Hurte: ‘I Don’t Need Signs to Catch Your Junk’

From SABR member Bob Hurte at on August 22, 2012:

In his book STEVE BLASS: A Pirate for Life , the former Pirates’ pitcher writes: “The reality of a pitcher’s relationship with his catcher is that when he’s on a roll, he is almost his own decision maker. By throwing a pitch that the catcher calls for, you endorse their sign. But if you don’t like it, you can change it.” That is why game five of the 1971 World Series featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles was unique in that regard.

Before we explore the relationship between Nelson Briles and Emanuel Sanguillen, we must first be aware of the importance of the Pirates to win on October 14, 1971. Before that game, they had knotted up the series by taking two games at home and if they could win a third, it would save them the trouble of trying to win two in enemy territory. For the second game in a row, Danny Murtaugh bypassed Dock Ellis, arguably his team’s ace. Although Ellis finished 1971 with a record of 19-9, he is remembered mostly for giving up a Titanic homer to Reggie Jackson during the All Star game in Detroit.

As far as the post season, Dock pitched five innings against the Giant in the NLCS to win but lost the first game of the World Series. Ellis was nursing an arm ailment, so Murtaugh instead went with an unlikely choice. The surprised starter for Pirates’ final home game in the World Series was Nellie Briles. Nellie was 28 years old and had started only 14 games during the season. He missed his one potential play-off start because of a pulled leg muscle. What he did have on his resume was his previous World Series experience in St. Louis in 1967 & 68. Still, Danny asked him to pitch in the most important game of his career.

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Originally published: August 23, 2012. Last Updated: August 23, 2012.