Going into action on Friday, August 22, 1969, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 64-56 record, sitting in fourth place in the National League East, 11 games behind the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates were at Forbes Field that day hosting the Cincinnati Reds, holders of a 66-53 record, which tied them for first place in the NL West. The two teams were squaring off in a doubleheader, with the first game being the makeup of a rain out on June 2nd. The Pirates had Dock Ellis (game one) and Steve Blass on the mound, going up against Jack Fisher and Tony Cloninger.
Game one started off with the Pirates getting on the board first. Richie Hebner and Willie Stargell hit back-to-back singles, followed by a Roberto Clemente ground out for the first run.
The Reds answered back with an RBI single in the second and a sacrifice fly in the third to take a 2-1 lead. From that point on it was all Pirates in this game.
Rookie Al Oliver tied the game up with a solo homer in the fourth, his 12th of the season. The Pirates took the lead in the fifth on an RBI ground out from Roberto Clemente, followed by an RBI single from Gene Alley to make it 4-2.
In the sixth, Pittsburgh rallied for four runs. In that inning, Freddie Patek and Dock Ellis both made outs to start the frame. Matty Alou walked and then the Reds had him picked off, but a throwing error allowed him to get to second base. That was followed by singles from Hebner and Stargell, before Clemente tripled home two runs. On the play, the right fielder threw the ball away and Clemente scored to make it 8-2. If the pick-off of Alou didn’t go wrong, this would have stayed a 4-2 game and possibly the outcome would be different.
Ellis threw shutout ball over the final six innings for the complete game win. Just one of the runs was earned and he picked up ten strikeouts. Ellis moved to 9-13 on the season. This game was the 1,000th game of Matty Alou’s career.
Game two got started at approximately 9:00 PM and it moved quickly early on. Both teams were scoreless for the first three innings. The Reds got to Steve Blass in the fourth inning with back-to-back doubles from Pete Rose and Tony Perez to make it 1-0.
Through five innings it was still a 1-0 game. In the top of the sixth, Blass worked out of a jam that he created. He walked former Pirates outfielder Ted Savage to start the inning. One out later he gave up a single to Rose, then walked Perez to load the bases. Blass settled down and got an foul out to first base, then a strikeout, stranding all three runners.
That turned out to be a huge moment in the game and the Pirates immediately capitalized. Manny Sanguillen was hit by a pitch, then stole second base. He would score on a Carl Taylor single. After another single from Gene Alley, Freddie Patek hit a grounder back to the pitcher. The Reds tried to turn a 1-4-3 double play to end the inning, but the speedy Patek beat it out and the run scored.
After both teams were held scoreless in the seventh, Blass ran into trouble in the eighth. He gave up a single, hit-by-pitch and walk to load the bases with no outs. Bruce Dal Canton came on to try to preserve the lead, but a Tony Perez ground ball found a hole and scored two runs. That was followed by a strikeout and a double play to keep the score at 3-2 for the Reds.
The Pirates tied the game in the eighth and it was Sanguillen again to get things started. He led off with a single, then was sacrificed to second base. Sanguillen moved up to third base on a ground out by Gene Alley. That was followed by a pinch-hit single from Jose Pagan to score Sanguillen with the tying run. Manager Larry Shephard then made an interesting decision, letting Dal Canton bat for himself, despite the fact that Roberto Clemente was available on the bench. Dal Canton made an out and sent the game to the ninth all tied up.
The Reds could only muster a single in the top of the ninth. Matty Alou led off the bottom of the inning with a single. After Richie Hebner made an out, Willie Stargell came up and the Reds shifted all four infielders to the first base side of second. They were giving Pops a single, but he popped up to the catcher for the second out. Al Oliver came up and right before midnight, he sent a drive into the right field bleachers to send the Forbes Field faithful home happy. The Pirates swept the doubleheader with 8-2 and 5-3 victories in front of 28,184 fans.
Here are the boxscores and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference:
Here are links to the previous Game Rewind articles: