Baseball’s Black Pioneers | 50 Years Ago Today The Pittsburgh Pirates Fielded MLB’s First All-Minority Lineup

With Black participation in MLB sitting at just under 8 percent (and rising) it’s important to acknowledge the African-American players who have paved the way for other Black and Latino ballers.

Their contributions have helped make Major League Baseball a booming business.

Every milestone by Black players should be recognized, especially when understanding the history of the Black player as it relates to a sport that helped integrate America and inspire massive civil rights changes.

50 years ago today was one of those watershed moments in American history and sports culture.

On September 1, 1971, the Pirates became the first MLB franchise to field a starting lineup that consisted of all Black and Latino players.

 

 

The all-minority starting nine broke one of the most significant racial barriers in baseball since Jackie Robinson’s historical Major League debut 24 years prior.

The nine players in the lineup were: Rennie Stennett (2B), Gene Clines (CF),  Puerto Rican icon and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (RF), MLBBro Willie Stargell (LF), Manny Sanguillen (C), MLBbro Dave Cash (3B), MLBbro Al Oliver (1B), Jackie Hernandez (SS), and colorful Black Ace Dock Ellis (RHP).

 

 

According to mlb.com:

“The Pirates’ players on the field did not realize they were making history until the game was underway. Sanguillén remembers hearing about it in the second inning.

That’s when, by several accounts, Cash turned to Oliver and said something to the effect of, “We’ve got all brothers out there.”

While the moment continues to pick up considerable significance as society evolves, it received minimal media coverage back then.

The prevailing theory is that a lack of racial awareness on the part of the majority white press as well as the fact that The Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the city’s two major newspapers, were on strike, led to the event sliding under the radar.

MLB.com notes:

“In (Al) Oliver’s opinion, as far as social baseball milestones go, the Pirates’ all-Black and Latino lineup ranks second only to Robinson’s debut.

“How can anyone forget that night?” said Oliver. “As far as minorities in sports, that has to be second.”

Similarly, in hindsight, Sanguillén says he now ranks the Sept. 1, 1971, game over his two World Series appearances”

Years later that game against the Phillies is recognized as another step in the full emergence of Black and Latino players. The success they had in the game showed that brothers were very capable players who were here to stay.

 

Some Other Notable Black Moments In Baseball

 

  • 1878 Bud Fowler is the first known professional black player on an integrated team when he plays in Lynn, Iowa exhibition games.
  • May 1, 1884 – Moses Fleetwood Walker is the first black major league player playing for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association.
  • October 1, 1885 – The Cuban Giants are organized by Frank P. Thompson and become the first group of professional black players.
  • July 17, 1903 – Cuban X-Giants’ Dan McClellan becomes the first black pitcher to throw a perfect game. Defeats the Penn Park Athletic Club of York 5-0.
  • September 3, 1906 – The first Negro Championship Cup was played.  The Philadelphia Giants defeated the Cuban X-Giants 3-2.
  • February 13, 1920 – The first successful league, the National Negro Baseball League, is formed by Rube Foster.
  • 1924 – The first “Negro World Series” is played between the Negro Eastern League and National Negro Leagues.
  • October 23, 1945 – Jackie Robinson becomes the first black player to sign a formal / major league contract : Montreal Royals.
  • April 15, 1947 – Jackie Robinson plays his first major league game as a Brooklyn Dodger becoming the first modern black player.
  • July 5, 1947 –  Larry Doby is the first black player to play in the American League: Cleveland Indians.
  • August 26, 1947 – Dan Bankhead is the first black pitcher to play in a major league game (Brooklyn Dodgers).  *He also hit a home run in his first ever at bat.
  • September 17, 1947 – Jackie Robinson is the first black player to win a Rookie of the Year Award.  It was the first year the award was ever issued.
  • September 30, 1947 – Jackie Robinson and Dan Bankhead are the first black players to appear in a World Series.
  • April 20, 1948 – Roy Campanella becomes the first black catcher to make an appearance in a Major League baseball game behind the plate.
  • August 13, 1948 – Satchel Paige is the first black pitcher in an American League game: Cleveland Indians (he shuts out Chicago).
  • October 10, 1948 – Satchel Paige is the first black pitcher to pitch in a World Series game. He acame on in relief and pitched 2/3 of an inning.
  • 1947 – Sam Lacy of Baltimore is the first black sportswriter admitted to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
  • July 8, 1949 – Don Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Hank Thompson of the New York Giants are the first black pitcher and batter to face each other during a game.
  • July 12, 1949 – Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, and Larry Doby are the first black All Star players.
  • November 18, 1949 – Jackie Robinson is the first black player to win a Most Valuable Player Award.
  • 1949 – Jackie Robinson is the first black player to lead a league in batting average: National League .342.
  • 1951 – Emmett Ashford is the first black umpire in organized baseball: Southwest International League.
  • 1951 – Don Newcombe is the first black pitcher to lead a league in strikeouts: National Leaue 164.
  • 1951 – Monte Irvin is the first black player to lead a league in runs batted in: National League 121.
  • September 29, 1951 – Don Newcombe is the first black pitcher in either league to win twenty games (going 20-9 for the Brooklyn Dodgers) in a single season of play.
  • October 1, 1952 – Joe Black of the Brooklyn Dodgers earns a victory versus the New York Yankees to become the first black pitcher to win a World Series game.
  • 1952 – Larry Doby is the first black player to lead a league in home runs: American League 32.
  • July 17, 1954 – The Brooklyn Dodgers field the first black majority team when five (Jim Gilliam 2b, Jackie Robinson 3b, Sandy Amoros lf, Roy Campanella c, and Don Newcombe p) of their nine play versus the Braves.
  • May 12, 1955 – Sam Jones is the first black major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter.  Don Newcombe is the first black pitcher to win twenty games in a single season of play.
  • 1955 – Roy Campanella is the first black player to win three Most Valuable Player Awards: 1951, 1953 & 1955.
  • November 21, 1956 – Don Newcombe is the first black pitcher to win the Cy Young Award and does so during the award’s first year it’s ever issued.
  • 1956 – Don Newcombe is the first black pitcher to lead either league in games won: National League 27.
  • 1959 – Ernie Banks is the first black player to win two consecutive Most Valuable Player Awards: 1958 & 1959.
  • 1962 – Jackie Robinson is the first black player enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • May 29, 1962 – Buck O’Neil is the first black major league baseball coach: Chicago Cubs.
  • November 7, 1963 – Elston Howard is the first black player to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
  • 1964 – Willie Mays is the first black player chosen to be a team (San Francisco Giants) captain.
  • March 17, 1965 – Jackie Robinson is the first black network broadcaster when ABC signs him to the baseball broadcast team.
  • April 11, 1966 – Emmett Ashford is the first black umpire in a major league game when Cleveland beats Washington 5-2.
  • 1966 – Frank Robinson is only the twelfth player in history and the first black player to win the Triple Crown Award for hitting.
  • September 1, 1971 – The Pittsburgh Pirates field the first all-black starting lineup: Al Oliver 1b, Rennie Stennett 2b,Jackie Hernandez ss, Dave Cash 3b, Manny Sanguillen c, Dock Ellis p, Gene Clines lf, Roberto Clemente cf, and Willie Stargell rf.
  • April 8, 1975 – Frank Robinson manages his first game with the Indians and becomes the first black major league manager.
  • 1977 – Bill Lucas of the Atlanta Braves is the first black major league general manager.
  • 1992 – Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays is the first African American manager to ever win a world championship (1992 World Series) and one year later became the first to win two consecutive world championships (1993 World Series).

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.