Thursday, May 05, 2011

#377 Willie Stargell

#377 Willie Stargell
Okay, one last Hall of Famer in this great batch from Max! Being a younger collector, it's always a neat contrast to see much older cards of players whose primary image comes from their veteran years, like Willie Stargell or Gaylord Perry. After all, Willie was popularly known as "Pops".

Fun facts about Willie Stargell:

-A native of Earlsboro, OK, Willie attended high school in California before signing with the Pirates in 1958.

-He debuted with Pittsburgh in September 1962, and made the National League All-Star team for the first of seven times in 1964, his first season as a regular starter. He hit .273 that year and led all Pirates with 21 home runs. His 78 RBI trailed only Roberto Clemente (87) for the team lead.

-Stargell hit a career-high .315 in 1966 with 30 doubles, 33 home runs, and 102 RBI. Overall, he drove in 100 or more runs in five different seasons.

-Finished second to Joe Torre in 1971 MVP balloting despite a batting line of .295/.398/.628 with personal bests of 48 homers (most in the N.L.) and 125 RBI for the World Champion Pirates.

-Willie's career year was 1973, when he paced the Senior Circuit with 43 doubles and 44 home runs (the first player to lead his league in both categories since Hank Greenberg in 1940), as well as 119 RBI, a .646 slugging percentage, a 1.038 OPS and a 186 OPS+. All that, and he still got edged out for the MVP by Pete Rose. Rose outhit him .338 to .299, but had only an .838 OPS.

-Late in his career, the outgoing Stargell became "Pops", the key on-field leader of the strong Pittsburgh clubs of the late 1970s. He gave out small yellow star patches to reward teammates for good play, and the stars were affixed to the team's black pillbox caps. He was also responsible for the adoption of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" as the team's rallying song in the 1979 championship season. (As an Orioles fan, I'm glad I wasn't around for that.)

-He finally won his MVP award in 1979, sharing the honor with Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez. Willie hit .281 that year with 32 homers and 82 RBI. Ironically, it was one of his least impressive seasons statistically. Of course, he was undoubtedly rewarded for his role as a team captain, and for producing those numbers at age 39. He capped the year off with a .455 average (5-for-11) with two homers, two doubles and six RBI in an NLCS sweep of the Reds, followed by a .400 mark (12-for-30) with four doubles, three homers, and seven RBI in the seven-game World Series victory over the Orioles. He was named NLCS MVP and Series MVP, with his Game Seven performance (4-for-5, 2 2B, the eventual game-winning 2-run HR) cinching his Fall Classic honors.

-He retired after the 1982 season, his 21st in a Pirates uniform. The team immediately retired his #8 jersey. His career totals included a .282 average, .360 on-base percentage, .529 slugging percentage, 475 home runs, and 1,540 RBI. He is Pittsburgh's all-time leader in career home runs and RBI.

-He was famous for not just the frequency of his home runs, but also the sheer magnitude. He hit 7 of the 16 balls to ever leave Forbes Field, and often reached the upper deck in Three Rivers Stadium. He holds the distance records at Dodger Stadium (507 feet), Veterans Stadium (unknown), and Olympic Stadium (535 feet). As Don Sutton once said, "He doesn't just hit pitchers, he takes away their dignity."

-Stargell spent several years as a Braves coach, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1988.  Later in life, he suffered from kidney trouble, and died at age 61 on April 9, 2001. That same day, the Pirates opened their new stadium, PNC Park, and dedicated a statue in his likeness on the premises.
#377 Willie Stargell (back)


  1. I'm an O's fan but will always think of the '71 Series as Clemente's and the '79 Series as Stargell's. Two different personalities but both great leaders.

  2. I remember Willie for the absolute rocket blast he drove to the Astrodome scoreboard in the top of the ninth in this game in 1972.

    The 'Stros were up two when he hit it and the game ended up going 17 innings. My friends and I left somewhere along the way and were back at school by then.

    As for the '71 and '79 Series'... I'd rather forget them.

  3. Kevin,

    Just found your site. Very Cool. I am in the process of starting back in on my 65 Topps set. Haven't touch it in 15 years. I like your list and have copied it into excel as I am converting my inventory from handwitten lists.

    Being a Pirate fan I loved 71 and 79. Had the chance to meet Pop's about 5 years before he passed away. A very gracious man. Sam S

  4. Doug - At least they were beaten by the best!

    Bob - What's the longest game innings-wise that you've stayed for?

    Sam - Glad you found the site! Hope you enjoy it.

  5. Willie gave away chicken on the HILL in Pittsburg every time he hit a homerun.

    1. "Chicken on the Hill with Will" Was a very popular event in the "Burgh"