MLB Network Special: 1971 Pirates

MLB Network aired one of their off-season specials tonight on the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates called “Forever Brothers”. I of course set my DVR because I really like these short documentaries that they do.

  • The Pirates of 1971 had a lineup unlike any other. Of course they were headlined by a still-elite 36 year old Roberto Clemente. He hit .341 in that season, his final season. The documentary talked about him facing the same racial issues that Jackie Robinson did.
  • Manny Sanguillen said that Clemente was like his Jackie Robinson or Babe Ruth.
  • Didn’t realize that Portsmouth, Ohio’s own Al “Scoops” Oliver was the team’s regular center-fielder.
  • Their diversity was no coincidence, their front office searched for talent across all countries. The Pirates had three black/latin players on their 1960 World Series Championship team. They had a dozen a decade later.
  • They talked about Dock Ellis of course and his throwing of a no-hitter on LSD.
  • Willie Stargell (a future Hall of Famer) was their left fielder and at age 31, hit 48 bombs with 125 RBI. What a monster.
  •  They were nicknamed “The Lumber Company” because they could flat out hit from top to bottom in the lineup.
  • They had 11 pitchers and 14 position players, basically due to the platoons and versatility of their position players.
  • Twice in the first three weeks of the season, Stargell had three-homer games. He had 30 at the All-Star break.
  • Dock Ellis started the All-Star game.
  • Lots of praise for Danny Murtaugh the manager, which I have read about before.
  • Clemente and Stargell were not treated well by the Pittsburgh press. They were often portrayed as ‘angry’ by writers in the local press.
  • On September 1st, 1971, the Pirates faced Woodie Fryman.  Murtaugh started nine black/latino players together. This made baseball history.
  • That game was won by the Pirates and served as a turning point in their season.
  • Pirates fell behind 2-0 to the heavily loaded Baltimore Orioles in the 1971 World Series. A comebacker to the mound that Clemente beat out for a hit was the turning point of that series. The Orioles boasted four 20-game winners.
  • It was mentioned how much hustle and how hard that team played. They ran the bases aggressively.
  • Orioles won in game six in 10 innings to force a game seven on a sacrifice fly.
  • Clemente hit a bomb in game seven to kick off scoring. Stargell scored from first base on a hit and run.
  • Steve Blass closed out the ninth inning, Frank Robinson hit in that inning and was the second out. Merv Rettenmund grounded out up the middle on a great play by the shorstop Jackie Hernandez to end the series.
  • The documentary’s final scene showed Clemente’s 3,000th hit. No one knew it would be his last year in baseball in 1972.
  • Clemente’s son said he warned his dad not to board the aircraft he died on January 1st, 1973 and knew the plane was going to crash.

This was a pretty good documentary overall, it’s always good to see the history of the game like this and learn a few facts I wouldn’t otherwise have known about the history of the game.