Jackie Robinson broke the morally unjust color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947 but it wasn’t until 1971 – 15 years after he retired that a Major League baseball team fielded an entire starting line up consisting of only men of color.
That team was the Pittsburgh Pirates led by manager Danny Martaugh. This moment took place on September 1, 1971.
This monumental factoid was brought to my attention in Bruce Markusen’s The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Roberto Clemente batted 3rd and Willie Stargell batted 4th that day as they normally did that year.
I never saw Willie Stargell play but everytime I see his baseball cards it brings a smile to my face. Willie Stargell for whatever reasons had trouble staying on the field so there is element of 'What If…' to his career. Even the most conservative estimates would have him hitting at least 50 more home runs in his career.
Aided by no longer playing his games in the cavernous Forbes Field, Willie led the National League in Home Runs in 1971 with a career high of 49.
About the Card
Anytime you’re dealing with black borders you’re going to be dealing with chipping and fraying that always looks worse because of the cracking stands out in contrast to the color.
But now factor in 1971 paper stock and you’re talking about an impossible card to be found in Gem Mint. This absolute stunner sold for $4,300.00 at PWCC Auctions January, 2010