Rennie Stennett, the sure-handed second baseman who was part of the first all-Black starting lineup in major league history and later helped the Pittsburgh Pirates win the 1979 World Series, has died. He was 72. The team, citing information provided by the Stennett family, said Stennett passed away early Tuesday morning following a bout with cancer.
Stennett hit .274 with 41 home runs and 432 RBI in 11 big league seasons, nine of them with Pittsburgh. Though he was never named to an All-Star team, he received Most Valuable Player votes in both 1974 and in 1977, when he hit a career-best .336 before missing the final six weeks of the season due to an injury.
The Panamanian-born Stennett reached the majors with the Pirates in 1971. On Sept. 1, 1971, he started at second base as part of the first all-Black lineup in MLB history in a 10-7 victory over Philadelphia, a group that included Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.
On Sept. 16, 1975, Stennett became the only player in the modern era to go 7 for 7 in a nine-inning game when hit four singles, two doubles and a triple in a 22-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Stennett played primarily at second base but also spent time at shortstop and the outfield during his career. He had a pinch hit in his only at-bat of the 1979 World Series, winning a ring as the Pirates rallied to beat Baltimore in seven games.
“Rennie symbolized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Pirate,” Pittsburgh president Travis Williams said in a release.
Stennett left the Pirates after the 1979 season, signing a five-year contract with San Francisco. The Giants, however, released him in April 1982.
Stennett is survived by his daughter, Renee, sons Rennie Jr. and Roberto, and several grandchildren.
ANGELS: Mike Trout strained his right calf running the bases before Shohei Ohtani hit a thunderous three-run home run in the Angels’ 7-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians late Monday.
Trout walked in his only plate appearance, advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and was stranded before limping off the field as the first inning ended. The 29-year-old center fielder missed three games in April with a swollen left elbow after being hit by a pitch. Otherwise, he hasn’t missed a game this season Manager Joe Maddon had no further details on Trout’s injury, saying only “I think it was hurting him pretty badly.”
“I talked to him briefly,” Maddon said. “We’re just going to wait, go through the testing process, make our conclusions. We’ll know more (Tuesday). We’ll be more specific and precise.”
Trout was not made available to reporters after the game. The three-time American League MVP leads the major leagues in on-base percentage (.462) and on-base plus slugging (1.086).
Two days before his next scheduled pitching assignment, Ohtani hit his MLB-leading 13th home run. Indians left-hander Sam Hentges picked a relatively safe location for a 94-mph fastball – roughly the height of the halo around the “A” on the front of Ohtani’s jersey – only to see it leave the park over the right-field video boards in the second inning. Ohtani had homered in his previous game too, going over the Green Monster to beat the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning Sunday.
“I’m definitely looking forward to (starting Wednesday) but we’ve got another game (Tuesday),” Ohtani said through his interpreter in an interview with Bally Sports West. “We started a little winning streak. Let’s keep it going.”
YANKEES: Second baseman Rougned Odor was activated from the injured list and was in the starting lineup for the second of their four-game series against his former team, the Texas Rangers.
Odor missed 12 games with a left knee sprain after a collision at home plate with Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado when trying to avoid a tag in a game May 4.
Odor, 27, played his first seven big league seasons for the Rangers, who designated him for assignment April 1 and left him off their Opening-Day roster even when still owed two guaranteed seasons at $12 million each.
Odor hit .164 with four homers and 11 RBI in his 19 games with the Yankees before getting hurt.
WHITE SOX: Manager Tony La Russa said Yermin Mercedes made a “big mistake” when he crushed a 3-0 pitch from infielder Willians Astudillo for a solo homer in the ninth inning of Monday night’s 16-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins.
The 76-year-old Hall of Fame manager said he was yelling for Mercedes to take. Instead, the rookie drove the 47-mph eephus pitch deep to center for his sixth homer – and touched off yet another debate about baseball’s unwritten rules.
“That’s just sportsmanship, respect for the game, respect for your opponent,” La Russa said Tuesday. “He made a mistake, so there will be a consequence that he has to endure here within our family. But it won’t happen again because (third base coach Joe McEwing) will be on the lookout and I will be too, and we’ll go running in front of the pitcher if we have to.”
The 28-year-old Mercedes has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises so far this year, and the designated hitter was back in the Chicago lineup for Tuesday night’s game at Minnesota. He hit a major league-best .364 with 25 RBI over his first 36 games.
“I’m going to play like that. I’m Yermin. I can’t be another person because if I’m changing, everything is going to (be) changing,” Mercedes said. “Everything was good. Some of my teammates just talked with me. Just be relaxed, everything was good, everything was good, just do you. We’re good.”
Mercedes’ swing put the spotlight back on lingering questions about how the game should be played, with a new wave of players challenging what is regarded as proper on-field decorum. While bat flipping was once frowned upon in the sport, it has now almost become just another part of the game.
Young Padres slugger Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a grand slam on a 3-0 pitch off Juan Nicasio with San Diego leading by seven runs last August in a game it eventually won 14-4. That play drew a rebuke from Jayce Tingler, Tatis’ manager, for missing a take sign.
After La Russa and Mercedes talked Tuesday, shortstop Tim Anderson backed Mercedes in an Instagram comment under an NBC Sports Chicago post featuring pulled quotes from the manager and the slugger.
“The game wasn’t over! Keep doing you big daddy,” Anderson wrote.
Mercedes responded: “yes sir let’s do it baby.”
San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood also weighed in, posting on Twitter that he felt a position player on the mound meant “all ‘rules’ are out the window.”
“Plus do y’all realize how hard that is to launch a 49mph pitch 400 feet lol? Give the people what they want,” Wood wrote.
La Russa didn’t feel like having Astudillo on the mound changed the equation very much. La Russa said he apologized to the Twins.
“He’s not going to do that again,” La Russa said. “I heard he says something like I played my game, but no, he doesn’t. He plays the game of Major League Baseball that respects the game, respects the opponents, and that was not (it). And he’s got to respect the signs. When he gets the take sign, he takes.”
La Russa was hired by Chicago in October in a surprise move, putting him back in the dugout for the first time since he won the World Series with St. Louis in 2011. While it has been a a little bumpy so far – La Russa wasn’t aware of an extra-inning rule that played a role in a loss on May 5 – the White Sox had the best record in baseball heading into play on Tuesday.
La Russa said he talked to Mercedes, and called what happened “a learning experience.”
“The fact that he’s a rookie and was excited helps explain why he just was clueless,” La Russa said. “But now he’s got a clue.”