1971 Pittsburgh Pirates- Game 22: San Diego Padres at Pittsburgh Pirates- Friday April 30, 1971. Bob Johnson starting for the Pirates against Dave Roberts for the Padres.
- Expectations were high going into the 1971 season for Pirates fans-and going into the final game of April- the Pirates needed a win against the Padres to have an above .500 record in the month. As a ten year old I know I wasn’t down on the Pirates for their slow April. They had a great team- I had no doubt they’d come around. Maybe If I had been older I would have had mixed feelings- like ‘ I know they will come around but come on it’s time to start playing better baseball!’ – It does frustrate me every season to see some fans who you would have to think should know better-to over value what happens in April. If a good team or player runs into a slump say from July 15-August 15th-it’s not as noticeable I guess as if they come out of the gate slow. In 2021 for example there are a number of proven stars who are off to slow starts- I have to laugh when I see the comments some supposedly knowledgeable fans make- just an example- Francisco Lindor of the Mets has been one of the bright young stars in the past 5 five years- he is hitting .203 right now. I have read comments from ‘fans’ writing him off. He’s 27 and in the prime of his career. No doubt after signing a huge contract in the off-season he is pressing- he will be just fine. He got booed the other day in New York- by June he will be a hero to the same people. Patience folks.
- Back into the time machine- The Padres come into town with a 5-15 record- in their third year of existence they are not a good team. Their one ‘star’ is slugging first baseman Nate Colbert- who hit 38 home runs in 1970.
- The Padres jumped out ahead with 3 runs in the 4th inning highlighted by a two run home run from ‘Downtown’ Olllie Brown. Those three runs off of starter Bob Johnson would be all the Padres would get.
- For the Pirates Al Oliver led the hitting attack going 3-4 with a double and a triple. Al Oliver who was an outstanding hitter- everything he seemed to hit was a line drive- was the first Pirate I ever met- at a signing at a store in a nearby mall. Professional hitter- who as a Pirate kind of lived in the shadows of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Borderline Hall of Fame candidate.
- Richie Hebner who has gotten hot this week- also went 3-4 and knocked in a run.
- Willie Stargell ended the month without adding to his new record for most home runs hit in the month of April- but he did go 1-4 and knock in a run- and ends the month with 11 home runs 27 RBI’s and a batting average of .347.
- The Pirates bullpen were the pitching heroes tonight- after Bob Johnson gave up the 3 runs in the 5th- Jim Nelson came in and went 2 innings of scoreless ball- and picked up the win- and veteran Jim ‘Mudcat’ Grant finished up with 2 more innings of scoreless ball in picking up his second save of the season.
- The Pirates finish the month of April with a winning record of 12-10. The Pirates 3rd place only 1 1/2 games out. While it was a disappointing month- no one in the NL East had all that great of a month. I wrote earlier in the month how the Pirates traditionally started slow in April- in 1979 they were 7-11 at the end of the month and they won the World Series that season- as they would in 1971.
- Attendance on a Friday night- a pathetic 5, 944. I am working up a post on- Pirates attendance problems in the early 1970’s for another time. Game Time: 2:06.