Stennett was a good contact hitter with occasional power, and an aggressive and smart runner on the basepaths. As a fielder, he had sure hands and a strong and accurate arm for balls up the middle and double plays.
In his first three seasons with Pittsburgh, Stennett was used at shortstop and second base. He also played a solid defense at all three outfield positions, with an average arm and great reaction speed. He showed progress in 1973, when he hit 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in 128 games. Following the 1973 season, Pittsburgh traded incumbent second baseman Dave Cash to Philadelphia and gave Stennett the starting job. Batting from the leadoff spot, he responded with a .291 average, 84 runs, 56 RBI, and a career-high 196 hits.
On September 16, 1975, Stennett became the only player in the 20th century to have seven hits in seven at bats in a nine-inning game, as Pittsburgh routed the Cubs, 22–0. Stennett’s first hit in that game came off starter Rick Reuschel and his seventh was off Rick’s brother Paul Reuschel. Pittsburgh also set a major league record for the largest winning score in a shutout game in the modern era (later matched by the Cleveland Indians in 2004). He was the third player to collect seven hits in a single game, and the second to do it in a nine-inning game. With Stennett’s position at second base secure in a lineup loaded with young hitters such as Dave Parker, Richie Zisk, and Rich Hebner and complemented by veterans Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillén, Pittsburgh traded up-and-coming second baseman Willie Randolph to the New York Yankees after the 1975 season.
On August 21, 1977, Stennett was batting .336 for the season, but he broke his right leg while sliding into second base. He was out for the year and had fewer than the required number of at bats or plate appearances (12), falling short of qualifying for the batting title, won by teammate Dave Parker (.338). In that season, Stennett collected a career-high 28 stolen bases. Stennett was a free agent at the end of the 1979 season and was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a five-year, $3 million contract in what would be one of the first “busts” of the free agent era. The Giants would release Stennett in April 1982, with three years remaining on and $2 million left on his contract. Not even 31 years of age, Stennett would never play in the majors again.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights…Rennie Stennett.
|July 10, 1971, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 24, 1981, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Runs batted in||432|
|Career highlights and awards|