"I was bred as an outcast, part Negro and part Seminole, in my early years raised as an Indian." ~Willie Stargell
Baseball Superstar Willie Stargell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
Stargell was born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, but later moved to Alameda, California where he attended Encinal High School. He was signed by the Pirates at age 22, and made his Major League debut at the end of the 1962 season. He soon became a standout player, making his first of 7 trips to the All-Star Game in 1964.
During the early 1950’s his family moved to Alameda, California and as a child he spent 12 hours a day on Alameda public housing sandlots playing baseball.
As a young boy, Stargell would clown around West Oakland and Alameda with his friends. One time, he and his buddies sneaked into the Skippy Peanut Butter factory on Webster Street, pierced the peanut boxes and took the peanuts home to roast. Another time, they climbed over a fence into the Alameda Naval Air Station for a secret dip in the pool.
In the late 1950s, Stargell joined such baseball greats as Tommy Harper, Curt Motton, and Robert Davis on the Encinal High School baseball team. Even as a 5-foot-10, 165-pound teen-ager, he could swat home runs. He was an all-around athlete, lettering not only in baseball but also in basketball and football.
He decided to stick with baseball after tiring of constantly being tackled in football. His nickname, "Pops," grew from those early years. He would help out anyone who needed it, as well as hit anything you could throw at him. Years after with the Pirates, Stargell made sure to thank the people who helped him up along the way, including Patterson and his mentor, Encinal High School coach, Don Grant. During those receptions, Stargell would talk about the discrimination he experienced as a Black American Indian baseball player in New Mexico.
"Love soothes wounds, while hatred and violence deepen them." ~Willie Stargell
One incident happened in the minor leagues, where an angry fan once confronted him with a shotgun, but he quickly won them over with his power and personality. He always placed merit above color or skin. While playing for the Pirates’ farm club in Asheville, N.C., he was nicknamed "On the Hill Will" for the long homers he hit onto a hillside far beyond the right-field fence.
The nickname was revived when Stargell bought a chicken restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Stargell is the only player in history to sweep MVP honors, winning it in the 1979 NL playoffs and World Series and sharing the regular-season NL MVP with Keith Hernandez of St. Louis.
Stargell, who hit 475 homers and batted in 1,540 runs, compiled a.282 lifetime batting average during his 21 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After his playing career was over, he volunteered to help the NAACP and the fight against sickle cell anemia.
After years of suffering from a kidney disorder, Stargell died of complications related to a stroke in Wilmington, North Carolina, on April 9, 2001; on that same day (coincidentally, the first game at the Pirates' new stadium, PNC Park), a larger-than-life statue of him was unveiled as part of the opening-day ceremonies.
Willie Stargell Sports Accomplishments:
- Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee (1988)
- National League Co-MVP (shared with Keith Hernandez, 1979)
- 7-time Top 10 MVP (1971–75, 1978–79)
- 7-time All-Star (1964–66, 1971–73, 1978)
- National League Championship Series MVP (1979)
- World Series MVP (1979)
- ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year (1979)
- Led National League in Slugging Percentage (1973)
- Twice led National League in OPS (1973–74)
- Led National League in Doubles (1973)
- Twice led National League in Home Runs (1971 and 1973)
- Led National League in RBI (1973)
- Twice led National League in Extra-Base Hits (1971 and 1973)
- Hit for the cycle (1964)
"That's where the future lies, in the youth of today." ~Willie Stargell