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SOME KIND OF A COMEBACK
William Leggett
October 25, 1971
Roberto Clemente and a no-name crew of pitchers Pirated away a World Series that mighty Baltimore had all but banked
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October 25, 1971

Some Kind Of A Comeback

Roberto Clemente and a no-name crew of pitchers Pirated away a World Series that mighty Baltimore had all but banked

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Weaver needed no voodoos where Palmer was concerned. His fastballing righthander pitched fine, unsuperstitious ball that grew stronger by the inning. The Orioles tied the game in the seventh and won it in the 10th when Frank Robinson started a rally with a walk, continued it with a belly flop into third and finished it on Brooks Robinson's fly to medium left center with a plowing slide underneath the leaping Sanguillen at home.

Although the Orioles were even, they still wondered about the three games they had lost to the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Before going there it was all gags; the Orioles had made it look so easy while beating the Pirates in Baltimore. Weaver explained why he had relieved Palmer way back there in game No. 2 despite an 11-3 lead. "I took him out because he had thrown 168 pitches and was beginning to feel twinges of pain in his arm," he said. "Also, I thought I might have to bring him back later."

"Bring him back for what, a bow?" someone asked. No, the answer was—five days later—to save the Orioles' lives. The Orioles needed saving because of the rebirth of the Pirates, a blessed event due quite likely to nothing more mysterious than that they went home.

Bands played and BEAT 'EM BUCS stickers were omnipresent and people insisted on talking about 1960, the year the Pirates won the Series by beating the Yankees in an extremely dramatic seven games although they were outscored 55 runs to 27. People remembered that those 1960 Pirates were built to take advantage of the peculiarities of old Forbes Field, to run and hustle and punch singles through the rock-hard infield and into the spacious outfield areas. Well, the 1971 Pirates had done pretty well in their ball park, too, modern Three Rivers Stadium, a $35 million dollar saucer with an artificial surface that, if anything, sped ground balls through the infield even faster than the old one. The 1971 Pirates were 52-28 at home.

One thing they planned to do was use their speed. "We have always been a good running club even though we don't have what you might call great stealing speed," said Murtaugh. "Part of our conditioning is to be aggressive on the bases. You'll never hear me say anything when an athlete is thrown out for being aggressive. I don't have a steal sign. I have a don't steal sign."

Pittsburgh started with Blass, who in 1968 had been the team's best pitcher. This season Dock Ellis, who was 19-9, received far more publicity even though Blass was 15-8 and started and completed more games.

"I sat in the clubhouse in Baltimore during the first two games and watched on a television monitor," Blass said. "I could get the ground-level shots and see what was being thrown. I made some notes—and left them in Baltimore."

When the Orioles and Pirates trooped out on the artificial turf for game number three all decked out in their double knit uniforms, it looked like the road-company opening for The Pajama Game. Any ideas that the Pirates would continue their comic efforts of the first two games didn't last long, however. Blass moved through the first 21 Baltimore batters while allowing only one hit.

Pittsburgh meanwhile got a run in the first inning and added another in the sixth when Sanguillen scored from second on Pagan's single. Frank Robinson homered, leading off Baltimore's seventh. ("That's why he makes four times as much as I do," Blass said afterward.) Then with two on in the bottom of the seventh Bob Robertson, 0 for 9 at the time, missed the bunt sign. Third-Base Coach Frank Oceak managed to contain his chagrin when Robertson responded with a better idea—a home run to right center. The Pirates had a 5-1 victory and Blass a three-hitter.

"I was so nervous the night before that I lay in bed for hours without being able to sleep," Blass said afterward. "When I got up in the morning I was still so nervous that I blew a $3.40 breakfast. What was it? Toast, rare."

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