games over their previous three seasons. Their 1971 season record was an impressive 101-57.

The O’s won the American League East Division by 12 games over their nearest rivals, the Detroit Tigers. The teams also sported anchor players such as Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell.



Things looked pretty bleak for the Pirates after they fell to the Orioles in Games 1 and 2 in Baltimore by the scores of 5-3 and 11-3. Buccos were looking for a successful comeback story when the series switched back to Three Rivers Stadium for games 3, 4 and 5. Instead, the team gained much-needed support from their first baseman Bob Robertson, third baseman Richie Hebner, catcher Milt May and pitchers Bruce Kison, Nellie Briles and Steve Blass.

Blass dominated the mound at Three Rivers Stadium in Game 3, tossing a three-hitter while Bob Robertson matched his teammate’s numbers with a three-run homer of his own. The final was a 5-1 victory for the Buccos, which put them back in the race.

In game 4, the Pirates were victorious once again with a 4-3 victory. Fortunately, the series was now dead even. Game 5 saw our Buccos pull ahead when they shut-out the Orioles with a 4-0 finish. In Game 6, the Orioles won by edging the Pirates 3-2 in ten innings.

Game 7, the Pirates won 2-1, and they dethroned the defending World Champions. Clemente was voted the "Buccos" MVP and totaled twelve hits in twenty-nine at-bats to finish with a .414 average. Teammate Manny Sanguillen hit .379, and infielder Bob Robertson added two homers and five runs batted in.

On July 17 this past year, the Pirates organization paid tribute to the 1971 Pirates team. Eleven championship team members were honored in an on-field ceremony before the game against the New York Mets. Thanks for the beautiful memories ’71 Buccos!

Sources: https://www.mlb.com/pirates/history/features-videos/1971-pirates-world-series-champions,

https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-1-1971-pirates-field-first-all-black-lineup-in-baseball- history, https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/october-17-1971-blass-clemente-lead-pirates-to-victory-in-world-series-game-7/, https://theundefeated.com/features/on-this-day-in-1971-the-pittsburgh-pirates-fielded-the-first-all-black-lineup/, https://www.baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1971ws.shtml

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