Willie Stargell, or "Pops," was born in Earlsboro, OK on March 6th, 1940. He grew into a 6’2" power hitter for Encinal High School in Alameda, CA, where the Pirates signed him to an amateur contract in 1958. He started his pro career in 1959 with the San Angelo/Roswell Pirates, a "D" level club in the shortly lived Sophomore League, hitting .274 and striking out 100 times in 431 at bats over 118 games. He then played 1960 with the "C" level Northern League’s Grand Forks Chiefs (107 games, .260, 11 home runs), 1961 with the "A" level Southern Atlantic League’s Asheville Tourists (130 games, .289, 22 home runs), and part of 1962 with the "AAA" level Columbus Jets in the International League (138 games, .276, 27 home runs). The Pirates called him up on September 16th, 51 years ago yesterday.
To close out the 1962 season, Stargell played in 10 games for Pittsburgh, hitting nine-for-31 (.290) with four extra base hits and four RBI. He appeared at least once in all three outfield positions, but mostly in right. The Pirates used him between the fourth and seventh slots just for a test drive. In game 161 on September 30th, he collected three hits, including a double, and scored a run in a 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Braves. It was his last appearance of the season, and it raised his season’s average by 59 points. The Pirates finished fourth in an unusually top-heavy National League, at 93-68.
In 1963, Stargell played mostly in left field, also logging time in right, center, and at first base. Manager Danny Murtaugh tried him at every spot in the batting order but leadoff and in the pitchers spot. He hit .243, scoring 34 runs and hitting 11 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, and 47 RBI in 108 contests. He drew 19 walks and struck out 85 times. On June 17th, he collected three hits, including two round trippers in a 9-3 win against the Braves. He had six RBI in the contest. On September 13th, he hit a triple and a home run, also walking once and knocking in a total of four RBI in a 5-4 win against the San Francisco Giants. The Bucs posted a 74-88 record on the season, going 39-69 in games in which Stargell appeared.
1964 would see Stargell earn his first all-star selection. He played left field most of the time, also logging 49 games at first base, and batted mostly in the fourth and fifth spots. He increased his average to .273, scored 53 runs, and hit 19 doubles, seven triples, and 11 home runs with 78 RBI. He struck out 92 times and drew just 17 free passes. It wasn’t quite what he would grow into, as the only category he ranked with the league leaders in was errors in left field. He ranked third with eight. Still, at this early juncture, he was already worth 2.1 offensive wins above a replacement level player. On May 3rd, in a 12-8 win over the St. Louis Cardinals, he collected five RBI by going three-for-five with a home run. He hit for the cycle on July 22nd, also getting on with a walk and knocking in three runs in a 13-2 beatdown of St. Louis (I liked typing that). Pittsburgh was five games over .500 with 15 games left to play, but finished on a disappointing 4-11 stretch to end the season at 80-82.
1965 would see Stargell continue to grow into his future role, hitting .272 and slugging .501 (NL 10th), with 68 runs, 25 doubles, eight triples (NL 10th), 27 home runs and 107 RBI (NL fifth) with 39 walks and 127 strikeouts (NL fourth) in 144 games. He earned his second all-star invitation and his first mention in the NL MVP race, with a 14th place finish on the ballots. Defensively, he started to make a name for himself in left field, ranking amongst the league leaders with 125 games (NL third), 188 putouts (NL third), 10 assists (NL second), and a .961 fielding percentage (NL third). The Pirates tried to bat him sixth a handful of times, but mostly let him hit cleanup. On June 24th, in a 13-3 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he hit a double and three home runs (two off Don Drysdale) with six RBI. He did all he could on July 31st, collecting five RBI on a single and a home run, but the Pirates still lost, 7-6, to the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates closed the season by winning 11 of their last 13, but couldn’t close the gap and finished seven games behind the pennant winning Dodgers at 90-72.
Stargell played in 140 games in 1966, hitting a career best .315 (NL sixth) and scoring 84 runs with 30 doubles (seventh), 33 home runs (sixth), 102 RBI (NL sixth), and 48 walks with 109 strikeouts. He earned his third straight all-star selection, and finished 15th in the NL MVP Award race. He also rated highly in the NL with a 5.3 oWAR (NL 10th), a .381 OBP (NL seventh), a .581 SLG (NL third), 14.7 AB/HR (NL fourth), and a .962 OPS (NL third). He played 125 games in left field (NL third), made 164 putouts (NL third), nine LF assists (NL first), and had a .940 F% (NL third). He batted primarily in the cleanup spot and made a handful of starts at first base. June 5th would see him go five-for-five with a double and two home runs for four RBI in a 10-5 victory over the Houston Astros. On July 8th, he hit a single, a double, and a home run in each game of a doubleheader, totalling seven RBI in a sweep of the New York Mets, 10-2 and 9-2, respectively. Pittsburgh led the league as late as September 10th, but closed the season with a 9-10 stretch that saw them finish third, at 92-70.
In 1967, Stargell hit .271 in 134 games, scoring 54 times and hitting 18 doubles, six triples, 20 home runs, and 73 RBI. He walked 67 times (NL ninth) and had 103 strikeouts. He led the NL with 13 left field assists, also starting a few times at first base and batting in his usual fourth spot. In a 16-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on June 9th, he hit two singles and a triple, also walking intentionally and scoring four times. On September 2nd, he drew two intentional walks and hit a single and a round tripper with three RBI as the Pirates set down the Phillies, 9-1. The Pirates finished sixth at 81-81.
1968 would see Stargell hit a career low .237 and scored 57 runs, hitting 15 triples, 24 home runs (NL eighth), and 67 RBI with 47 walks and 105 strikeouts. He hit a home run every 18.1 at bats (NL fourth) and hit seven sacrifice flies (NL fifth), again leading the NL with 11 left field assists. He batted third through fifth in the order. In a 13-6 win over the Cubs on May 22nd, he hit a single, a double, and three home runs for seven RBI also stealing a base for just the eighth time in his career (and for the third time that month). On June 30th, in a 5-2 win against the Phillies, he hit a double and a home run with three RBI. Pittsburgh finished in sixth place in the National League, with an 80-82 record.
Stargell rebounded to hit .307 (NL eighth) in 1969, scoring 89 runs. He hit 31 doubles (NL seventh), six triples, 29 home runs (NL eighth) and 92 RBI (NL 10th), walking 61 times with 120 strikeouts. He finished 21st in the NL MVP race, and also ranked highly with a 5.6 oWAR (NL ninth), a .382 OBP (NL ninth), a .556 SLG (NL fourth), a .938 OPS (NL eighth), 290 total bases (NL ninth), 66 extra base hits (NL fifth), 18.0 AB's/HR, and a .966 LF fielding percentage (NL second). He was moved in the batting order to the third spot on most days, still occasionally serving as the cleanup guy. On April 13th, in a 6-5 victory over the Phils, he hit a single and two home runs for three RBI. In game one of a doubleheader on July 29th, he accounted for most of Pittsburgh's offense, hitting two singles and a home run for three RBI in a 4-2 decision over Los Angeles. The Pirates finished third in the new six-team NL East with an 88-74 record.
In 1970, Stargell placed 15th in the NL MVP race, hitting .264 and scoring 70 runs in 136 games. He hit 18 doubles, 31 home runs, and 85 RBI, with 44 walks and 119 strikeouts. He ranked ninth in the NL with a 15.3 AB/HR rate, batting fourth and fifth in the order. He accounted for all of Pittsburgh's offense on May 1st, hitting a grand slam and two singles in a 6-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. He hit three doubles and two home runs, collecting six RBI on August 1st in a 20-10 track meet over the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates finished the season five games in front of the second place Cubs, at 89-73. They lost three straight to the Reds in the NLCS, Stargell went six-for-12 with a double, a walk, and an RBI.
1971 would see Stargell lead the NL with a career high 48 home runs in 141 games. He hit .295 with 104 runs scored (NL third), 26 doubles, 125 RBI (NL second), 83 walks (NL seventh) and an NL leading 154 strikeouts. He made his fourth all-star game and finished second in the MVP race to Joe Torre. He had a 7.9 WAR (NL third), a .398 OBP (NL fifth), a .628 SLG (NL second), 321 total bases (NL third), a 1.026 OPS (NL second), 74 extra base hits (NL first), 10.6 AB/HR (NL second), and eight left field assists (NL second). On June 25th, in a 14-4 win over the Phillies, he hit two doubles and a home run with a walk, collecting four RBI. He hit two home runs for five RBI on July 31st in a 15-11 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Pittsburgh won the division at 97-65 and went on to defeat the Giants three-games-to-one and the Baltimore Orioles in a seven game series to win the World Championship. Stargell went 0-for-14 with six strikeouts in the NLCS before going five-for-24 wth seven walks and three runs in the Fall Classic.
Stargell finished third in the NL MVP voting in 1972, earning his fifth trip to the all-star game. He hit .293 over 138 games, scoring 75 times with 28 doubles, 33 home runs (NL fifth) and 112 RBI (NL third) with 65 walks and 129 strikeouts. He registered a 4.8 oWAR, a .558 SLG (NL second), a .930 OPS (NL second), 276 total bases (NL seventh), 63 extra base hits (NL fifth), seven sacrifice flies (NL 10th), 15.0 AB/HR (NL fourth), He batted fourth all season and for the first time spent more time at first base than in left field. On May 7th, he had five RBI on two home runs in a 9-6 victory over the Reds. In the top half of a doubleheader on June 7th, he hit a single and two home runs, again making five RBI as the Bucs finished on top of the San Diego Padres, 12-5. Pittsburgh went 96-59 to win the division by 11 games over the Cubs. Stargell went a combined one-for-16 as the Pirates lost the best-of-five series in five games.
In 1973, Stargell played in a career high 148 games, leading the National League with 43 doubles, 44 home runs, 119 RBI, a .646 SLG, a 1.038 OPS, and an OPS+ of 186. He earned his sixth all-star invitation and finished second in the NL MVP race to Pete Rose. He scored 106 runs (NL sixth), drew 80 walks and 129 strikeouts, hitting .299. He had a 7.2 WAR rating (NL seventh), 337 total bases (NL second), an NL leading 90 extra base hits, and an 11.9 AB/HR (NL second). On April 24th, in the top half of a doubleheader, he went three-for-four with a walk and five RBI in a 10-4 win against the Cubs. In a 10-3 triumph over the Mets on September 17th, he hit two doubles, a triple and a home run for four RBI. Pittsburgh had an off year, finishing with an 80-82 record.
1974 would see Stargell place 10th in the NL MVP race, hitting .301 over 140 games and scoring 90 runs. He hit 37 doubles (NL fourth), 25 home runs (NL sixth) and 96 RBI's, striking out 106 times and drawing 87 walks. He led the NL with a .944 OPS and a 168 OPS+, also achieving a 5.3 WAR (NL 10th), a career best .407 OBP (NL second), a .537 SLG (NL second), 273 total bases, 66 extra base hits (NL third), and got on base 246 times (NL 10th). In a 14-1 Pirates win over the Giants on June 9th, he hit a double and two home runs for six RBI. He hit two doubles and walked twice with one RBI in a 5-2 win against the Dodgers. The Pirates went 88-74 to win the division. The Pirates lost the series three to one. Stargell went six-for-15 with two home runs and four RBI.
Stargell played first base all season in 1975, playing 124 games and hitting .295 with 71 runs. He hit 32 doubles, 22 home runs (NL ninth), 90 RBI with 58 walks and 109 strikeouts. He placed seventh in the NL MVP race, with a .516 SLG (NL sixth), an .891 OPS (NL fourth), and 56 extra base hits (NL ninth). In the season opener on April 10th, an 8-4
victory over the Cubs, he went four-for-four with two home runs and three RBI. In the Pirates 18-12 win over the Cubs on July 6th, he went four-for-four with two walks, a double, a home run, and three RBI. On June 10th, he hit three doubles
for five RBI in a 9-5 win against the Reds. The Bucs went 92-69 to win another division championship. They were swept in three straight by the Reds in the NLCS. Stargell went two-for-11.
In 1976, Stargell played in 117 games, hitting .257 with 54 runs, 20 doubles, 20 home runs, 65 RBI, 50 walks, and 101 strikeouts playing first base. On April 18th in game one of a doubleheader, he hit two doubles and a home run with two RBI in a 7-5 win against the Mets. He hit a double and collected four RBI on June 25th, also scoring and hitting two singles in a 9-2 triumph over the Montreal Expos. He hit a grand slam against the Mets on August 5th, although the Bucs lost the game, 7-4. The Pirates finished second in the division with a 92-70 record, nine games behind the Phillies.
1977 would see the steadily diminishing returns of injury and age start to catch up with Stargell, as he appeared in only 63 games and hit .274 with 29 runs scored, 12 doubles, 13 home runs, 35 RBI, 31 walks, and 55 strikeouts. He was still capable of an occasional big game, as on May 7th in a 12-10 win over the Reds, when he hit a single and went deep twice with four RBI. The Pirates went 96-66, finishing five games behind division winning Philadelphia.
Stargell rebounded in 1978, earning his seventh all-star invitation and finishing ninth in the NL MVP race. He played in 122 games and scored 60 runs with 18 doubles, 28 home runs (NL fifth), 97 RBI (NL sixth), 50 walks and 93 strikeouts. He also had a .567 SLG (NL eighth), a home run every 13.9 at bats (NL fourth), and posted a .994 fielding percentage at
first base (NL fifth). In the top half of a twin bill on May 20th, he hit two home runs for five RBI in a 6-0 win over Montreal. On September 26th, he hit a single and a home run for three RBI, also drawing a walk in a 5-2 victory against the Cubs. Pittsburgh posted an 88-73 record, finishing the season 1.5 games behind the three-time repeat NL East Champion Philles.
In 1979, Parker finally won the NL MVP, sharing the award with Keith Hernandez. At 39 years of age, maybe he wasn't the player of times past, he was no longer even the best player on the team, but he was the heart and soul of the most recent Pittsburgh Pirates team to win a World Series title. He played in 126 regular season games, hitting .281 with 60 runs, 19 doubles, 32 home runs, 82 RBI, 47 walks, and 105 strikeouts. On May 17th, he hit two long balls for three RBI in a 6-5 win over the Mets. The Pirates won the division at 98-64, swept the Reds in three, then again faced the Orioles in the World Series, winning in seven games. Stargell was the NLCS MVP, going five-for-11 with three walks, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI. In the World Series, he again won the Most Valuable Player award, hitting .400 (12-for-30) with seven runs scored, four doubles, three home runs, and seven RBI.
Stargell played three more seasons with the Pirates, hitting a combined .260 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI to put a coda on his long and storied career. 21 seasons, two World Series Championships, one MVP, and a lifetime of memories. Stargell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot, in 1988. He passed away on April 9th, 2001, the same day PNC Park opened.
All-Time Statline: 21 seasons, 2360 games, 2232-for-7927, .282/.360/.529, 1195 runs, 423 doubles, 55 triples, 475 home runs, 1540 RBI, 17 stolen bases, 937 walks, 1936 strikeouts, 54.2 wins above replacement.