Willie Stargell Debuts

On September 16, 1962, Willie Stargell made his major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Stargell’s debut only afforded him one at bat, and he struck out. Clearly this was no indication of the success he would have in the coming years. His entire 21-year career was spent in Pirates black and gold; during which he batted .282 with 475 home runs and 1540 RBIs. From 1962-1982, the Pirates won six National League East division titles, two National League pennants and two World Series (1971, 1979).

While “Pops” was beloved in Pittsburgh for his likeable manner and style of play, Willie was really known for hitting mammoth homeruns. Here are some of his incredible feats:

Forbes Field was home to the Pirates from 1909-1969. During that time, 16 homeruns were sent completely out of the stadium. Seven were hit by Stargell, in only eight seasons.

Stargell hit the very first home run at Shea Stadium during the arena’s inaugural game in 1964. Only four homeruns have ever been hit out of Dodger Stadium; two were by Stargell. In fact, the first of two still holds the record for the longest homerun at (or outside of) Dodger Stadium, measuring 506 feet.

The former home of the Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans’ Stadium, had a commemorative gold star with “S” inside marked the longest homerun within that park.

In 1978, Stargell became the only player to send a long shot into the upper deck at Olympic Stadium against the Montreal Expos. This shot measured just over 550 feet.

Again, these are just a few of the most memorable shots that came off of Stargell's bat.  Words cannot describe the power he put behind each swing.  Intimidation was a key factor in his success; Stargell was said to "not just hit pitchers, but to take their dignity."  He even warmed up in the on-deck circle with a sledgehammer!  Click the screenshot below for a short video paying homage to Pops... and don't forget to check out mitchellandness.com for our Stargell collection!

 

 

 

 

 

September 16, 2010 | E-mail | Comments (0) | Comment RSSRSS comment feed

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Miscellaneous Pirate Fact # 3

Who are the Pirates top five in games played (as a Pirate)?

1. Roberto Clemente - 2,433 games (1955 - 72)

 

2. Honus Wagner - 2,432 (1900 - 17)

 

3. Willie Stargell - 2,360 (1962 - 82)

 

4. Max Carey - 2,178 (1910 - 26)

 

5. Bill Mazeroski - 2,163 (1956 - 72)

May 27, 2010 | E-mail | Comments (0) | Comment RSSRSS comment feed

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Willie "Pops" Stargell

Throughout his 21 years as a Pirate Willie Stargell was a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.  His on field accomplishments are well known so let's look at "Pops" off the field.

Willie really stepped to the forefront as the Pirates leader after the tragic and sudden death of Roberto Clemente.  Stargell admired Clemente and was deeply saddened by his passing.  The 1973 season was a difficult one for the club as it was impossible to replace Clemente's spirit and passion.  Willie tried to lead by example and came through on the field with one of the best year's of his career.  He also spent the season quietly but effectively taking over the leadership of the club and was officially named team captain that year.

The 1978 Pirates made an unlikely last season run for the eastern division crown, battling the Phillies right up until the final days fo the season.  While the Pirates came up short at the end, Willie saw something special in his teammates.  At the conclusion of the '78 season he predicted that the '79 club would win the World Series.  He knew exactly what he was doing - applying pressure while also instilling confidence.

As you know, the 1979 Pirates did win the World Series.  Their on field play was stellar.  But there were a couple of things happening off the field that undoubtedly contributed to the Pirates on field success.

Stargell instituted a program where he rewarded players for effort, exceptional play, or anything else he deemed "star worthy" with a Stargell Star.  Initially Willie purchased store bought star patches and the players had them sewn into their pill box style caps.  Eventually the stars became customized and included an "S" in the middle.  This motivation tool was as ingenious as it was genuine.  Players were honored to be recognized by Pops and he loved to honor them with one of his stars.  Even after his retirement Willie continued to distribute stars to people he encountered who he felt had done something of merit.  In fact, at his 1988 All Star induction, he gave stars to Hall of Fame employees.

Willie was also the one behind the 1979 Pirates rallying anthem, "We Are Family."  Willie was always talking about how important it was for teammates to be like family.  "We Are Family" was a popular song at the time and Willie began playing it in the clubhouse.  It caught on and began being played throughout the stadium and the entire city of Pittsburgh.  It became their song and the 1979 Pirates will forever be known as "The Family."


Willie retired from the Pirates after the 1982 season.  He passed away on April 9, 2001, on the same day that the Pirates unvelied a statue of him at PNC Park.

 

Here are a couple of quotes about Willie "Pops" Stargell that further explain why he was one of the greatest men in the game of baseball.

"Having Willie Stargell on your team is like having a diamond ring on your finger."  " His attitude in the clubhouse inspires everyone.  What a great honor it is for me to manage a player like Willie Stargell."  Chuck Tanner

"If Willie asked us to jump off the Fort Pitt Bridge, we would ask him what kind of dive he wanted. That's how much respect we have for the man."  Al Oliver

"There's only one word to describe Willie Stargell, and that's class. He's been an inspiration to millions of youngsters all over America."  Tommy Lasorda

"That rare combination of athlete and gentleman. He is one of the very few to be a star both on and off the field." former teammate Ken Brett

May 27, 2010 | E-mail | Comments (1) | Comment RSSRSS comment feed

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Miscellaneous Pirate Fact #2

 

How many Pirates have been named MLB Player of The Year?

Answer: 3

Bill Mazeroski - 1960


Willie Stargell - 1979


Barry Bonds - 1990

May 25, 2010 | E-mail | Comments (0) | Comment RSSRSS comment feed

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The 1979 Pirates

So many things to say about the 1979 Pirates..."We Are Family", "Pops" and Stargell's Stars, Kent Tekulve's pitching motion and on and on.  But since we're in the jersey business, let's start there.

The 1979 Pirates had three jerseys, three pants and two caps.  In today's game teams also have three jerseys, three pants and two or three caps, but the difference is that the Pirates used to mix and match the three.  Can you imagine that happening today?

Here's what John Hallahan, Pirates equipment manager in the 1970's had to say about the potential 18 different uniform combinations:

"If it was cold, we'd wear all black.  If it was hot, we'd wear the whites.  In the 1979 Series we mostly wore yellow tops with black pants.  The players always voted. One time they wanted each guy to wear a different combination, but we didn't want to make a mockery of it, which of course it already was."

 

So let's take a look at the 1979 World Series vs. the Orioles, what the Pirates wore and how they did.

Game 1 - black jersey / gold pants / gold caps

In Baltimore, Orioles win 5 - 4.  Stargell hits a HR but Bruce Kison can't get the win as the Orioles score five runs in the first.


Game 2 - gold jersey / black pants / black cap

Again in Baltimore, but this time the Pirates get the win, 3 - 2.  Bert Blyleven gets the win and Kent Tekulve gets the save.


Game 3 - white jersey / white pants / black cap

The Pirates are back home for game three but the home cooking didn't do much to help.  The Orioles take game three 8 - 4.


Game 4 - gold jersey / gold pants / black cap

The Pirates give up six runs in the eighth inning as the Orioles take the lead in the series with a 9 - 6 victory.


Game 5 - black jersey / gold pants / gold cap

Pirates ace Bert Blyleven comes through when he has to and pitches a six hit gem for a Pirates 7 - 1 win. The Orioles still lead the Series 3 - 2.


Game 6 - gold jersey / black pants / black cap

The Series heads back to Baltimore for game six.  With John Candelaria on the mound, the Pirates score two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings for a 4 - 0 win, sending the Series to a seventh game.


Game 7 - gold jersey / black pants / black cap

The Pirates become only the fourth team in history to come back from a 3 - 1 deficit as they win their second World Series of the decade. The Pirates beat the Orioles 4 - 1 as pitching ace Kent Tekulve gets his third save of the Series.


So it looks like the gold / black / black combination was the luckiest of the four combinations worn during the World Series.  It's definitely one of the best from a fashion perspective too, although an all black mix would have been interesting too.

What are your thoughts on the mix and match uniforms of the 1979 Pirates?

May 25, 2010 | E-mail | Comments (2) | Comment RSSRSS comment feed

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