Thursday, September 1, 2011

The First All Black-Latino MLB Starting Lineup

September 1 in Major League Baseball is known as the day when the rosters are expanded to accommodate the minor leaguers that have earned a brief promotion to the major leagues. But on September 1, 1971 in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania something happened in a major league baseball game that had never happened before. 

Pirates manager Danny Murtagh had prepared the lineup that he planned to field against the Philadelphia Phillies as he would have done for any other game for the exception of one little detail. Before I go into the little detail, here is the lineup:

Rennie Stennett (2B)
Gene Clines (CF)
Roberto Clemente (RF)
Willie Stargell (LF)
Manny Sanguillen (C)
Dave Cash (3B)
Al Oliver (1B)
Jackie Hernandez (SS)
Dock Ellis (P)


What was different about this lineup from any other lineup that Murtagh  (or any other manager in Major League baseball up to that point) had ever written up was that this lineup was the first starting lineup that was made up of players of color. Considering  that they color line was broken only 24 years prior by Jackie Robinson in 1947, it was an amazing and historic event.

Was there a reason past just winning the game for Murtagh's decision? It's hard to say. Murtagh had been quoted as such when asked about the lineup for the article "Pirates Starters All Black" which was printed in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

"When it comes to making out the lineup, I'm color blind and my athletes know it. They don't know it because I told them, but they know it because they are familiar with the way I operate."

The Pirates roster was a cosmopolitan blend of 14 whites, six African-Americans and seven Latinos. According to Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup:

In 1971 the Pirates represented baseball’s most heavily integrated team, with black and Latino players accounting for nearly fifty percent of the club’s roster.  The Pirates also featured one of baseball’s most harmonious teams, with friendships and gatherings often crossing racial lines

The reason for the team being called the "All-Black team" rather than let's say the "All-Black/Latino Team" (as I chose to do so) is that at the time there wasn't much in the way of distinguishing African American and Latino players past the color of their skin which always seemed to upset Roberto Clemente. Clemente always stressed that he was Puerto Rican and should be regarded as a Latino because of it rather than the color of skin. So what happened in the game?

In front of just 11,278 fans, the Pirates defeated the Phillies by a score of 10-7. History and continued progress was made that day.

FH

For Further Reading:
There are two excellent articles that cover the subject of the Pittsburgh pirates starting lineups of September 1, 1971

- Click Here to access Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup from baseballguru.com

- Click Here to access Charlie Vascellaro's article Bucs broke ground with first all-minority lineup dated September 1, 2011 from MLB.com 
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