Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bucco Blast from the Past: Willie Stargell

by Zane Heiple


Photo courtesy of SI.com

Welcome Bucco fans to another edition of Bucco Blast from the Past.  This week we look back at one of the most well known and beloved member of the Pirates family, Willie “Pops” Stargell.
Stargell played with Pittsburgh over the course of 21 years from 1962-82.  He would go on to hit .282 with 475 home runs and 1,540 RBI’s in 2,360 games.  These great numbers are why Pops is the Pirates all time leader in home runs, RBI, and extra base hits.  He would make seven all-star game appearances during his career.
Stargell won two World Series with Pittsburgh in 1971 and 1979.  ’79 would be the year he is best known for as he was the National League co-MVP along with being named MVP of the NLCS and World Series.  He was the leader of the We-Are-Family squad that beat the Orioles in seven games that year.  Players on that ’79 would have Stargell’s Stars placed on their hats after making big plays or having a great game. 
Pops was also known for his monster home runs.  He hit seven balls out of Forbes Field and many in the upper deck of Three Rivers Stadium.  Willie hit the first home run out of Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964 and also hit two of four home runs out of Dodger Stadium.  The longest home run ever hit in Veterans Stadium was by Stargell in 1971.  His 1978 homer in Olympic Stadium is marked in the upper deck by a yellow seat while the rest are red. 
After his retirement he coached for the Atlanta Braves for many years.  The Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 8 in 1982. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame during his first year on the ballot in 1988.  Pops threw out the final pitch at Three Rivers Stadium at the end of the 2000 baseball season.  Unfortunately he was unable to see a game at PNC Park as Stargell would pass away on the same day the park opened on April 9, 2001.  This day also marked the unveiling of his statue outside of the left field entrance to PNC Park.
Be sure to check back next week for another edition of Bucco Blast from the Past.
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!!!

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