You can blame it on the Pittsburgh Pirates. I’m talking World Series night baseball which the Pirates kicked off in fourth game of the 1971 fall classic.
Of course, the Pirates weren’t really at fault. Major League Baseball came up with the bad idea and introduced it that year. Most predicted that it wouldn’t fly. But when every game eventually was scheduled to start at 8:05, what choice do fans have but to watch even through half closed eyes? When I lived in California, I had no problem: come home, turn on the television, fire up the barbeque and sit down to watch. Now that I live in Pittsburgh, I struggle to watch most of innings one through three and, if I’m lucky, wake up in time to catch innings seven through nine.
The 1971 series is famous for introducing Roberto Clemente, who hit .414 during the seven games, to a national audience, for the Pirates coming off the floor after falling behind 2-0 and for having to play and win the deciding game at Baltimore against the well-stocked Orioles who won 101 games.
The fourth game, the first at night, was the series’ turning point. After winning game three behind Steve Blass, manager Danny Murtaugh gave the nod to lefty Luke Walker. Walker retired just two batters before Murtaugh summoned the scrawny ( 6’4”; 178 lbs) but effective 21-year-old rookie Bruce Kison who pitched 6-1/3 innings of one-hit ball before giving way to Dave Guisti in the ninth. Guisti earned the save in the 4-3 nail bitter. The Pirates’, despite pounding out 14 hits couldn’t put the Orioles, who collected only four, away until the final out.
ut if you were to ask Kison for his fondest memory of the series, he might not point to his performance or the Pirates’ eventual 4-3 world championship triumph but instead to his wedding that took place immediately following the seventh game.
By prearrangement, the Pirates flew Kison back to Pittsburgh while the post-game celebration was still in progress. A police escort led Kison to the airport where a Lear jet awaited him. The flight from Baltimore took 22 minutes and landed at 7:33. Kison was 33 minutes late for his big day but no one really cared.
As seventh game winner Blass recalled, the groom-to-be Kison came up to him and in a reference to the tidy 2:10 game time, said “Thanks for making it a quick one.”