For the second straight week, the 1971 world champion Pirates provide us with some baseball card intrigue. This time, a celebration card takes center stage.
I love celebration cards. They capture those moments after teams have accomplished what they set out to do—win a world championship. They also show players displaying unabashed emotion, some of them completely overcome by the moment. And lastly, these cards are fun because it can be a challenge to identify each player pictured.
Over the years, I have collected multiple copies of Topps’ 1972 “Series Celebration” card, which is so appropriately headlined by the words, “On Top of the World!” Even though it has no outstanding monetary value, it ranks as one of my favorites, in large part because of my affinity for the Pirates team of this era.
I particularly enjoy the image of the half-smiling, half-grimacing Steve Blass in the middle of the frenzied scene, his expression reflecting the joy of the moment and the emotional strain of pitching in the seventh game of the World Series. When I look at the larger photograph depicting the celebration seen on this card, I see Dock Ellis, wearing a Pirate windbreaker, smiling and stretching a gloved right hand onto the shoulder of Blass. Ironically, it was Blass who had emerged—ahead of Ellis—as the Pirates’ No. 1 starter in the postseason. Somehow, I don’t think Ellis minded.
The larger photograph that was cropped for this Topps card also shows Vic Davalillo, the journeyman outfielder who performed so capably as the Pirates’ fourth outfielder. For some reason, one that I am unaware of to this day, Davalillo is wearing the No. 11 windbreaker worn by the late Jose Pagan. I’ve always thought that the Davalillo/Pagan dichotomy serves as a symbol of the unity that existed on the 1971 Pirates. One Pirates player could wear another player’s windbreaker without resentment or petty jealousy.
Also seen on the Topps card is Manny Sanguillen, the affable Pirates catcher who appears to be letting out a loud yell; he looks the happiest of all the Pirates during this celebration. Sanguillen is being hugged by his manager Danny Murtaugh, the beloved father figure of the ‘71 Bucs. Standing in front of Murtaugh and Sanguillen is the team’s third base coach and trusted Murtaugh confidante, Frank Oceak, who is clearly wearing No. 44 on his back.
So we’ve identified most of the Pirates players and coaches in this picture. But two mysteries remain. Who is the Pirate behind Blass, the one who is sporting the medium-sized Afro? And who is the Pirate in the lower right-hand corner, the one whose left shoulder is covered by Davalillo’s left arm?
The former, I think, might be Dave Cash, the Pirates second baseman and leadoff batter. But I’m not certain. The other is definitely not Willie Stargell, but it might be Gene Clines, who platooned in center field with Al Oliver.
Once again, we call on our faithful readers to provide assistance.