The 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates’ ‘Black Nine’ Won for Black America


On September 1st, 1971, half of an inning transpired at Three Rivers Stadium before anybody noticed that the Pittsburgh Pirates had made history.

Facing the Philadelphia Phillies, Doc Ellis, the ace of the team, an all-star, an 18-game winner at the time, had already been knocked for two unearned runs in the first inning. The Pirates, a team well-known for their offensive firepower, knew that they had to get the bats going early if they wanted to finish their series sweep of the Phillies.

As the Pirates settled in to take their first hacks, the issue of race was pushed to the forefront by a team that normally put it behind them when they stepped onto the diamond.

Centerfielder Gene Clines nudged that day’s third baseman Dave Cash, the regular second baseman, and asked if he noticed anything different.

Cash didn’t but catcher Manny Sanguillen did.

“We have nine brown people on the field,” Sanguillen said to himself as Clines handed that day’s batting card to Cash.

The Pirates started “nine brothers” in the game, making them the first team in Major League history to do so.

The moment didn’t last long, as Ellis was touched up for another 5 runs in the 2nd inning. He was replaced by white relief pitcher Luke Walker, who said all he saw is eight men behind him.

But history had been made in the bottom of the first inning.

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