Thursday, December 17, 2015

1971 Pittsburgh Pirates (1st): 97-65, .599, 7UP - WORLD CHAMPIONS

1971 was the year the Bucs finally put it all together and won it all.  After winning the 1960 World Championship 11 years earlier the Bucs remained in contention, but found ways to come up short time and time again.  Despite a slow start the Bucs never were below .500 the whole season.  By June 10th the assumed control of the NL East and never let it go.  A sour stretch in late July to mid august saw their double digit lead drop to 4 1/2 games, but skipper Danny Murtaugh righted the ship by early September and the Bucs ran away and hid finishing out the season with a 7 game lead.  Up next came the SF Giants, winners of the NL West.  Pittsburgh dispatched of the Jints in 4 to win the NL Flag and the privilege of facing the Baltimore Orioles, a team that had four 20 game winners in their rotation.  In a classic 7 game series the Bucs won game 7 behind 37 year old overnight sensation Roberto Clemente's talents.  For years the great Clemente labored in anonymity until the 1971 Fall Classic where he was able to showcase his superior talents.  Who doesn't remember him throwing runners out from his knees or hitting that clutch home run.  Clemente's brand of ball was too much for the station to station American leaguers from Charm City.  Besides the .341 hitting Clemente the Bucs were loaded with offense and were afforded the nickname "The Lumber Company".  Willie Stargell hit 48 homers and knocked in 125 runs.  The lineup had only one starter who hit below .270 (Gene Alley, .227), that's how incredible it was.  Subs like Vic Davalillo (.285) and Gene Clines (.308) made the bench potent.  It's no shock the Bucs led the league in runs scored and homers and came in second with BA.  This was a lineup with only one weak bat.  Pitching, which at times held back the Bucs over the years, was better than adequate.  Dock Ellis, when he wasn't "trippin" won 19 games.  Steve Blass, before his control issues came, was a rock solid 15-8, 2.84 in 240 innings.  The rest of the rotation was good enough.  The pen had Dave Giusti (5-6, 2.93, 30Sv), which is why the complete game was not really needed.  Nellie Briles (8-4, 3.04, 136 IP) was brilliant as a spot starter and long man out of the pen.  Even 35 year old Mudcat Grant got into the action with 7 saves as the Bucs led baseball with 48 saves.

A grand total of 17 new cards were needed to complete the set.  When I started the project I found out that Chris L was working on the same project.  I asked him if he would like to share his work as part of our league file and he said, "Glad something good could come out of it".  From time to time I will post cards created by Chris and give credit where applicable.

Johnson was one of those late bloomers who toiled in the minors until the Expansion draft saved him from anonymity.  Strangely his major league numbers were far more impressive than his minor league stats.  At the age of 27 he got a full time shot with the Royals and posted a 8-13, 3.07 record in 214 innings.  If he got average run support his record could have easily been reversed.  After the season he scratched off the winning lottery ticket and became part of a blockbuster trade where him, Jim Campanis and Jackie Hernandez were exchanged for Freddie Patek, Bruce Dal Canton and Jerry May.  In 174 innings (27 starts) Johnson solidified the back end of the Pirates rotation goin 9-10, 3.45.  The following year he became a spot starter / swingman and posted a 2.96 ERA.  In a more traditional setup role in 1973 he was 4-2, 3.62.  After the '73 season he was traded to baseball purgatory (CLE) for a minor leaguer.  His numbers were horrible and he was cut by the Tribe only to bounce around the Yankee, Royal, Pirates, Philles and Brave systems before getting on last shot in 1977 (0-1, 7.25) in Atlanta.  This is a card that I created.

Nobody in baseball had more forwarded mail than Bob Miller who played for 10 different organizations over the course of 17 seasons.  1971 saw him split time between the Padres and the Pirates.  He was an effective late season (AUG 10) waiver trade pickup going 1-2, 1.29 in 28 innings of work for the Bucs to help support Giusti out of the pen.  Miller's hay day goes back to his mid 60's years with the Dodgers winning pennants and Championships.  He would bounce back to San Diego in 1973, then move to Detroit and finally the Mets, before hanging it up at the age of 36 after the '74 season.  His lifetime post season record was 0-2, 3.07 spread out over 6 series.
21 year old rookie sensation Bruce Kison is fondly remembered for going 2-0 in the 1971 post season including 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in game 4.  Replacing Luke Walker with 2 outs in the first inning, after giving up 3 runs, Kison was nearly perfect until handing the ball over to closer Dave Giusti.  Kison was America's darling as NBC showed him and his fiance every chance they could get.  He was destined for stardom.  While stardom may have avoided Kison he did forge together an above average career where he went 5-1 in the post season and won two championships with the Bucs ('71 & '79).  Kison would go 81-63, 3.49 in 9 seasons by the Allegheny.  He would pitch 5 more seasons in Anaheim and one more in Beantown.  In 1971 in 18 games he was 6-5, 3.40.  This card is one that I created a few years ago for a 1970's project.
Utility man Carl Taylor was re-acquired by the Bucs in September for the pennant drive.  He hit just .167 in 12 AB's as a pinch hitter and did not qualify for the post season roster.  In the off-season he returned to KC and played two more seasons before cashing it in.  Taylor's best season was in 1969, with Pittsburgh, where he hit .348 in 221 AB's.
Sands played on the Pirates' 1971 National League and World Series champions, and batted one time in the Fall Classic, pinch hitting for Bob Veale in the sixth inning of Game 2 and striking out against eventual Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.  In very limited duty (28 Games) Sands hit an even .200 (5-25), but had an OBP of .375.  With Manny Sanguillen doing the bulk of the catching there wasn't much playing time for him.  He would eventually move on to play for CAL and OAK, but never receive extensive playing time.  After hitting .293 in Tucson (OAK-AAA) in 249 AB's he decided to quit baseball realizing that he would never again return to the big leagues.
Brosseau began his six-season (1966–1971) professional career as an outfielder in the Pirates' farm system. But after batting only .176 and .211 in successive campaigns in Class A, he converted to pitcher in 1968.  Brosseau pitched in 2 games for the Bucs in 1969 and got beat up (2 runs in under 2 IP).  His next and final shot came in 1971 where he pitched 2 scoreless innings on June 13 vs STL.  After returning to the minors and going 5-4, 5.31 both he and the Pirates realized that he was never going to be a big league pitcher, so the mutually agreed to part company.
Taveras signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent January 8, 1968, and made his major league debut on September 25, 1971 as a pinch runner for Willie Stargell in the fifteenth inning of an extra inning marathon with the New York Mets (won 2-1 by the Mets in the bottom of the 15th). After only four appearances, mostly as a late inning defensive replacement in 1972, and spending the entire 1973 season in the minors, Taveras made the Pirates for good in 1974. On August 5, 1977, he hit an inside-the-park grand slam in the second inning of the second game of a DH at Cincinnati.  11 games into the 1979 season, Taveras was traded to the Mets for Tim Foli and minor leaguer Greg Field on April 19. During his first season with the Mets, he hit his only career home run that actually went over the wall against Mike LaCoss. Coincidentally, it too was in Cincinnati. Taveras managed to play in 164 regular season games that year. (wikipedia)
In a 10-season career, Clines posted a .277 batting average with 187 RBI, 71 stolen bases, and five home runs in 870 games.  A fast runner with excellent defensive skills, Clines debuted in 1970 with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a reserve outfielder, hitting .405 (15-for-37) in 31 games in his rookie year. He went to the postseason with Pittsburgh in the 1971, 1972 and 1974 National League Championship Series, winning a World Series ring with the Pirates in 1971. His most productive season came in 1972, when he posted career-highs in average (.334), doubles (15), and triples (six) in 107 games. Clines also played with the New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs, and retired during the 1979 campaign and took over the Cubs' first base coaching duties.  (wikipedia)  Clines hit .308 in 273 AB's during the '71 season.  His lack of power (5 career HR's in 10 years) prevented him from ever being a full time starter.  During the '71 post season he was 1-3 in the NLCS, but struggled mightily in the World series going 1-11 for an .091 BA.
Hernandez hit just .206 as the Pirates shortstop, the one position this team was genuinely weak at.  With Gene Alley hitting .227 both he and Hernandez batted 8th and were there solely for their leather.  Hernandez would hit poorly the following two seasons and eventually the Pirates tired of his lack of hitting and decided to replace him with the patron saint of .200 hitting Mario Mendoza.
Career minor leaguer John Lamb showed great promise in 1970 by sporting a 2.78 ERA in 32 innings worth of work.  His efforts were rewarded with a trip back to AAA and just 4 innings on the hill in the majors in 1971.  1972 saw him back in the minors full time and by 1973 when he was given extended action Lamb was 0-1, 6.07 in almost 30 innings.  The Pirates were not impressed with both his major league numbers and sent him back down to the minors where he was an incredible 6-0, 1.42.  He started the following season in the minors and did not perform well (4-2, 4.29 and was given his release.
Milt May was signed as an infielder in the 11th round of the 1968 Major League Baseball Draft by the Pirates, who then converted him into a catcher.  He was a good handler of pitchers and a left-handed line drive hitter who rarely swung at a bad pitch, but also was reputedly the slowest runner in the majors for much of his career.  At age 21, May was a member of the Pirates team that won the 1971 World Series.  In the seventh inning of Game Four of that series, his pinch-hit single drove in Bob Robertson with the winning run in a 4-3 Pirate victory.  Tragedy struck the Pirates in late 1972, when outfielder Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash. May was slated to replace Clemente in the Pirates' lineup in 1973, with catcher Manny Sanguill√©n moving to right field.[6] However the experiment ended by July when it was determined that Sanguillen could not adjust to playing in the outfield and May was back on the Pirates' bench.  (wikipedia).
Briles spent most of his first season in Pittsburgh in the bullpen, however, was added to the starting rotation in September. Though he pitched very well, (3-1 with two shutouts, a complete game and a 1.74 ERA) he did not make an appearance in the 1971 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.  He did, however, earn a game five start in the 1971 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. With the series tied at two games apiece, Briles pitched a brilliant two-hitter to carry the eventual World Champions to a 3-2 series lead. He also drove in a run with a second inning single.  He pitched three seasons for the Pirates, going 36-28 with a 2.98 ERA.  (wikipedia)
It took a long time for Hernandez to make it to the majors, but once he got his chance he made sure he stuck.  30 year old Ramon Hernandez only appeared in 10 games for the Bucs.  He was 0-1, 0.73 in 12 innings of work as a late season edition.  Over the next 5 seasons he would become the key lefty out of the pen for the Bucs posting a 23-12, 2.51 line.  His best season overall was 1972 where he went 5-0, 1.67 with 14 saves.  This is a card I created a few years back for the previously mentioned special project.
He burst on the scene in August, 1971, with his team embattled in a tight pennant race and several hitters starting to slump.  With Jose Pagan out with a fractured wrist and Dave Cash having to fulfill military duty, he was thrust into the lineup at secondbase, a position he had been playing for less than a year and he exceeded all hopes by batting .353 and hitting in a team high 18 consecutive games.  In the field, the young man from Panama delighted fans with an abundance of enthusiasm and range.  (the baseball page).  Manager Danny Murtaugh left Stennett off the post season roster in favor of veteran Jose Pagan.  This only drove Stennett to play harder and win a spot the following season.  He played 9 outstanding seasons in Pittsburgh, before suffering a career limiting leg injury that robbed him of his speed.  Stennett is the last man to go 7 for 7 in a 9 inning game (1975).
1971 would see future All-Star Richie Zisk get his first taste of the big leagues.  Hitting .200 in 7 games (3-15) Zisk would return to the minors for another season before having a breakout year in 1973 (.324-10-54), which culminated in his finishing 9th in the ROY voting.  Zisk would have 3 more above average seasons in Pittsburgh before moving to the AL to become the leagues to DH for the next 7 seasons before retiring.  Zisk would hit .299 in his 6 seasons in Pittsburgh.
Lorenzo "Rimp" Lanier, an outfielder and third baseman, had a September trial with the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. He appeared in six games, five as a pinch hitter and one as a pinch runner, with five plate appearances, no hits and no runs scored. He reached base once when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Gary Gentry of the New York Mets on September 17.  Lanier was not on the postseason roster as the Pirates went on to win the National League pennant and the 1971 World Series.  Lanier stood 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds, batted left-handed and threw right-handed. He played for seven seasons (1967–1973) in the Pirates' farm system, batting .289 with 608 hits in 633 minor league games.  (wikipedia)
The diminutive Davalillo was small in stature but large in heart.  At just around 5'7" / 150lbs his game was built on line drives and speed.  By 1971 he was a platoon player / pinch hitter for the Pirates, whom they acquired from the Cardinals in the off season.  In just under 300AB's he hit .285 and swiped 10 bags.  He would recreate that role the following season and hit .318.  When his average dipped to .181 in 1973 he was sent to the A's where he won his second ring.  By the age of 37 he was finished as a major leaguer, or so everyone thought.  He went to the Mexican League and the Venezuelan Winter league for the next two years before returning to the majors as a lefty pinch hitter for the pennant winning Dodgers.   Davalillo kept that role until he retired at 43.  In truth he kind of retired, because he still managed to play in the Venezuelan Winter League until he was 50 years old.  As a pinch hitter in the '71 series he went 1-3.  His lifetime post season average was a robust .323 (10-31) with most of those at bats coming as a PH.

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