On Thursday, September 9th, more than 1,200 inmates at Attica prison gained control of the facility in a well-planned and brutal attack. During the initial violence, fifty correctional officers and civilian employees were brutally beaten and taken prisoner. With hostages as leverage, the inmates listed twenty-eight demands they wanted met including amnesty for the crimes they had already committed when they took over the prison. After four tense days of unsuccessful negotiations, the command was given to retake the prison and rescue the hostages. With National Guard helicopters flying overhead administering chemical agents, a rescue force of nearly two-hundred New York State police officers stormed the facility. When it was over, ten hostages were dead, along with thirty-two inmates.
Cult-leader Charles Manson and several of his followers including Susan Atkins, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, were convicted for the brutal Tate-LaBianca murders that occurred in August of 1969. Even though Manson was not physically present at the murders and his devotees attempted to assume full responsibility, he was seen as the malevolent power that influenced and directed their actions. All of the defendants were sentenced to death, but were later commuted to life after California's laws regarding the death penalty were changed.
Boxing legend, Muhammad Ali's draft evasion conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in June. The decision came four years after the "People's Champion" had refused to participate in the Vietnam War due to his Islamic faith. Despite citing religious reasons, Ali was denied status as a conscientious objector to the war and was subsequently convicted of refusing to be inducted into the armed forces. During the same year, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title and had his boxing license suspended.
On July 9th, the Oakland Athletics' Vida Blue tossed the longest shutout in American League history during a twenty inning, 1-0 triumph over the Anaheim Angels. The A's ace fanned seventeen batters in eleven innings while the Angels' Billy Cowan tied a Major League record by striking out six times. Both teams also combined to set a Major League record with forty-three K's.
The American League netted their only All-Star victory between 1962 and 1983 with a 6-4 victory over the Nationals. The outing appeared more like a home run derby though as Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, and Harmon Killebrew all hit round-trippers.
The Detroit Tigers proved the old adage that "less is more" after they tied a Major League record by using six different pinch hitters during the seventh inning while still losing 6-5 to the New York Yankees on September 5th.
On August 24th, Ernie Banks hit his fif-hundred twelfth and final home run off of the Cincinnati Reds' Jim McGlothin during a 5-4 win at Wrigley Field. The monumental blast moved Banks ahead of Mel Ott for an eighth place tie with Eddie Mathews on the all-time list.
The Pittsburgh Pirates started what is believed to be the first all-minority line-up on September 1st as Rennie Stennett, Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernandez, Dock Ellis and Bob Veale all take the field for the "Buccos".
At the World Series, Roberto Clemente and Steve Blass combined on both sides of the plate for a 2-1, Game 7 victory that granted the Pirates their first World Championship title since 1960. After the game, some 40,000 ecstatic fans rioted in downtown Pittsburgh resulting in over one-hundred injuries and thousands of dollars in property damage.
On New Year's Day, the BBWAA failed to elect anyone during the annual Baseball Hall of Fame election. With two-hundred seventy votes required, the closest nominees were Yogi Berra with two-hundred forty-two and Early Wynn with two-hundred forty.
Boston's Carl Yastrzemski signed what is believed to be the richest player contract in baseball history at the time. The three-year agreement agreed to pay the Red Sox slugger an accumulated salary of $500,000.
Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn determined that players from the Negro Leagues would be given a full membership into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and not honored in a separate wing as originally announced.
Sixteen baseball researchers at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown formed the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), with founder Robert Davids as president. Currently SABR boasts over 7,000 members worldwide and has continually dedicated itself to the accurate preservation of America's national pastime.
"After being traded four times, I realized that it's (Major League Baseball) nothing but a business. I treat my horses better than the owners treat us." - Dick Allen
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"What a great day for baseball, let's play two" is the quote most commonly associated with Ernie Banks who on August 24, 1971 connected in the first inning versus Jim McGlothlin of the Cincinnati Reds for his final Major League home run.
Following their close, but no cigar season of 1970, the Pirates returned with their same powerhouse lineup but this time with added pitching depth. This year they were challenged by a late season surge by the Cardinals who were led by MVP Joe Torre.
The more exciting race was in the West Division. The old Dodger / Giant rivalry was rejuvenated. The Giants held off the competition throughout the summer and when September came they held an 8½ game lead over the second place Dodgers, but things changed quickly. With an aging Willie Mays and Willie McCovey injured, the Giants slumped to an 8-win / 16-loss September and just barely won the division by one game. It took the bat of Bobby Bonds and clutch pitching from Juan Marichal and Jim Perry to hold out and make the playoffs.
McCovey did recover in time for the playoffs and although he batted .429 with two home runs, the Bucs took the playoffs 3-games-to-1 over the Giants. Pirate first baseman Bob Robertson smashed 4 home runs and batted .438 in the 4 game series.
#1 Pittsburgh Pirates (97-65) . Pitcher Doc Ellis stepped up with 19-wins followed by Steve Blass's 15. Reliever Dave Giusti posted a league leading 30 saves. Willie Stargell led the league with 48 home runs and 125 RBIs. Roberto Clemente batted .345 and catcher Manny Sanguilen batted .312.
#2 St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) . Joe Torre moved over to third base and put together a sensational season hitting a league leading .363 with 24 home runs and 137 RBIs. Twenty-one year old catcher Ted Simmons hit .304 while Lou Brock led the league with 64 stolen bases. "Lefty" Steve Carlton enjoyed his first 20-win season and Bob Gibson posted 16 wins.
#3 Chicago Cubs (83-79) . The Cubs played to almost the same season as 1970. Pitcher Fergie Jenkins put together another nice season by leading the league with 24-wins and capturing the Cy Young Award. Milt Pappas had a bounce back season winning 17. Billy Williams continued to be the center of the offense that also got good production from former Yankee 1B Joe Pepitone and 2B Glenn Beckett.
#4 New York Mets (83-79) . The Mets barely played above .500 despite another fantastic season from Tom Seaver — 20-wins with a 1.78 ERA, the lowest in either league. The lack of offense prevented the Mets from gaining any improvement over the previous season.
#5 Montreal Expos (71-90) . Still a far cry from being a contender. Little power or consistent hitting. None of the four starting pitchers could win as many as they lost.
#6 Philadelphia Phillies (67-95) . Things could not get much worse in Philly. A no name offense and only one starting pitcher, Rick Wise, posted a winning record, 17 – 14.
#1 San Francisco Giants (90-72) . Fortunately outfielder Bobby Bonds showed-up, hitting 33 home runs and knocking in 102 runs. Unfortunately, Willie McCovey went down after 105 games. Willie Mays in his last full season with the Giants hit only 16 home runs, but stole a surprising 23 bases. Juan Marichal stood out with 18-wins, however Jim Perry took a step back from his 23-win season in 1970, with 16 wins.
#2 Los Angeles Dodgers (89-73) . The addition of 3B/OF Dick Allen (23 home runs, 90 RBIs) helped their mediocre offense, but not enough to improve on 1970. Pitcher Al Downing came over from the AL and won 20 games. Future HOF pitcher Don Sutton improved to 17-wins, but there was a drop off after them.
#3 Atlanta Braves (82-80) . The Braves jumped over the .500 barriers with help from the ever present bat of Hank Aaron (47 home runs, 118 RBI, .327 BA) and the electricity of speedster outfielder Ralph Garr who batted .343 with 30 stolen bases. They were still searching for pitching to back up knuckle baller Phil Niekro.
#4 Cincinnati Reds (79-83) . A major flop from their 102-wins of 1970. A roster that included three HOF players — Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. In addition 1B Lee May and a young slugger George Foster, provided plenty of punch. For this team to not play .500 baseball was hard to fathom. Their downfall was having only one pitcher with a winning record.
#5 Houston Astros (79-83) . The Astros repeated the previous season's won / lost record. There was little in the way of offense. Second baseman Joe Morgan was still finding his way with the bat. Pitcher Don Wilson posted a solid 16-win season for a bad team.
#6 San Diego Padres (61-100) . Nothing ever seemed to change for the Padres. There were no signs of rebuilding from either offense or pitching.
Trivia Alert: Who hit and how far did the shortest inside-the-park grand slam go? Though not official, it could have easily been the barely 200 foot shot hit by Cesar Cedeno on September 2, 1971. The Astros outfielder scored after Dodger's second baseman (who was running out) Jim Lefebvre had a head-on collision with right fielder (who was running in) Bill Buckner .
On September 29, 1971, Ron Hunt of the Montreal Expos was hit by a pitch thrown by Milt Pappas of the Chicago Cubs. The hit was Hunt's fiftieth of the season and established a new Major League record.