Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Willie Stargell (#86)

Here is Pirates' OF-1B Willie Stargell, who came to be known as "Pops" later in his career.

Stargell was signed by the Pirates late in 1958. He played in the minors for 4 seasons (1959-62), and made his big-league debut with the Pirates in September 1962.

Willie stuck with the Pirates at the start of the 1963 season. He shared the left field job with veterans Jerry Lynch and Bob Skinner, and also started a dozen or so games at first base and right field, when regulars Donn Clendenon and Roberto Clemente got some time off.

Stargell started 105 games in his 2nd season, splitting them fairly evenly between 1st base and left field. He made his first of 7 all-star games, and began a streak of 13 years with 20 or more home runs.

The next few seasons were not “Stargell-like”, but he put up numbers that most players would strive for. Willie was the Pirates’ regular left fielder from 1965 to 1974, except for playing mostly 1st base in 1972.

In 1971, he collected a career-high 125 RBI, and led the NL with 48 home runs. The Pirates also won the World Series that year, although it was still “Clemente’s team”.

In 1973 Willie led the league in doubles (43), homers (44), and RBI (119). He was the MVP runner-up in both ’71 and ’73. After years as the left fielder, Stargell switched to 1st base beginning in 1975, and never returned to the outfield.

His stats drifted downward from 1974 through 1977, but he had another monster season in 1979, clubbing 32 homers and leading the Pirates to their 2nd World Series championship of the decade. He also won the NL MVP award in 1979. Willie played in the post-season in ’70, ’71, ’72, ’74, ’75, but was at his best in the 1979 post-season, hitting 2 homers in the NLCS and 3 in the World Series, while batting over .400 for the post-season.

That would be it for Willie’s glory days, as he became a part-time player from 1980-1982. He retired after the 1982 season, with 475 home runs and 1540 RBI in 21 seasons.

He later coached for the Braves, then worked in the Pirates’ front office. Willie was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.

Stargell passed away at age 61 on April 9, 2001, which was also opening day for PNC Park, the Pirates new ballpark. A statue of Stargell was unveiled that same day at the park.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did 'Pops' not share the '79 MVP with Keith Hernandez?