Year
1971
Month Day
September 01

Pittsburgh Pirates field MLB's first all-Black lineup

On September 1, 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates field the first all-Black lineup in Major League Baseball history in the team's 10-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The history-making event receives zero coverage in Pittsburgh two major newspapers—both were on strike—and is mentioned only briefly during the team’s radio broadcast. Only 11,278 attend the game in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.

"I don't think we even realized it until the second inning," broadcaster Nellie King told the Pittsburgh Press in 1986 about the all-Black lineup. In its game coverage, United Press International highlighted the milestone, which came 24 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"When it comes to making out the lineup, I'm colorblind, and the athletes know it," Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh said, according to UPI. "…The best men in our organization are the ones who are here. And the ones who are here all play, depending on when the circumstances present themselves."

READ MORE: Jackie Robinson's Battles For Equality On, Off Baseball Field

Dock Ellis was the starting pitcher for Pittsburgh, throwing to catcher Manny Sanguillen. At first base was Al "Scoop" Oliver. Rookie Rennie Stennett played second base, a position usually occupied by Dave Cash, who played third. Light-hitting Jackie Hernandez played shortstop while Gene Clines and future Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente played in the outfield. Sanguillen, Clemente, Stennett and Hernandez were Latino.

“We really had no idea that history was being made,” Oliver told MLB.com in 2011.

The lineup was only together for a little more than an inning. The Phillies knocked Ellis from the game with one out in the second inning. He was replaced by Bob Moose, a white pitcher.

A little more than a month later, the Pirates made history again by beating the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series in seven games. Six of the eight position players in MLB's first all-Black lineup also started that series-clinching game in Baltimore. 

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