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