The 1971 National League Championship Series was a best-of-five series that pitted the East Division champion Pittsburgh Pirates against the West Division champion San Francisco Giants. The Pirates won the Series three games to one and won the 1971 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Giants did not return to the postseason until 1987.
This was the first League Championship Series in either league that was not a sweep for the winning team (Baltimore swept Oakland in the 1971 ALCS).
Pittsburgh won the series, 3–1.
Saturday, October 2, 1971, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco
With aces Gaylord Perry and Steve Blass taking the mound for their respective teams, Game 1 looked to be a pitchers duel. It somewhat was for four innings; the Pirates struck for two in the top of the third when Dave Cash doubled home Jackie Hernández. Cash scored the second run when Richie Hebner grounded to Tito Fuentes at second, but Willie McCovey, who attempted to field the ball and had to scramble back to first because Perry forgot to cover the bag, dropped Fuentes' throw. The Giants halved the lead in their half of the third when Chris Speier singled, went to second on a Perry sacrifice, and scored on a Ken Henderson single.
Fuentes and McCovey would redeem themselves in the fifth by each slamming two-run homers off Blass for a 5–2 lead. Al Oliver cut the deficit to 5–4 for the Pirates with two-run single in the seventh, but that was it as Perry went the distance for a complete game win.
Sunday, October 3, 1971, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco
In front of an NBC-TV audience, Pirate first baseman Bob Robertson grew into a star in Game 2. Robertson smashed three homers, becoming the first to do so in a playoff game. His solo homer in the fourth tied the game at 2–2 and his three-run blast in the seventh made the score 8–2 and essentially put the game out of reach. Robertson also homered in the ninth, and Gene Clines added a homer for the Pirates.
A pivotal play occurred just prior to the Pirates' 4-run seventh, when Willie Mays, batting in the bottom of the sixth with two out and his team trailing, 4–2, saw his bid for a bases-clearing double grabbed by right fielder Roberto Clemente.
Tuesday, October 5, 1971, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Pirates' Bob Johnson and the Giants' Juan Marichal locked into a tight pitcher's duel for eight innings. Bob Robertson hit a solo homer, his then-record fourth of the series, in the second, and the Giants tied it in the sixth when Ken Henderson singled and scored when third baseman Richie Hebner threw wildly past Robertson at first after fielding a bunt by Tito Fuentes.
Hebner would atone for the error, however, by slamming a game-winning solo homer in the eighth off Marichal. Dave Giusti came on in the ninth and saved it for Johnson and the Pirates.
Wednesday, October 6, 1971, at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Another anticipated pitching duel between Gaylord Perry and Steve Blass quickly went by the wayside. Blass lasted only two innings, giving up five runs. Willie McCovey had a three-run homer and Chris Speier also homered.
The Pirates, however, got Blass off the hook in their half of the second. Richie Hebner tied the game with a three-run homer, but not before 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski provided a thrill by pinch-hitting for Blass and singling and later scoring on Hebner's home run.
The score stayed at 5–5 until the sixth when the Pirates pushed across four runs on a Roberto Clemente RBI single and a three-run homer by Al Oliver. Meanwhile, Bruce Kison and Dave Giusti pitched the last seven innings of shutout baseball to close out the series.
1971 NLCS (3–1): Pittsburgh Pirates over San Francisco Giants