The 1971 MLB All-Star Game Featured Many Caribbean Winter League Stars

Much has been written about the constellation of stars and talent level in the July 13, 1971 MLB All-Star Game at Detroit.  Tim Kurkjian, ESPN Senior Writer, wrote an excellent piece, at   Johnny Bench, per Kurkjian, recalled catching Juan Marichal was “one of the most enjoyable experiences he’d ever had,” noting “I could have caught him with a pair of pliers.” Marichal added: “The umpire asked if I ever threw a ball.” Bench (1967-68 San Juan Senators) and Marichal (Escogido Lions) were two 1971 NL All-Stars who played winter ball—Bench, as an Import in Puerto Rico’s Winter League (PWRL); Marichal, a Native, in the Dominican Republic’s Winter League (LIDOM).

This blog, published on July 13, 2021, the 50th Anniversary of the 1971 MLB All-Star Game, highlights Caribbean Winter League summaries of 1971 MLB All-Star Game participants: managers, coaches, players, one umpire, plus an NBC radio broadcaster. It includes summaries of inactive players due to injury, e.g. Houston’s Larry Dierker; Cleveland’s Ray Fosse and Sam McDowell; and, Minnesota’s Tony Oliva.  Oakland’s Reggie Jackson—who played for the 1970-71 Santurce Crabbers—was inserted on the 28-player AL roster, due to Oliva’s injury. Forty of all 60 players selected—including the four injured athletes—had played winter ball.

Five of six HR hit 50 years ago came off the bats of players with PRWL success:

  • Reggie Jackson, third, off Dock Ellis; clouted league-leading 20 HR, 1970-71 Santurce.
  • Frank Robinson (1971 All-Star Game MVP), fourth, off Ellis. First to homer for NL and AL in Summer Classic; managed Reggie Jackson and others with Santurce, eight PRWL seasons.
  • Johnny Bench, second, off Vida Blue. Celebrated his 20th birthday in Puerto Rico; was the League’s All-Star catcher, per Table I.
  • Hank Aaron, third, off Vida Blue. Moved to RF from 2B for 1953-54 Caguas Criollos.
  • Roberto Clemente, eighth, off Mickey Lolich, for the final run, 6-4 AL victory. Starred for Santurce, Caguas and San Juan.

Table I: PRWL 1967-68 All-Star Team (Sportswriters)

Johnny BenchCSan Juan (SJ)
Orlando Cepeda1BSanturce
Tony Taylor2BSJ
José A. Pagán3BCaguas
Sandy Alomar Sr.SSPonce Lions
Tony GonzálezCFSJ
Roberto ClementeRFSJ
Darrell OsteenRHPSanturce
Juan “Terín” PizarroLHPSanturce

Source: Thomas E. Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League, McFarland, 1995, p. 245.

The box score and other particulars of the July 13, 1971 MLB All-Star Game, are at: Harmon Killebrew, a native of Idaho, state where the author’s father was born, homered in the sixth, off Ferguson Jenkins.

Managers and Coaches

Earl Weaver, AL manager, had played 2B for 1955-56 Águilas Cibaeñas (AC), based in Santiago, Dominican Republic, alongside a 19-year old Pittsburgh Pirates prospect, Bill Mazeroski, a SS at the time.  Weaver went on to manage the 1962-63 Lara Cardinals in Venezuela’s Occidental League, based in Maracaibo. Lara was 16-15 under Weaver, before Joe Schultz took over as manager. Then, Weaver managed Santurce, in Puerto Rico, 1966-67 and 1967-68. His 1966-67 club finished 45-26 (second) but won the league playoffs (semi-finals and finals). The 1967-68 Crabbers won the pennant prior to losing the finals to the Caguas Criollos. Weaver’s regular-season W-L mark was 92-48, .657, after a 47-22 record in 1967-68. Per catcher Larry Haney: “This was Earl’s first chance to manage good big-league ballplayers…he wasn’t intimidated. He managed his type of ballgame and gained the respect of [Juan] Pizarro, [Rubén} Gómez, [Orlando] Cepeda and [Tony] Pérez.”

Sparky Anderson, NL manager, also played 2B in winter ball—1956-57 Escogido Lions, Dominican Republic (LIDOM). His .178 AVG hovered above his 170-pound playing weight. He managed in Venezuela, 1964-65 Magallanes Navigators; and, Puerto Rico, 1968-69 SJ Senators. Anderson was fired in Venezuela after 13 straight early-season losses, with Magallanes at 2-14, but led San Juan to a 36-34 record and a fourth-place finish, before besting first-place Santurce (49-20), in a seven-game Semi-Finals. “[Mike] Cuéllar was all business against Santurce, after a so-so regular season,” recalled Anderson. “Preston Gómez asked me to manage San Juan; I was to be one of Preston’s coaches in San Diego [with the 1969 Padres].” Anderson returned to Puerto Rico in November 1984 and donned San Juan flannels in an old-timers’ game at Bithorn Stadium, against ex-Santurce players. The author attended this game and can attest to the warmth and appreciation felt by Puerto Rico’s baseball fans toward Anderson.

Coincidentally, Anderson chose Preston Gómez to be one of his 1971 All-Star Game coaches. Gómez had managed 1960-61 Maracaibo in Venezuela’s Occidental League; and Santurce, for two seasons, 1963-65, leading the Crabbers to a 1964-65 title. Future Cooperstown Inductee Walter Alston and Danny Murtaugh were Anderson’s other coaches. Weaver chose Billy Hunter and Billy Martin as coaches. Hunter played for Santurce’s 1952-53 club before learning of his trade (from the Dodgers organization) to the 1953 St. Louis Browns, and returning to the States.

Umpire and Radio Broadcaster

Doug Harvey, 3B umpire, 1971 MLB All-Star Game, benefitted from umpiring in the PRWL, 1961-62 season. He mentioned—to the author—that his “Experience in Puerto Rico taught him

how to better handle tough situations.” Harvey made his NL umpiring debut in 1962, few months after the final regular-season game played at Sixto Escobar Stadium, shared by SJ and Santurce. It featured the disputed call by Mel Steiner at 1B, when Roberto Clemente was called out, on a double-play grounder and a fistfight ensued. (Napoleón Reyes, SJ manager; and Nino Escalera, were both ejected.) A decade later, Harvey was umpiring the September 30, 1972 Pirates-Mets game, in which Clemente doubled for career hit #3,000, and handed Clemente the ball.

Sandy Koufax did the color commentary for NBC Radio, alongside Jim Simpson, during the 1971 MLB All-Star Game. Koufax’s only pro-pitching experience—outside of Brooklyn/Los Angeles, 1955-1966—was with the 1956-57 Caguas-Río Piedras Criollos, PRWL. Caguas released him by December 20, 1956, due to a ruling which precluded league teams from carrying more than three big-leaguers. Koufax was 3-6, 4.35 ERA, 76 K’s and 54 walks, 64 innings when he departed. His last (December 16) start was a 2-0 win over Santurce, on a two-hitter, both by Clemente. Caguas owner Rafael Ramos Cobián, a theater mogul, announced Koufax’s release.

NL Starting Line-up and Relievers

Six players in the NL starting line-up had winter ball experience per Table II, including Willie Mays, Aaron, Willie Stargell, Willie McCovey, Bench and starter Dock Ellis. Marichal and Jenkins pitched in winter ball, with great success. Mays was a teammate of Clemente, with the 1954-55 Santurce Crabbers, managed by Herman Franks. Aaron’s Caguas manager was Mickey Owen, who suggested that the 19-year old second baseman moves to RF, after morning practices. Nino Escalera, Caguas coach, mid-1960s, recalled that Jenkins carried an iron ball to strengthen his pitching arm. “The more he pitched, the better he got in Puerto Rico,” said Escalera. “His control was very good, so he was on his way. That iron ball was always with him after a game or between starts.” Note: Starters Joe Torre (3B), Glenn Beckert (2B) and Bud Harrelson (SS) did not play winter ball. Neither did reliever Don Wilson.

Table II: Winter League Highlights, 1971 NL Manager, Starting Line-Up and Relievers

Sparky AndersonEscogido, 1956-57Good field, no-hit.
 Magallanes,1964-65Fired after 2-14 W-L start.
 SJ, 1968-69Semi-Final Series win over arch-rival Santurce, four games-to-three.
Willie Mays (CF)Santurce, 1954-55League-leading .395 AVG; 15 doubles, 7 triples, 12 HR, 33 RBI, 10 SB, league-leading .773 SLG; and .440 AVG, 1955 Caribbean Series.
Hank Aaron (RF)Caguas Criollos, 1953-54Co-leader with 9 HR (teammate Jim Rivera); 3rd in AVG (.322) and runs (42); 2nd in hits (89) behind Luis “Canena” Márquez (94).
Willie Stargell (LF)Águilas Cibaeñas (AC), 1963-64League MVP: .569 SLG  and .959 OPS led league. .314 AVG, 8 HR and 40 RBI. Best AVG (.452) in Finals.
Willie McCovey (1B)Vanytor, in Barranquilla, Colombia, 1956-57; Licey Tigers, 1957-59Hit one of the longest HR in LIDOM history—in Ciudad Trujillo (now Santo Domingo)—versus Estrellas Orientales. In 42 LIDOM games, .274 AVG, 4 HR, 19 RBI.
Johnny Bench (C)SJ Senators, 1967-68Don Zimmer—first SJ MGR.  Bench: .323 AVG fourth-best; 20 doubles tied Tony Pérez for most in league. Caught Pat Dobson’s 21 strikeouts versus Arecibo, December 10, 1967.
Dock Ellis (Starter)AC, 1966-68; Ponce, 1979-80.12-11, 2.69 ERA; 2-1 in playoffs. Ponce: 2-2, 3.20 ERA.
Juan Marichal (relief)Escogido, 1957-61; 1963-65; 67-68; 1973-7436-22, 1.87 ERA; 557.1 IP, 484 H, 412 K, 97 BB, 1.042 WHIP.
Ferguson Jenkins (relief)Boer Indians, Nicaragua, 1962-64; Caguas, 1964-66; Escogido, 1964-65 FinalsLed PRWL with 1.38 ERA, 1965-66. Fifth with 84 K. Ten-game winner, equivalent of 23 in 162-game season.

Multiple sources used for Tables II-V. DNP: did not play, 1971 All-Star Game; INJ: injured.

NL Reserves

What a luxury to have Roberto Clemente come off the bench! His 8th inning HR off Lolich gave him a .323 career AVG in MLB All-Star Games (10-for-31) but in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, he homered twice in the PRWL All-Star Game, December 12, 1954, pitting Santurce and SJ players against Caguas-Mayagüez-Ponce players. Jack Cassini played 2B for SJ, 1953-54 and 1954-55, and was Clemente’s 1954 teammate with the Montreal Royals. “Brooklyn tried to hide him. In the seventh or eighth innings he would replace me [Cassini] for defensive purposes. But I had played against him in Puerto Rico and knew what he could do. Later on, he autographed a bat for my youngest daughter at the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit. What a nice guy.”  Note: Reserves Ron Santo, Bobby Bonds, Lou Brock, Rusty Staub, Don Kessinger and Tom Seaver did not play winter ball.

Table III: Winter League Highlights, 1971 NL Reserves and Injured Player

Roberto Clemente (RF)Santurce, 1952-56; Caguas, 1956-58; SJ, 1959-62; 1963-66; 1967-68; 1969-711956-57 batting champ: .396 AVG, highest league AVG, 1950s, versus Mays’s .395, in 1954-55. A .324 PRWL career AVG. Hit .327: two Caribbean Series (1955, 1958). Player-MGR, 1964-65 and 1970-71. Inducted in Puerto Rico Professional Baseball Hall of Fame (1991) and Caribbean Series Hall of Fame (2015) and 20 others.
Nate Colbert (PH)Caracas Lions, 1966-67; Caguas, 1969-70; Lara, 1975-76.263 AVG, 8 HR, 36 RBI, in VZA. Led PRWL with 16 HR, 1969-70; 2nd in RBI (47) to Bernie Carbo (48).
Willie Davis (CF)Cabimas and Rapiños, 1959-61; Licey, 1961-62.333 AVG and .593 SLG with Rapiños, 1960 Caribbean Series. The 1961-62 LIDOM season was suspended early due to political/economic disruptions.
Lee May (1B)Valencia, 1964-67; SJ, 1967-68 and 1969-70,302 AVG, 14 HR, 77 RBI, with Valencia. Post-season: .359, 4-13. SJ: .285 AVG, 15 HR, 80 RBI. Led PRWL with 59 RBI, 1967-68.
Félix Millán (2B)Pastora Milkers, Occidental League, 1963-64; Caguas, 1964-1980Back-to-back batting titles, 1968-69 and 1969-70, .317 and .345, respectively. Player-MGR, 1978-79. GM, 1987 Caribbean Series champs.
Pete Rose (RF)Caracas Lions, 1964-65.351 AVG and .503 SLG, regular season. .455 AVG and .864 SLG, Finals. Played in 1965 Inter-American Series, hosted by Caracas.
Manny Sanguillén (DNP)AC, 1967-68 and 1969-70; SJ, 1970-71, 72-73; Bayamón Cowboys, 76-78; Ponce, 1978-80; Zulia, 1982-83.269 AVG, 3 HR, 21 RBI in LIDOM. PRWL: .319 AVG, 13 HR, 102 RBI, 693 AB. VZA: .250 AVG, 14 RBI. All Winter Leagues: 311 hits/1,034 AB;.301 AVG, 16 HR, 137 RBI.
Clay Carroll (DNP)Estrellas Orientales (EO) and LaGuaira Sharks, 1964-65Released by EO with 0-7 record; 1-1 for LaGuaira, plus Final Series win.
Steve Carlton (DNP)Ponce, 1965-67Blossomed under manager Luis “Tite” Arroyo: 11-9, 2.67 ERA, 165 IP, 121 K’s. Pitched in two League Finals.
Larry Dierker (INJ)EO, 1967-684-1, 0.81 ERA, 55.2 IP, 32 K’s. MVP of Finals: 2-0, 1.23 ERA, 29.1 IP, 20 K’s, 8 BB, 2 CG, 1 save.
Rick Wise (DNP)SJ, 1967-687-5, 3.71 ERA, 95 IP, 69 K’s. Pitched to Johnny Bench.

AL Starting Line-up and Relievers

Seven players in the AL starting line-up had winter ball experience per Table IV, including Rod Carew, Bobby Murcer, Frank Robinson, Norm Cash, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio and starter Vida Blue. Relievers Jim Palmer and Mike Cuéllar combined for four scoreless innings, July 13, 1971. Palmer resurrected his pitching career with the 1968-69 Crabbers, thanks, in large part, to Santurce trainer Nick Acosta. Acosta recalled Palmer coming to Puerto Rico with an inflamed rotator cuff. “We gave him first-class treatment in Puerto Rico. He recovered and became a Cy Young Winner. Jim listened to me, and that was a plus. He is a very intelligent person and followed all the tips al pie de la letra [by the book].” Note: Starters Carl Yastrzemski (LF) and Bill Freehan (C) did not play winter ball. Neither did reliever Mickey Lolich..

Table IV: Winter League Highlights, 1971 AL Manager, Starting Line-up and Relievers

Earl WeaverAC, 1955-56Bill Mazeroski’s double-play partner.
 Lara, 1962-63Managed Steve Dalkowski.
 Santurce, 1966-68Paul Blair’s three-run HR off Ponce’s John Boozer, February 1, 1967, gave Santurce  the Final Series Crown.
Rod Carew (2B)Aragua Tigers, 1971-73.344 regular season AVG; .432 post-season AVG (19-for-44); player-MGR, 1972 Caribbean Series. Named to Caribbean Series All-Star Team.
Bobby Murcer (CF)Caguas, 1968-69Played under Luis “Tite” Arroyo, post-U.S. Military Service.
Frank Robinson (RF)Ponce, 1954-55; Managed Santurce eight seasons: 1968-71; 1972-75; 1978-80; player-manager, Mexican Pacific League, 77-78Led Santurce to two league titles and two Caribbean Series (1971, 1973). Managed 1974-75 Crabbers when Cleveland signed him to be their 1975 skipper.
Norm Cash (1B)Rapiños, Occidental League, 1958-60Reinforced Oriente, 1959 Caribbean Series—2 HR and 11 RBI led series players. Had .476 AVG versus Oriente, 1958-59 finals; 1959-60: 14 HR, 38 RBI led Occidental League.
Brooks Robinson (3B)Willard Blues, Colombia, 1955-56; Cienfuegos Elephants, Cuba, 1957-58Tied for Cuban Winter League lead in HR (9) with teammate Francisco Herrera, Norm Larker (Havana) and Daniel Morejón (Almendares).
Luis Aparicio (SS)Gavilanes, 1953-54; Caracas Lions,  1954-55; Rapiños-Occidental League, 1955-63; LaGuaira Sharks, 1963-69; Zulia Eagles, 1969-71; Lara Cardinals, 1972-75.415 AVG for Rapiños, 1962-63, 2nd to Deacon Jones (.420). In 1954 Caribbean Series (San Juan) and 1960 event (Panamá City). Co-owner, Rapiños. A .365 AVG, LaGuaira, 1966-67. Two titles: (64-65, 65-66).
Vida Blue (Starter)Arecibo Wolves, 1984-852-5, 4.03 ERA, 58 IP, 38 K’s.
Jim Palmer (relief)Santurce, 1968-695-0, 2.79 ERA, 29 IP, 33 K’s.
Mike Cuéllar (relief)Almendares Scorpions, Cuba, 1956-61; Valencia Industrialists, 1961-62; Boer Indians, Nicaragua, 1962-63; Arecibo, 1963-65; SJ, 1965-67, 1969-72; Santurce, 1973-74; Caguas, 1976-77; Bayamón Cowboys, 1979-83; AC, LIDOM playoffs, 1964-65; EO, 1967-68 finals.1-0 in 1959 Caribbean Series. Boer won 1962-63 Nicaragua title. Pitched in 1963 and 1965 Inter-American Series. 12-4, 2.06 ERA, Arecibo, 1964-65. 1-0 in LIDOM 1967-68 finals for EO. 2-0 for Sparky Anderson, 1968-69 Semis, versus Santurce. 6-3, 2.72 ERA, 1976-77 Caguas champs (rotation of Dennis Martínez, Mike Krukow, Eduardo Rodríguez, Scott McGregor and Cuéllar.

AL Reserves

Don Buford was Roberto Clemente’s SJ teammate, 1963-65. He led the 1964-65 regulars with a .319 AVG and developed a fine rapport with Clemente. Suffering from a bad knee, Buford would accompany Clemente on visits to a chiropractor. Buford remembers the [1964-65] managing responsibilities caused a little added pressure on Roberto, but notes he was very loose, in a sense, and did not interfere with his players. A typical Clemente pep talk was: “You guys know how to play; stay fundamentally sound and we’ll be OK,” said Buford. “It wasn’t like Clemente had the SJ players do additional things.”  Note: Reserves Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Amos Otis did not play winter ball; nor did Andy Messersmith, Marty Pattin, Jim Perry and Wilbur Wood.

Table V: Winter League Highlights, 1971 AL Reserves and Injured Players

Don Buford (PH)Rapiños, VZA Occidental, 1962-63; SJ, 63-65.371 AVG for Rapiños, fourth-best; .319 AVG for SJ, 1964-65, third-best.
Frank Howard (PH)Escogido, 1959-60; Caguas, 1960-62.Called “Superman” in LIDOM and “El Condominio” in PRWL. Helped Escogido win 1959-60 crown as LIDOM MVP with .307 AVG and league-leading 9 HR, and 46 and .523 SLG. Batted .333 in Finals. With Caguas, hit a 536-foot HR off SJ’s Jack Fisher, Game One, Finals, February 1, 1961. Hit .300 with Caguas, 28 HR, 84 RBI, two seasons.
Reggie Jackson (PH)Santurce, 1970-71.272 AVG, .575 SLG, 20 HR, 46 RBI, 9 SB. Second-most HR for Santurce after Willard Brown (27), 1947-48. Homered versus LaGuaira, 1971 Caribbean Series.
Thurman Munson (C)SJ, 1969-70.333 AVG, second to Félix Millán’s .345. Teammate of Roberto Clemente and Mike Cuéllar.
Cookie Rojas (2B)Cienfuegos Elephants, Cuba, 1958-60; Havana, 1960-61; Arecibo, 1962-67; AC, 1963-64; Caracas Lions, 1967-68, 1970-71; Zulia Eagles, 1971-73; Mayagüez Indians, 1974-75; Aragua, 1975-76.285 career AVG in Cuba; 1960 Caribbean Series champs (3-for-7 in series). Leo Cardenas’s Santurce double-play partner, 1962 Inter-American Series. Third-best .333 AVG, PRWL, 1962-63. Managed 1965-66 Arecibo. A .279 regular season and .341 post-season career AVG in Venezuela. Titles: Caracas (1967-68) and Aragua (1975-76).
Leo Cardenas (DNP)Havana, 1958-59; Cienfuegos, Cuba, 1958-61; Santurce, 1961-62, 68-69; Zulia, 70-71, and LaGuaira Sharks, 71-72Cienfuegos, 1960 Caribbean Series champs. A .302 AVG, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 1960-61. February 1962 Inter-American Series champ; SS for Frank Robinson’s 68-69 Crabbers. 1971 Caribbean Series with LaGuaira. Two HR, 1971-72 finals, versus Aragua.
Dave Duncan (DNP)Lara Cardinals, 1966-67; Arecibo, 1967-6813 HR for Lara in 201 AB; Pat Dobson’s 19th strikeout victim, December 10, 1967, in ninth inning.
Bill Melton (DNP)Zulia, 1969-70.216 AVG, 1 HR, 15 RBI.
Boog Bowell (DNP)Mayagüez, 1962-64.294 AVG, 15 HR, 66 RBI. Hit 2 HR: final game, 1963 Inter-American Series, in Panamá.
Ray Fosse (INJ)Magallanes, 1969-71; 79-80.270 AVG, 6 HR, 54 RBI regular season; .301 AVG, post-season. 1970 Caribbean Series All-Star Catcher.
Sam McDowell (INJ)Santurce, 1962-636-8, 3.75 ERA, 109 IP, 85 strikeouts.
Tony Oliva (INJ)Arecibo, 1963-64; Licey, 1963-64; AC, 1967-69PRWL batting champ: .365 AVG.  Reinforced Licey and AC in LIDOM. .318 AVG post-season; .270-regular season (10/37).

With deep appreciation to Nick Acosta, Sparky Anderson, Don Buford, Jack Cassini, Tony Piña Campora, Miguel Dupouy Gómez, Nino Escalera, Larry Haney, Doug Harvey, Luis R. Mayoral, Mickey Owen, Germán J. Rivas, and Jorge Colón Delgado, Official Historian, Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League.  

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