1971 Baseball Season


The 1971 baseball season was Vida Blue's year -- until October, when the veteran Baltimore Orioles showed the 21-year-old Oakland pitcher what pressure baseball was. They themselves were then taught a lesson by the Pittsburgh Pirates, World Series winners for the first time since 1960.

Blue's phenomenal first full season -- 24-8, 301 strikeouts, a league-leading 1.82 ERA, eight shutouts -- earned him both the American League's Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards. The Rookie of the Year was first baseman Chris Chambliss of last-place Cleveland with a .275 average, nine home runs, and 48 RBI. Minnesota's Tony Oliva won the batting title at .337. Detroit's Mickey Lolich led the league with 25 wins, and Chicago's Bill Melton had a circuit-best 33 home runs.

Individual honors in the National League were won by Atlanta's Earl Williams, whose 33 homers and 87 RBI won him the 1971 Rookie of the Year Award; Joe Torre of St. Louis, who led the league with a .363 average and 137 RBI and was named Most Valuable Player; Willie Stargell, whose 48 home runs topped the circuit and propelled Pittsburgh to a division title; New York's Tom Seaver, whose 1.76 ERA was best in the league; and Cy Young Award winner Ferguson Jenkins, who logged the most innings (325) and won the most games (24) with a 2.77 ERA for the Cubs.

Pittsburgh's speed, power, defense, and pitching were too much for the National League East. Roberto Clemente led with a .341 average. His 86 RBI ranked second on the team, right behind Stargell's 125. Although no Pirate pitcher won 20 games, the hurlers were well-balanced and had an ace in the hole in Dave Giusti, whose palmball brought in five wins and a loop-high 30 saves.

In the NLCS, the Pirates overpowered the Giants, who had followed Bobby Bonds (.288 average, 33 home runs, 102 RBI) to a division title by 1 game over theDodgers. After losing game one to the Giants, the Pirates turned on the power. They surged to a 3-1 tournament victory that featured a three-homer second game by first baseman Bob Robertson and homers by Richie Hebner in games three and four.

1971 Baseball Season Recap
Catfish Hunter scored
21 victories in the
1971 season.

With Catfish Hunter's 21-11, 2.96 ERA season and the muscle of Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Rick Monday, and Mike Epstein, Blue and the A's marched to a 101-60 record and a 16-game edge over Kansas City for the AL West title. The Orioles won 101 games as well, on the pitching of a record-tying four 20-game winners: Dave McNally (21-5), Mike Cuellar (20-9), Pat Dobson (20-8), and Jim Palmer (20-9). The Orioles also led the American League in runs scored for a convincing 12-game lead over second-place Detroit.

Orioles pitching was the key to their 3-0 sweep of the A's in the ALCS. Baltimore's hitting, however, couldn't keep pace in the 1971 World Series, and Pittsburgh won in seven contests behind two complete game wins by Steve Blass. Blass was called upon after Baltimore whipped the Bucs at home 5-3 and 11-3. The Pittsburgh pitcher responded with a three-hitter and a 5-1 win.

Baltimore scored three runs in the top of the first inning of the next game -- but it was 22 innings before the O's scored again, as Bruce Kison and then Nelson Briles and Bob Moose kept them in check (Briles pitched a shutout in game five).

The O's came back to win game six in ten innings, but Blass slammed the door in game seven with a four-hit, 2-1 win.

Check out headlines and summaries from the 1971 baseball season on the next page.

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1971 Baseball Season Headlines

In 1971, Tom Seaver and Bobby Murcer had the best years of their careers. Here are some of the headlines of the 1971 baseball season.

Joe Torre Named National League MVP

Nicknamed "The Godfather," Joe Torre terrorized pitchers in 1971. An All-Star catcher in the 1960s, Torre was relocated to third in 1971. He topped the loop with a .363 batting average and 137 RBI that year, capturing the league's MVP Award. It was the only monster year in Torre's career. He dropped to a .289 average in 1972.

Amos Otis Cranks Out HRs, RBI

When he left the Royals in 1983, Amos Otis departed as the team career leader in several categories -- hits (2,004), runs (1,086), and RBI (997). His fielding earned him three Gold Gloves. The Royals obtained Otis from the Mets in December 1969. In 1971, Otis had a .301 average, 15 homers, and 79 RBI.

Steve Carlton Trade

Following the 1971 season, the Cardinals traded Steve Carlton, the second-winningest left-handed pitcher of all time, to the Phillies for Rick Wise. Carlton went 20-9 in 1971, tying for second in wins in the National League. The reason for the swap was Carlton's request for a $10,000 raise. The 1972 season found him sporting a 27-10 record.

Bobby Murcer Has Best Year

Bobby Murcer followed Mickey Mantle as center fielder of the Yankees. Although he never measured up to Mantle's standards, Murcer appeared in five All-Star Games during his 17-year career. His best Yankee season was 1971, when he batted .331 (second in the American League) with 25 home runs.

Sal Bando Takes A's to First

Ever colorful, Sal Bando was the gritty co-captain of the A's dynasty teams that dominated baseball in the early 1970s. In 1971, he helped Oakland to a first-place finish in the American League West with 24 homers and 94 RBI.

Mickey Lolich Tops American League in Wins, Ks

Mickey Lolich followed his 1968 World Series heroics with a consistent career that saw him set a major league record for strikeouts by a southpaw (2,832). Lolich spearheaded the American League in victories (25), strikeouts (308), complete games (29), and innings (376) in 1971, only to see the Cy Young Award go to Vida Blue.

Tom Seaver Sizzles for Mets

Tom Seaver was "The Franchise" for the Mets in the late 1960s and early 1970s, taking the team to a World Championship in 1969 and division title in 1973. On April 22, 1970, the ace struck out 19 Padres including a record ten in a row to end the game. Seaver had his best year in 1971 -- a 20-40 record (tied for second in wins in the National League) and a 1.76 ERA (best in the majors).

Fergie Jenkins Has Career Year

Pitching in a bandbox of a ballpark and supported by mediocre Chicago Cub nines, Fergie Jenkins won 20 or more games for six consecutive years beginning in 1967. His best year was in 1971: Not only did he spearhead the National League in complete games (30), triumphs (24), and innings (325), he batted .243 with six homers. His effort was rewarded with the 1971 Cy Young Award.

Earl Weaver Fails to Repeat

Earl Weaver's 1971 defending champion Orioles featured a pitching staff of four 20-game winners and a combined ERA of 3.00. Despite the efforts of his aces -- as well as Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and 1971 American League MVP Boog Powell -- Weaver and the Orioles dropped the World Series to the Pirates that fall.

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More 1971 Baseball Season Headlines

Below are more headlines from the 1971 baseball season, including the Pirates World Series victory and stellar performances by Tony Oliva and others.

Catfish Hunter Reels in 21 Wins

Shortly after he was signed to a $75,000 bonus, phenom James Augustus Hunter was nicknamed "Catfish" by owner Charley Finley. Hunter was the best and most consistent pitcher on the Oakland A's from 1971-1974. During that four-year span, he won 88 games and lost just 35. His 21 victories in 1971 were second only to Vida Blue's club-leading 24 and tied for fourth in the American League.

Tony Oliva Wins Batting Title

On a team of such hitters as Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva was considered to be the best pure hitter in Twins history. He won his third American League batting crown in 1971 with a .337 average.

"Pops" Stargell a Local Favorite

As Willie Stargell established an April record with 11 home runs in 1971, Bob Prince, a Pirate broadcaster, came up with the phrase "chicken on the hill" in connection with Stargell's fast-food restaurants. "Pops" promised free chicken to patrons every time he hit a home run that season. His 48 homers (best in the National League) and 125 RBI (second in the circuit) helped lead the Pirates to a 1971 World Championship and kept Pittsburgh well fed.

Pirates See the Light

Danny Murtaugh led the Pirates to their second World Championship during his ten-year stint as manager. On October 13, the Pirates and Orioles played the first night game in Series history.

Bobby Bonds: 33 HRs, 102 RBI

Bobby Bonds hit more than 30 homers and stole 30 or more bases five times in his career. He is the only player of the 20th century to hit a grandslam as his first major league hit. Bonds posted 110 runs scored in 1971 (second in the National League), totaling 33 homers and 102 RBI.

Steve Blass Wins Championship

The Pirates took the 1971 World Championship with a 2-1 triumph in game seven. Steve Blass was the pitching hero of the 1971 Series, earning victories in games three and seven. He posted a 1.00 ERA, allowing seven hits and striking out 13 batters in 18 innings. Blass pitched with a unique herky-jerky delivery that inexplicably deserted him in 1973. His record plummeted from 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA in 1972 to 3-9 with a 9.81 ERA in 1973.

Roberto Clemente Steals Show

A national television audience delighted in the performance given by Roberto Clemente in the 1971 World Series. The 37-year-old Pirates right fielder batted .414 with a pair of homers to snare Series MVP honors. He clubbed the sole home run of the seventh game.

Billy Williams Surefire at Plate

Billy Williams continued to endear himself to the Wrigley Field faithful with his sweet swing and quiet, dependable style in 1971. From September 22, 1963, to September 2, 1970, Williams played in 1,117 consecutive games to establish the National League record. Never in 18 years did Williams play in a World Series. In 1971, he posted a .301 average with 28 homer and 93 RBI.

Mike Cuellar Posts 20 Wins

Most of Mike Cuellar's deliveries could barely break a pane of glass, yet he hounded batters and pitched four seasons with 20 or more wins. In 1971, Cuellar went 20-9. When the 1971 World Series rolled around, however, Cuellar ran out of juice, losing a pair of games.

Check out additional highlights from the 1971 baseball season on the next page.

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1971 Baseball Season Highlights

The Oakland A's Vida Blue set an American League record in the 1971 baseball season, when he pitched the longest shutout game in American League history -- 20 innings. Read about other record-setting plays and 1971 season highlights below:

  • Pirates win National League flag under Danny Murtaugh.
  • Orioles take their third straight pennant in American League.
  • Bucs defeat Giants in four games in NLCS, as Pirate Bob Robertson cracks four homers.
  • Orioles again sweep ALCS, this time beating Oakland.
  • Pirates win 1971 World Series in seven games after trailing two games to none.
  • Pirate Steve Blass is 1971 World Series pitching star with two CG wins, including 2-1 victory over Mike Cuellar in game seven.
  • Roberto Clemente is overall 1971 World Series star, hitting .414 with 12 hits and two homers.
  • Game four at Pittsburgh is the first night game in World Series history.
  • Cardinal Joe Torre is National League MVP, as he leads league in BA (.363), hits (230), RBI (137), and total bases (352).
  • Oakland's Vida Blue wins both MVP and Cy Young awards in American League.
  • Chicago's Ferguson Jenkins cops 1971 National League Cy Young award, as he leads loop in wins (24), CGs (30), and innings (325).
  • Earl Weaver is the first non-Yankee manager since 1931 to win three consecutive American League flags.
  • Tiger Mickey Lolich leads American League in wins (25), innings (376), CGs (29), and Ks (308).
  • Lolich's 45 starts and 376 innings are the most by any hurler since dead-ball era.
  • Chicago's Bill Melton tops American League in homers with 33.
  • Baltimore becomes the only flag winner in major league history to have four 20-game winners.
  • Montreal's Ron Hunt sets a modern major league record when he's hit by pitches 50 times.
  • Astros play major league record 75 one-run games.
  • Veterans Stadium opens on April 10, Expos vs. Phils.
  • Phillie Larry Bowa's .987 FA is a new major league record for shortstops.
  • Cleveland third baseman Graig Nettles compiles a major league record 412 assists.
  • Tony Oliva wins third American League bat crown (.337) and leads the league in slugging (.546).
  • American League wins 1971 All-Star Game 6-4 at Detroit, as Oakland's Reggie Jackson blasts a mammoth home run.
  • Chris Chambliss of Cleveland is 1971 American League Rookie of the Year.
  • Atlanta's Earl Williams is named 1971 National League Rookie of the Year.
  • Williams, a catcher/third baseman, hits 33 homers, a National League rookie record for both catchers and infielders.
  • Phillie rookie Willie Montanez cracks 30 homers, setting a team rookie record.
  • Hank Aaron leads National League with a .669 slugging average.
  • On June 23, Rick Wise of the Phils no-hits Reds and hits two home runs.
  • Wise homers in four consecutive games he pitches in June.
  • Ken Holtzman of Cubs no-hits Cincinnati on June 3.
  • Vida Blue fans 301 in his first full major league season.
  • Lou Brock tops majors in runs (126) and steals (64).
  • Tom Seaver tops National League in Ks (289) and ERA (1.76), winning 20 games.

To find more highlights of the 1971 baseball season, continue to the next page.

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More 1971 Baseball Season Highlights

Check out more 1971 baseball season highlights, including the year's inductees to the Hall of Fame.

  • The Orioles become first team since the 1942-1944 Cards to win 100 or more games three consecutive years.
  • Reds and Braves combine for ten homers on April 21.
  • Dodger Willie Davis wins first of three consecutive Gold Gloves as National League outfielder.
  • Orioles trade Frank Robinson and Pete Richert to Dodgers for four players.
  • Mets trade Nolan Ryan and three other players to Angels for Jim Fregosi.
  • Boston sends George Scott and five other players to Milwaukee for Tommy Harper and three others.
  • Cubs trade Holtzman to A's for Rick Monday.
  • Dodgers swap Dick Allen to White Sox for Tommy John and Steve Huntz.
  • Astros trade John Mayberry and a minor leaguer to KC for two minor leaguers.
  • Astros send Joe Morgan, Denis Menke, Cesar Geronimo, Jack Billingham, and Ed Armbrister to the Reds for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart.
  • Don Kessinger of the Cubs goes 6-for-6 on June 17.
  • Enzo Hernandez of the Padres has 12 RBI in 549 at-bats -- an Major League record for fewest RBI in 500 or more at-bats.
  • Atlanta's Rico Carty, reigning National League bat champ, is out all year with injury.
  • J.R. Richard of Houston ties Karl Spooner's Major League record when he Ks 15 hitters in his first major league start.
  • On May 11, Cleveland's Steve Dunning hits the last grandslam by an American League pitcher.
  • The current rule to determine rookie status in order to select the two Rookies of the Year is adopted.
  • Baltimore's Mark Belanger is first American League regular since 1958 to go homerless for a full season in 500 or more at-bats.
  • Yankee Roy White hits an American League record 17 sacrifice flies.
  • Chicago's Ron Santo leads National League third basemen in DPs a record sixth time.
  • Houston's Cesar Cedeno tops Major League in doubles (40).
  • Two Astros, Morgan and Roger Metzger, tie for the National League lead with 11 triples; KC's Freddie Patek likewise tops American League with 11.
  • Willie Mays leads National League in walks (112) and OBP (.429).
  • Baltimore's Don Buford leads American League in runs with 99.
  • Minnesota's Cesar Tovar tops American League with 204 hits, 25 more than any other American Leaguer.
  • Yankee Bobby Murcer tops American League in runs produced (163) and OBP (.429).
  • Boston's Reggie Smith leads American League in doubles (33) and total bases (302).
  • Royal Amos Otis tops American League in steals (52), and teammate Patek is a close second (49).
  • Ken Sanders of the Brewers tops majors with 31 saves; Dave Giusti of the Pirates leads National League with 30.
  • Baltimore's Dave McNally tops American League in win pct. (.808).
  • Cincinnati's Don Gullets has National League's best win pct. (.727).
  • Indians have worst staff ERA in majors (4.28) three years after having the best in the American League.
  • Indians finish last in American League for second time in three years after finishing last just once in previous 68 years.
  • Padres finish with worst record in National League for third year in a row, as they go 61-100.
  • Reds manager Sparky Anderson has his only losing season (79-83) until 1989.
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