Team: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1962-1982
Willie Stargell's most productive slugging
career came when he was 33, and six
years later he became the oldest player
ever to win an MVP Award.
Wilver Dornel Stargell (1940-2001) grew up in Alameda, California, and was a middle linebacker for his school's football team until he broke his pelvis in 1958. He signed with the Pirates in 1959, and he gradually increased his power through four stops in the Bucs' minor-league chain. He hit .276 with 27 home runs and 82 RBI in 1962 with Columbus of the International League, and he was called up to Pittsburgh for good that year.
Stargell took over left field for the Bucs in '63 and had 11 homers and 47 RBI that year. Playing half his games in Forbes Field held down his power stats, but he still started a string of 13 straight 20-homer seasons in 1964, even though he played in only 117 games.
It was after the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970 that the country took notice of Willie. After a good season in 1970 -- and a pennant for the Pirates -- Stargell exploded in 1971. The Pirates won the pennant again, and Willie led the league with 48 homers and had 125 RBI, though he managed just a .208 average in the Series.
The Pirates went back to the playoffs in 1972, 1974, and 1975. In 1973, Stargell led the league with a .646 slugging percentage, 43 doubles, 44 homers, and 119 RBI. He is the only man to hit two balls out of Dodger Stadium, and his 296 homers were to be the most in the 1970s.
But as Stargell's age started to catch up with him, his power began to wane. From 1974 through 1977, his home run totals fell steadily. In 1978, the 38-year-old "Pops" reached back, slugging .567 in 122 games with 28 homers and 97 RBI as the Pirates finished second.
In 1979, Stargell led the Bucs to the world championship. Though he played in just 126 games, he hit 32 homers and batted .281, and then hit over .400 with five homers in the playoffs and Series. He tied with St. Louis first baseman Keith Hernandez in the voting for the NL MVP Award, and won both the NLCS and World Series MVPs.
Willie was honored as much for his leadership as for his production. He was the leader of a team that was a family, as he encouraged the Pirates by example, drive, and handing out "Stargell Stars" to stick on their caps when they contributed to a victory. He suffered from a deteriorating arthritic condition and retired after the 1982 season. Willie was inducted in 1988.
Here are Willie Stargell's major league totals:
|BA||G ||AB||R||H||2B ||3B||HR ||RBI ||SB |
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