Monday, October 17, 2011

It Was 40 Years Ago Today...

...that Steve Blass threw his gem against the Baltimore O's to take the seventh game of the 1971 World Series 2-1, capped by his iconic leap into Bob Robertson's arms. His four hitter was backed by a Roberto Clemente homer and Pops Stargell RBI single, just enough to send Mike Cuellar to his second defeat of the October Classic, both times outdueled by Blass.

The series started with the Bucs losing the first two games at Baltimore, getting thumped 5-3 after blowing a 3-0 lead and then 11-3. But they came back to win the next three at Pittsburgh in the friendly confines of TRS. Pitching fueled that home-sweet-home run. Blass started with a complete game, three hit 5-1 win, followed by Bruce Kison's 6+ inning scoreless relief stint in the next contest, which was the first night game in Series history. The cherry on top was Nellie Briles' complete game, two hit shutout in the fifth match.

With a chance to take it in six, the Bucs faltered 3-2 in ten innings. Bob Moose started and Dave Guisti tossed three shutout innings from the pen, but Bob Miller was tagged with the loss. Hey, it only put off the inevitable by a game, and we know that the Bucs do like to take their series to seven. Drama is everything, no?

Arriba and Manny Sanguillen carried the Buc attack, hitting .414 and .379 respectively, but the O's staff held the Pirates to a .235 team average. The Big Bad Bird's fared worse; they had a collective .205 BA. Blass led the Pittsburgh staff with two complete game wins and a 1.00 ERA; Dave McNally was 2-1 for the Orioles with a 1.98 ERA, starting twice and coming out of the pen twice.

Danny Murtaugh retired after the win, although he would return in 1974. The Great One would have one more season in the sun, reaching 3,000 hits in 1972 before being called home. And the Bucs would be back at the end of the decade to face the same foes, with the same results.

The 1971 Pirate championship team, celebrated at PNC Park this summer.

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