Tag: Baseball

#SaturdayStamps: Willie Stargell

To Pirates fans, he was known affectionately as Pops, leader of The Family. Born in 1940, Wilver Dornell Stargell hit 475 home runs in a career that was honored with induction into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1988.

On April 7, 2001, the Pirates had planned to unveil a 12-foot high statue of Stargell outside their new PNC Park. Stargell was too sick to attend the ceremony and it was postponed until April 9. Stargell died April 9, 2001, at the age of 61 after a long battle with illness.

Stargell delivered his first home run in Major League Baseball on May 8, 1963 in a game the Pirates lost 9-5 to the Cubs. It was the first of many homers in his career including four hit into the upper deck of Three Rivers stadium, seven hit over the rightfield roof of Forbes Field, two hit completely out of Dodgers Stadium and one estimated at 535 feet at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.

Stargell’s role as a leader for the Pirates began during the 1964 season. It was the first of 13 consecutive seasons in which he would hit 20 or more home runs. That year marked his first appearance in the All-Star Game. He was All-Star six more times in his career.

Other career feats for Stargell:

  • 1964  —  On July 22, 1964, Stargell hit for the cycle.
  • 1970  —  Stargell tied a Major League record with five extra-base hits in one game.
  • 1971 —  Stargell set an April record with 11 home runs. He finished the season with 48 home runs and 125 runs batted in.
  • 1973  —  Following the death of Roberto Clemente, Stargell became the Pirates’ leader. He hit .299 with 44 home runs and 119 runs batted in.
  • 1974  —  Stargell played his last full season in the outfield, hitting .301 with 25 HR and 96 RBIs.
  • 1975  —  The Pirates beat the Phillies by 6.5 games to win the NL East. Stargell hit .295 with 22 HR and 90 RBIs during the regular season, but managed only 2 hits in 11 at-bats during the NLCS loss to the Reds. Stargell made the move from the outfield to first base after suffering knee injuries.
  • 1976  —  Stargell hit .257 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs. The Pirates finished 5 games behind the Phillies.
  • 1977  —  An elbow injury brought Stargell’s  streak of 13 consecutive seasons with 20 or more home runs to an end. Without Stargell, the Pirates finished 5 games behind the Phillies. Stargell managed 13 home runs in 63 games.
  • 1978  —  Stargell his .295 with 28 home runs and 97 RBIs. The numbers earned him The Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year.
  • 1979  —  Stargell served as team captain in a year that the Pirates won the pennant. He hit .281 with 32 home runs and 82 RBIs. In the World Series, he collected 25 total bases and seven extra-base hits, including three home runs. He won three major MVP honors that season — he shared the NL MVP with Keith Hernandez. and he was named MVP of the National League Championship Series and the World Series. He was named Sporting News Man of the Year and Sports Illustrated’s Co-Man of the Year (along with Terry Bradshaw.)  The Pirates faced elimination going into the fifth game. However, the Pirates rallied and Stargell’s home run in the seventh game capped off a series in which he hit .400.
  • 1980 —  He suffered a knee injury and missed part of the season. Stargell played in 67 games, hitting 11 HR with 38 RBI.
  • 1981  —  Willie Stargell took just 38 at-bats that season, driving in 9 runs.
  • 1982  —  Stargell retired as the Pirates’ career leader in home runs, RBIs and eight other categories. That season, Stargell hit .233 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI.
  • 1985  —  Following a Pirates drug scandal, Stargell returned to the Pirates as a coach and as a way to help rebuild confidence in the organization.
  • 1986 —  Manager Chuck Tanner left to take over the Atlanta Braves and Stargell followed him to serve as first base coach, hitting coach and, later, as a Special Assistant to the Director of Player Development.
  • 1988  —  Stargell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibilty. The Pirates retired his number.
  • 1997  —  Stargell returned to work as an aide to the general manager. He was diagnosed with a kidney disorder.

SOURCE: Baseball Online Library, Baseball-Reference, The Sports Encyclopedia

Baseball Needs More African Americans!

Maybe, at long last, there is hope.

Major League Baseball, a $9 billion industry, finally is making inroads into solving one of its greatest concerns.

Major League Baseball, which will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day throughout every ballpark Wednesday, is represented by only 7.8% of African-Americans among the 868 players on the opening-day rosters and disabled lists, according to a study by USA TODAY Sports.

Yet that percentage remains flat from a year ago, and the total number of players has gone up, with 68 African-Americans on opening-day rosters.

The numbers sound modest, but after nearly three decades of decline, they represent promise.

Actually, big-time promise.

It’s a far cry from 1986, when 19% of major leaguers were African American. Yet, within these numbers and others, there’s signs of aninflux of young African-Americans entering the game.

Examining the rosters, 65% of the African-American players are 30 years old or younger this season.

Most encouraging, 18 African-Americans have been selected in the first round of the June amateur draft since 2012. When seven African-Americans were drafted two years ago in the first round, it represented the highest percentage since 1992.

Some of them may soon become impact players: 14 African-Americans, including three of the top seven, are among the best 100 prospects as ranked by ESPN’s Keith Law.

Recent events could spark further gains. A concussion epidemic may push top athletes away from football. And a gaggle of charismatic young players – from 22-year-old Mookie Betts stealing the opening-day show at Fenway Park, to towering Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker, who starts tonight’s Civil Rights Game against Robinson’s Dodgers in Los Angeles – may boost the perception it’s cool to be a baseball player again.

This is progress.

“It is encouraging,” said Tony Reagins, the former Los Angeles Angels GM hired last month as MLB’s senior vice president for youth programs. “It obviously is not where it once was, but I think there is movement.

“There are more younger African-American players engaged in the game, and a lot of the younger players are coming through the academies. There are a lot of programs out there that are producing good young talent.

“The numbers are still what they are. They’re not where we’d like them to be, but hopefully that trend can change.”

Major League Baseball has been trying to address this delinquent issue for years.

More than 2 million kids have passed through the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, which has grown by nearly 80% since 2009. They have four urban academies, with five players from the Compton academy on 40-man rosters, and 32 others drafted in the last three years.

MLB’s Breakthrough Series – showcasing top minority high schoolers for scouts and college recruiters – helped 60 players get drafted in the past three years.

“We see really, really encouraging signs that we’re turning this around,” Commissioner Rob Manfred told USA TODAY Sports. “You don’t have something that’s developed over decades and turn it around overnight. You’ve got to go through a couple of (draft) cycles until you see any improvement.

“It took us awhile to get to where we find ourselves. And quite frankly, it might have come faster than we had hoped.”

Besides the folks at the MLB headquarters, plenty of others are trying to help the cause, too. Former catcher Darrell Miller heads the RBI program in Compton, and former outfielder Mark Whiten is an RBI coach in Tampa.

Colorado Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins launched the program to donate money to help support the Jackie Robinson Little League team in Chicago. Former infielder Augie Ojeda and his business partner, Joe Schwartz, have even started a free recruiting website for high School players (BaseballDirectConnect.com) to help become identified by scouts.

“It’s great exposure for kids to have college recruiters look at them,” said Ojeda, 40, who spent parts of nine years in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Diamondbacks. “I grew up in Compton. So I know how it is. A lot of these kids aren’t seen because they’re not in travel or club ball, and so many of these minorities can’t afford it.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t have the resources to get to the next level. A lot of kids get overlooked because the coaches don’t have the connection.”

While there are two African-American club presidents – Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox and Mike Hill of the Miami Marlins – Dave Stewart of the Diamondbacks is baseball’s lone black GM. Lloyd McClendon of the Seattle Mariners is the only African-American manager, and it took him eight years to get a second chance after his firing by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“I didn’t even know being GM in baseball was even an option,” Reagins says. “Before Kenny became GM of the White Sox, I didn’t even think being a GM was realistic. It gave me hope. Hopefully, other kids can go down my path, and maybe not play professionally, but have a chance in the front office. I’m hoping my story can be told over and over again.

“This really was the primary reason I took the job. You go through life wanting to make a difference, and I felt this was not just an opportunity to affect baseball lives and races and nationalities, but really affect life in general.”

Reagins, the first person in MLB to oversee the entire youth baseball participation, including the RBI and the MLB Urban Youth Academies, has a pet peeve that he’d love to see corrected.

There have been precious few African-American bench or role players over the years. It’s almost as if you’re not starting, you’re departing.

“You obviously saw the stars,” Reagins said, “but you didn’t see African-Americans in utility roles. They just weren’t there. They were either an everyday guy or not there. One of the labels an African-American player gets is that they have to focus on one position, and if they don’t succeed, they don’t get that opportunity to move on and try another one.

The disturbing trend of African-Americans being ignored in the late rounds of drafts has also caught Reagins’ attention.

“When I was a GM,” he said, “I didn’t see as many African-American drafted. A lot of times you’d see a scout, whose doctor’s nephew is a good pitcher or something, and take them in the 35th round.”

You can’t change the mindset of every organization. You can’t tell an owner who to hire in his front office. The GM can’t be forced to select a specific manager. The scouting director is the one who makes final draft decisions.

Yet, slowly, the tide is turning.

And finally, in the right direction.


*Originally posted on USA Today.

READERS: Black History Fact Of The Day – Negro Baseball League Founded On February 3rd

The Negro Baseball League, the descendant of the Southern League of Colored Base Ballists, was founded in Feb. 3, 1920.

This was the first year the Negro National League survived a full season. Many notable players were part of the Negro Leagues, which included a number of renowned baseball teams. In fact, the 1920s were considered the golden age of the Negro League with a great deal of expansion in many of the country’s major cities.

A number of students of the sport consider James “Cool Papa” Bell to have been the smoothest and most skillful outfielder ever to play. They also cite Josh Gibson, who averaged .362 over his 16-year career, as the best offensive threat of the times. The list of players includes the renowned pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige, who is widely recognized as the greatest pitcher of the Negro Leagues.

The elevation of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 not only opened the doors for other African-American players, it also signaled the end of the Negro Leagues. Perhaps the biggest misfortune for Negro League players was that segregation made it impossible for their greatest athletes to play against the greatest in the major leagues.



Earlier this week, I saw the upcoming film 42 which is the story based on the life of Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. I didn’t go into the theater with a whole lot of expectations, only to learn more about Jackie Robinson. But boy, was I impressed! The film really focused on how Jackie Robinson transformed the game of baseball by being the African American to integrate  Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

He was born Jack Roosevelt Robinson in 1919 and attended college at UCLA, joining the U.S. Army just before finishing his degree. He began playing for the Negro Baseball League in 1945 and was recruited by the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers President, Mr. Branch Rickey in 1947.  He led his team into the World Series in 1955 and played for a total of 10 seasons. Jackie Robinson was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1962, just five short years after his retirement.

Jackie Robinson married Rachel Isum in 1946 and had three children. His widow, Rachel, founded The Jackie Robinson Foundation after his death which is a non-profit organization that gives scholarships to minority youths for higher education, also preserving the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

This coming Monday (April 15th ) is deemed Jackie Robinson day where his retired number “42” is worn in solidarity within the teams of the Major League Baseball.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet the Robinson family on several occasions and they are very excited to see Jackie Robinson’s story come to life on the big screen. I hope that you support the film this weekend – it’s great for the entire family!


To learn more about the Jackie Robinson Foundation go to www.Jackierobinson.org