PITTSBURGH - Much was made last week of the 40th anniversary of the Pirates' first all-minority lineup.
Much more attention was focused on the anniversary than the actual event ever received.
Legend has it that manager Danny Murtaugh's decision to start a lineup off all African American and Latin players was a big story on Aug. 1, 1971.
But there's little evidence that it was at the time.
For the record, the Pirates lined up this way for a game against the Philadelphia Phillies:
Rennie Stennett (third base), Gene Clines (center field), Roberto Clemente (right field), Willie Stargell (left field), Manny Sanguillen (catcher), Dave Cash (second base), Al Oliver (first base), Jackie Hernandez (shortstop), Dock Ellis (pitcher).
The biggest change was Murtaugh benched first baseman Bob Robertson over some issue. That put Oliver at first and Clines in center field, which was Oliver's usual spot.
Otherwise, the lineup was fairly normal for the Pirates. Hernandez and Gene Alley shared shortstop, and Murtaugh generally platooned at third base, starting Richie Hebner against righthanded pitchers.
Left-hander Woodie Fryman started for the Phillies in that game.
Through the years, a couple of noble-sounding quotes have been attributed to Murtaugh.
In one, he says, "I started the nine players I thought gave us the best chance to win." In another, he says, "I started nine Pirates."
The problem is no one can verify those quotes.
Accounts of the game are scarce because the two Pittsburgh newspapers had gone on strike in mid-May and wouldn't return until Sept. 19.
Very few of the suburban papers covered Pirates games in those days. The two existing wire services, Associated Press and United Press International, didn't make mention of the lineup in their accounts.
Steve Blass has told of a scenario where reporters went rushing into Murtaugh's office to ask about his lineup. But there wouldn't have been more than a few reporters covering the game.
Players have said they didn't notice until they were several innings into the game.
The Pirates had a reputation as a progressive organization.
So even though the game happened within the lifetime of a lot of people still around, it's still difficult to separate the facts from fiction.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org