Manager: Danny Murtaugh
By Greg Leadbetter
For 15 seasons, Roberto Clemente was overlooked when being compared to the best stars in baseball. Even with several Gold Glove awards, four batting titles, and an MVP award, he was often ignored as a superstar, but for seven days in October 1971, Clemente showed the world that he was "The Great One."
Clemente would have a World Series to remember that year by batting .414 with 12 hits, two doubles and two homers in a seven-game triumph over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. He also made key defensive plays that kept Oriole base runners in check during the Series, including a memorable throw he made to almost get Merv Rettenmund out at third for a double play.
The season, however was not all about Clemente, as the 'Buccos led as a team offensively in at-bats (5,674), runs (788), hits (1,555), triples (61), home runs (154), runs batted in (744), and slugging average (.416).
Willie Stargell led the offensive charge by leading the National League in home runs with 48 while driving in 125 runs. First baseman Bob Robertson had a stellar year, as well, by walloping 26 homers, driving in 72 with a .271 average. He would receive the NLCS MVP by smacking four homers and driving in six with a .438 average against the San Francisco Giants. Also included in the offensive performances were catcher Manny Sanguillen's .319 average, and Clemente's .341 average which included 13 HR'S and 86 RBI'S.
The pitching for the Pirates had some superstars of its own with Dock Ellis, who was starting pitcher for the All-Star Game that year in Detroit. Ellis compiled a 19-9 record with a 3.05 ERA for the 'Buccos in 1971, and Steve Blass had a 15-8 record, plus a 2.85 ERA and league leading five shutouts. Blass would pitch two complete game victories with thirteen strikeouts and 1.00 ERA in Games 3 and 7 of the World Series. Reliever Dave Giusti had a league leading 30 saves with a 2.93 ERA .
The Pirates would have some unknown players rise to stardom during the postseason. Rookie Bruce Kison (6-5, 3.41 ERA) pitched six and a third scoreless innings in a Game 4 World Series comeback victory, Nelson Briles (8-4, 3.04 ERA) delivered a two-hit, complete game shutout in Game 5 of the World Series, and Bob Johnson (9-10, 3.45 ERA), who, in an emergency pitching change prior to the game, threw a seven strikeout, five hit, one run performance in Game 3 of the NLCS.
The 1971 Pirates were led by manager Danny Murtaugh. Murtaugh guided the Pirates that year to a 97-65 record, tops in the NL East. The Pirates, after losing the first game to the San Francisco Giants, destroyed them in four games, and in the World Series, the Pirates plucked the feathers off the Baltimore Orioles in seven games.
Greg Leadbetter is a former graduate of West Holmes High School and the University of Akron Wayne College in Ohio who contributes to historicbaseball.com. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.