Joe L. Brown in November 1956.

50 Years Ago- my Pittsburgh Pirates would win the World Series. They have only won one time since then in 1979. I was a ten year old Pirates fanatic in 1971- I followed the season closely and was able to go to I’d guess ten games give or take a few games. I was usually listening to the games on the radio if it was a home game- [home games were never televised then] and watching every time a road game was on television- they had about half the away games on television- the other half I’d have my transistor radio on.

In 1970 the Pirates had made the playoffs for the first time since winning the 1960 World Series by winning the National League Eastern Division title- but they would lose in the playoffs that year 3 games to 0 against the Cincinnati Reds. I was of course optimistic going into the 1971 season. I was also looking back now extremely fortunate. It was great to be a Pittsburgh sports fan in the 1970’s- the Pirates would win 2 World Series- while making the playoffs six times. They were always in contention. The football Steelers would win 4 Super Bowls. All this when I was between the ages of ten and twenty. Good times.

In the off season the Pirates made a few moves-

  • October 15, 1970- a minor trade with the New York Yankees- the Pirates acquired catcher Charlie Sands and two other minor league players who never made the major leagues- sending three minor league players to the Yankees- none of those three made it to The Show either. Sands would play a minor role as third string catcher for the Pirates in 1971- he would be used mainly as a pinch-hitter.
  • October 26, 1970- the Pirates released veteran relief pitcher Joe Gibbon.
  • December 2, 1970- Pirate General Manager Joe L. Brown [son of famous actor Joe E. Brown] swung a trade with the Kansas City Royals. Going to Kansas City was Freddie Patek [the shortest man in the majors at 5’4″ ] pitcher Bruce Dal Canton and catcher Jerry May for pitcher Bob Johnson, shortstop Jackie Hernandez and catcher Jim Campanis. I have to say Kansas City in the long run got the best of the deal- Patek would be a big contributor to the Royals throughout the decade. For the Pirates though the trade was a good trade for 1971 – Johnson a starting pitcher would have a good year for the Pirates starting 27 games and going 9-10 with a 3. 45 ERA. Hernandez a back up shortstop would play a role when the starting shortstop Gene Alley was injured. Campanis the son of Dodger executive Al Campanis wouldn’t appear in a game for the Pirates until 1973- and then only in six games.
  • The biggest deal of the off-season- on January 29, 1971- former batting champion and starting center fielder Matty Alou and relief pitcher George Brunet were dealt to division rival the St. Louis Cardinals- for pitcher Nelson Briles and outfielder Vic Davalillo. A great deal for the Pirates- they could afford to deal Alou- because of the wealth of young talent the Pirates farm system had developed in the late 60s-early 70’s- first baseman Al Oliver would go to center field- with Bob Robertson taking over at first base full time. Alou would not be missed at all. Nellie Briles would be a spot starter in 1971 pitching in 37 games total starting 14 and having a record of 8-4 with a fine ERA of 3:04. He would be a key member of the pitching staff. Vic Davalillo was a great pinch-hitter and extra outfielder. He would get a lot of playing time in the outfield filling in when the starters were rested.
  • February 10, 1971- in a move that would at the time get no attention which turned into a great move the Pirates traded minor leaguer Danny Rivas to Mexico City Reds in the Mexican League for left handed relief pitcher Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez would appear in only 10 games in 1971 but was outstanding in those ten games -saving 4 with a 0.73 ERA. He would be an outstanding left handed relief pitcher out of the Pirates bullpen until midway though the 1976 season.

The 1971 season was about to get under way- tomorrow- Tuesday April 6, 1971- the Philadelphia Phillies come to Three Rivers Stadium for Opening Day- Dock Ellis pitching for the Pirates and veteran lefty Chris Short for the Phillies.

[pictured at the top- Pirates General Manager Joe L. Brown- the man who built the 1971 Pirates]

14 responses to “1971 PITTSBURGH PIRATES PREVIEW

  1. One of my favorite pinch hitters and name…Vic Davalillo. He was as quick as they come. When you can trade Matty Alou and not miss him…you are deep.
    I always thought Freddie came up with the Royals.

    • They could have used Freddy- shortstop was a problem though out the 70’s – Tavaras wasn’t bad but defensively he could drive you crazy- Foli was as steady as they come for a couple years finally filled the hole… Patek turned into a pretty good player for the Royals… I always liked his quote when asked about being the shortest player in the majors- ‘better than being the shortest player in the minors’

    • You can’t beat that quote. I always remember that picture of him with his head down after the Yankees beat the Royals in the playoffs. He was a good player.
      I remember Foli really well.

    • Pirates don’t win without Foli trade in 79- he was steady- Garner and Foli up the middle were like having two managers on the field. I always thought Foli would manage someday- I know he was a coach- I think he was kind of a hot head… they don’t hire hot heads anymore.

    • No…Bowa, Lopes, and people like them don’t get looked at anymore. They used to be sought after…like Billy Martin.
      I always admired Garner as well…tough guy.

    • Bowa was a guy I figured would be a good manager- but again I think he couldn’t turn off that abrasive personality… Garner was a tough guy but not in that category as far as personality….

    • Bowa helped a lot of players with the Dodgers…him and Lopes reminded me of each other…they were both abrasive…Bowa left becasue Matt Kemp couldn’t get along with him. At least that is what I read.
      Now you get a manager job with no experience.

    • what managers today are viewed by upper management as more valuable than a player- you don’t get along with your star- you are done if the player pushes it… the managers seem secondary today- compared with the past.

    • That is why I was shocked that La Russa got a job… not because of his temper but he is not in love with advanced stats…and how will he relate to that young team?

    • should be interesting- he has a good team. in watching the angels-white sox over the weekend the announcers were talking about how- Pujols who loved LaRussa- was telling Jose Abreu that he would love playing for him etc-and how the word was positive on LaRussa with the players coming into spring training.

    • I hope he does well. I just didn’t see it coming and it probably would not have happened with anyone but the White Sox because of the owner.

    • I agree- that was the only place he was going- its hard to believe he retired from managing ten years ago. time flies.

  2. The 1970s were definitely a great era for the Bucs! BTW, Joe Musgrove had an impressive debut outing for the Padres on Saturday. I’m a believer. I’m waiting on Dinelson Lamet’s full recovery which would give the Friars one of the best rotations in baseball with Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, and Lamet.

    • Musgrove seems like a quality guy also- I remember when he was traded from the Astros he put a big ad in the newspaper thanking the fans – did the same when the Pirates traded him. Hated to see him go- but happy to see him go to a team where the games will really matter.

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