The All-Black Lineup

Throughout the year, I’ll be writing about baseball’s first all-black lineup, which occurred 35 years ago. It’s an event that has received very little publicity, but one that deserves more recognition and analysis.

A recent post that I did about the film Glory Road has stirred some debate about the first all-black lineup that the Pittsburgh Pirates used on September 1, 1971. Some fans object to the use of the term "all black," saying that is inappropirate in describing the players who comprised that historic lineup, which featured the likes of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. In light of that, let’s make a few additional points:

*Clemente himself reguarly referred to himself as a double minority, in other words, both Latino and black. If black is used to describe skin color, then Clemente, Manny Sanguillen, and Jackie Hernandez were all black. For those not comfortable with the use of the word "black," then I think "minority" would be the better word.

*There has never been another all-black, or all-minority, or all-African American lineup in major league history. The Cardinals came close during the 1980s, but never quite had an all-black or all-minority nine. Right now, it’s a onetime event, with the Pirates of September 1, 1971, holding exclusive rights to the "title."

*I don’t think that an all-black lineup during the regular season is as noteworthy as what Texas Western did in the national championship game, but let’s keep two things in mind:

1) baseball requires nine players, as opposed to five, so naturally it’s more difficult to field an all-black lineup in a sport like baseball

2) the ’71 Pirates won the World Championship one month after the all-black lineup, while using a lineup that had more minorities than white players. Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Hernandez, Stargell, and Clemente played virtually every day in that World Series, the center fielder was always black (Al Oliver or Gene Clines), and Jose Pagan started a couple of games at third base. Aside from the pitching staff, the only whites who played regularly in that Series for Pittsburgh were Bob Robertson at first base and Richie Hebner at third base.

2 Comments

My father used to tell me that one day, the Pittsburgh Pirates slowly substituted players throughout the game until in the 9th inning, everyone on the field was black, and nobody noticed in the moment. But I got the impression that this was much earlier. Was Sept. 1, 1971 the first all-black STARTING lineup?

Kellia, yes, this was the first all-black starting lineup. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever documented a case of another team having an all-black lineup at some point in the middle of a game.

Bruce M.

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