Rennie Stennett, leadoff hitter of MLB's first all-Black and Latino starting lineup, dies at 72

Rennie Stennett, one of the Pittsburgh Pirates' stars of the 1970s, died of cancer Tuesday, the team announced. He was 72.

Stennett signed with the Pirates as an amateur free agent out of Panama in 1969 and made his MLB debut two years later. It was fortuitously timed, as the rookie second baseman hit .353 down the stretch to help fuel the Pirates' World Series-winning run in 1971.

Rennie Stennett flashes seven fingers, one for each straight hit he made in the Pittsburgh Pirates' 22-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, September 16, 1975 in Chicago. Stennett and his bat set modern major league record with the seven consecutive hits, and equaled major league mark by twice collecting two hits in single inning in single game. Stennett belted two doubles, four singles and a triple in the eighth to set the record. (AP Photo/Charles E. Knoblock)
Rennie Stennett remains the only modern player to go 7-for-7 in a nine-inning game. (AP Photo/Charles E. Knoblock)

Over the course of nine years in Pittsburgh, Stennett was a reliable presence in the Pirates' lineup, and a historic one as well. On Sept. 1, 1971, he was part of the first lineup in MLB history to be composed entirely of Black and Latino players, the leadoff hitter ahead of fellow stars Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. The day came 24 years after the color barrier was broken.

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Stennett's other spot in the record books occurred Sept. 16, 1975, when he became the first player in modern history go 7-for-7 at the plate in nine innings. No player has matched the feat since.

Stennett's best season came in 1977, when he received MVP votes after hitting .336. He ended his Pirates career on a high note, winning another World Series title in 1979.

"Rennie symbolized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Pirate," Pirates president Travis Williams said in the team's statement. "Our sincere condolences to his daughter Renee [Lujo], her husband Rolando and their sons Rolando Jr. and Rylan, Rennie’s son Rennie Jr., his daughter Nevaeh and son Camden, as well as Rennie’s son Roberto. We join them and all his loved ones in their grief. Rennie will be missed."


After his Pirates career ended, Stennett spent two seasons with the San Francisco Giants before finishing his career in Double-A ball in 1983. The Pirates said he remained an active part of their alumni association.

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