The Team that Changed Baseball by Bruce Markusen
One of the seven deadly sins is envy. And I have it for Bruce Markusen who gets to live in Cooperstown and write about baseball for a living. Okay, I wouldn’t want to live in Upstate New York during the winter as I don’t enjoy that much snow.
Markusen has previously written a biography of Roberto Clemente that I thought was well done and I rank as the second best Clemente biography behind the recent effort by David Maraniss.
This tome by Markusen looks at the 1971 Pirates and specifically focuses on the diverse racial make up of the club. The Buccos became the first team to start nine minorities in one game during the 1971 season, hence the title of the book. On September 1 skipper Danny Murtaugh filled out the following lineup:
Rennie Stennett – 2B
Gene Clines – CF
Roberto Clemente – RF
Willie Stargell – LF
Manny Sanguillen – C
Dave Cash – 3B
Al Oliver – 1B
Jackie Hernandez – SS
Dock Ellis – P
This book is well thought out but isn’t particularly insightful. The first part of the book details baseball’s slow (especially in the AL) integration of American blacks and darked skin players from Latin America. Markusen jumps into the 1971 season and gives some description from most of the contests before concluding the book with individual chapters on each game of the 1971 World Series.
Not a whole lot of anecdotes or humorous stories. My favorite one was about Dock Ellis wearing a batting practice helment that he had altered so that it was fuzzy. He called it “velvetized”. Also, according to Steve Blass from the middle of his masterful Game 6 performance in the 1971 series to its conclusion Manny Sanguillen refused to call any pitches and had no idea what Blass was going to offer. He and Sangy had a disagreement during a mound conference one inning. Sangy told Blass to throw whatever he wanted and the backstop refused to offer any signs. Blass notes that Sany had amazing athletic ability to be able to pick up the rotation on the ball and not commit any passed balls.