On this date in 1971 the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium in game seven of the World Series by a 2-1 score to capture their 4th World Series title. Steve Blass threw a complete game, giving up just one run on an 8th inning groundout from Don Buford. It was the 2nd win by Blass, who also pitched a complete game with one run allowed in game three. The Pirates had lost game six the previous day in extra innings by a 3-2 score.
The Pirates scored first in the game in the 4th inning on a solo home run by Roberto Clemente off Orioles starter, Mike Cuellar. It was Clemente’s 8th RBI of the game. He batted .383 in the series and was named World Series MVP. The other Pirates run scored in the 8th inning on a leadoff single by Willie Stargell followed by a double from Jose Pagan. This title was the first for the Pirates since 1960 and in 1979 the Pirates would defeat the Orioles again in the WS, also in seven games with both series ending in Baltimore.
Born on this date in 1873 was Pirates first baseman Frank “Pop” Dillon who was a member of the 1899-1900 team. He was one of the few leftovers from the 1899 team to stay after the Pirates completed the Honus Wagner trade but he lost his job just five games into the 1900 season when the Pirates bought Duff Cooley from the Phillies and released Dillon. Pop would start the next season with the Detroit Tigers and he hit four doubles on the first day of the American League’s existence as a major league( In 1900 the AL was considered a minor league). Dillon hit .237 in his 35 games with the Pirates and .252 career in 312 games. He also played 21 seasons in the minors and eight of those years he was a player-manager.
Also born on this date in 1870, was 1894 Pirates pitcher George Nicol. He had previously pitched parts of two seasons in the majors(1890-91), with poor control and moderate success in his five combined starts. Nicol spent the 1892-93 seasons in the minors, where he went a combined 44-33 for three different teams. The Pirates signed him for the 1894 season and he struggled in his nine appearances, five as a starter. In 46.1 innings, he allowed 58 hits and walked 39 batters, recording just 13 strikeouts. On August 13,1894, the Pirates traded Nicol to the Louisville Colonels, along with cash, in exchange for pitcher Jock Menefee. Nicol pitched very poorly in two starts for Louisville, but played outfield in 26 games and hit .339 with 19 RBI’s. The next season he was back in the minors, taking up outfielder full-time, playing until his retirement in 1900.
Finally, born on this date in 1915 was Mike Sandlock, a catcher for the 1953 Pirates who is currently the 2nd oldest living former Pirates player and 5th oldest living MLB player. Sandlock started his major league career in 1942 for the Boston Braves, hitting a single in his first major league AB as a late September callup. He served in WW2 in 1943 before returning to baseball for the 1944 season. He played two seasons for the Dodgers from 1945-46 then spent the next seven years in the minors, the last two years as a member of the Pirates organization. In 1953 he returned to the majors, making the Pirates opening day roster. In his first game back he went 3-3 and for the first half of the season he was seeing regular duty behind the plate. He played just two games in September of that year, finishing with a .231 average in 64 games. He played one more year in the minors before retiring. The only living former Pirate older than Sandlock is Nick Strincevich, who was born on March 1, 1915.
**Since the publishing of this article in 2011, Nick Strincevich has passed away. Mike Sandlock is now the oldest former Pirates player and he graciously did a two part interview for Pirates Prospects, which can be read here(part one) and here(part two)