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Hall of Famer Willie Stargell dead at 61 after stroke

Kurkjian: 'Pops' forever a Pittsburgh presence

Fans remember 'Pops' as Pirates open new stadium

Monday, April 9, 2001
Users remember "Pops" as head of Pirate family

The overwhelming response by users in sharing their memories of Willie Stargell was exceeded only by the warmth and good will of their thoughts for the man called "Pops." Here is a sampling of your memories of Willie Stargell:

Willie left lasting influence

My prayers are with you today Willie. For a young black kid growing up in Los Angeles there were very few heros I could point to. Stargell was larger than life and the respect he had from everyone was obvious from the players to the analyst who covered MLB. His commitment and determination made him not only a sports leader but during that era he was as big a hero to me as an Ali. I was a big Dodgers and Pirates fan in 1979. "Pops" I will miss you but you can be sure I will make sure my children remember type of player (man) you are! Thank you so much for your grace.
Daniel Crymes
Long Beach, CA

Wilver Dornell Stargell was a gentle giant in a game dominated by egos. His good humor and consideration of others will be something that will stay with me for a long time. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, Willie was my baseball idol right behind Roberto Clemente. I guess I'm getting old -- I just lost a piece of my childhood today, cause Willie Stargell's gone.

I have two memories of Cap't Willie. The first was when my brother Paul was named as the honorary batboy for a PPG night at the stadium. Willie took an excited and nervous adolescent boy with a learning disablity and his equally nervous parents and made them feel so much at ease. I don't remember the details of that game at Three Rivers, except to say that watching my brother and my folks with Big ol' Number 8 was a special moment in my life.

Willie, thanks for everything. Thanks for making baseball special in Pittsburgh. Thanks for that deep belly laugh. Thanks for the rocket shots in L.A., in Montreal, in Pittsburgh, in Houston and in Baltimore. Thanks for the stars and for two World Series. Thanks for being an influence on some of my other baseball legends, like Oliver, Parker, Moreno, Sanguillen. Thanks Pops, for ALL of the memories.
Mark Yunt
Baden, PA.

Having lived my entire life in Des Moines, Iowa I have never had a chance to have a hometown pro sports hero. I have always looked to other cities for theirs. I was 6 years old the first time I ever saw Wilver Darnell Stargell play. It was the 1971 World Series, the first night Series. Although he had a below average performance, I was thoroughly entranced by the way he twirled his bat while awaiting the pitch. Cock forward, cock back, cock forward and bring it back 360 degrees and start the process again until the pitcher started his windup. It was if he was telling the pitcher it didn't matter what he was going throw, Willie was going to hit it and hit it hard.

As I began to get older, I think the thing I appreciated the most about having "Pops" as my hero was the way in which he lived his life. Any headlines or stories I ever read or heard regarding him were either positive or dealt with illness in his family.

In 1979 when "We are Family" cruised into the World Series, you could feel as the season progressed that the Pirates had something very special brewing. To a man on that team, each one always gave the credit to Pops for creating that environment. To this day I believe it was Stargells' sheer will that propelled them to the Championship that year. To sit and watch each and every one of those seven games that year, you just knew that he was not going to allow them to lose. As a fourteen year old I literally cried when he hit the homerun in game 7 that sealed the ring. With the Championship and MVP's of the regular season, playoffs and World Series, Willie Stargell elevated me to incredible heights when it came to bragging rights with my friends and brothers (my oldest brother being a lifelong Oriole fan just added to my ecstasy).

I have had the good fortune of many great things happen in my life, but I will always remember that October in 1979. During that World Series, Wilver Darnell Stargell made all the dreams and fantasies this fourteen year old had become reality. For that I will always be eternally grateful to him because at the time I knew he was doing just for me.
Chuck Steeples
Des Moines, Iowa

Willie's love for the game was obvious

One of the funniest things I've even seen in sports is Pops doing a pop-up slide short of second base and calling time out. This is proof how much better the attitudes of players back then were when these lucky men could go out and have fun playing a boy's game while getting paid for it.
Phoenix, AZ

Pops' picture would be in a dictionary beside the term: 'lead by example'. My memory of Pops is a quote on one of the Bucs' pregame shows where he bemoaned some player who was trying to get out of slump. He told the player to have fun. "You don't 'work' baseball, you 'play' baseball." In the field, after either a strikeout or a tape-measure job, you just knew Willie was having fun.
New York

As a 12 year old in 1984, I attended a Lynn (MA) Pirates game (formerly the Pirates Single-A affiliate), both to see the game and because Willie Stargell was making a personal appearance that day. A group of a hundred or so crowded around him upon his arrival, thrusting baseballs and cards and programs at him to sign. Willie took pause, and due to his huge presence, the outstretched arms retreated. Willie announced in a friendly manner, "Hey, I spent 20 years in the major leagues. Doesn't anyone want to ask me a question?" A voice from the back asked, "What was it like playing with Roberto Clemente?" A smile rose on his face, and he began signing for everyone present as he told with great pride about how lucky he was to have played with such a great human being. That's how I'll remember him -- warm, kind, and with a great love for his sport.
Brian Mazmanian
Brookline, MA

Willie had amazing power

As a small boy in Pittsburgh, Willie was a giant to me. Not only was he obviously a big man, he also hit those legendary tape measure home runs. In Three Rivers Stadium, they had the seats marked where anyone had hit a ball in the upper deck (which Willie had done several times). I remember going up to those seats, which were almost always empty, and waiting for Willie to come up just in case it might happen again. I remember that from up there it seemed that he was so far away that it would be impossible for anyone to hit a ball that far, but you still held your breath every time he swung. He was also one of the all-time strikeout leaders, but you almost didn't feel disappointed when he struck out, because he never, ever got cheated on a swing. It was like watching a living Mighty Casey. It was only a little later in life that I came to understand that he was even more of a giant off of the field. He was a great man.
jim fischerkeller

I grew up in Utah a huge Willie Stargell fan. His awesome size and power were incredible to me. I loved to watch him get his bat cranking in a pinwheel motion as the pitcher started his delivery. It must have struck fear in opposing pitchers, but it struck awe in a little boy who loved baseball.
Jeff Porter
New York

Growing up in Pittsburgh during the 70's championship years for the Pirates (and Steelers) was a dream for any kid. You couldn't help but feel a thrill when Willie would come up to bat in the ninth inning and Pirates's announcer Bob Prince would say "time to spread some chicken on the hill" or "we had the bloop now it's time for the blast". I also had the fortune to meet (and have my picture taken with) Willie one year. The one thing I will always remember was how unbelievably big he seemed; I got to try his glove on and it felt like I was wearing a shovel.
Greg Kudlac
Akron, OH

I have been a baseball fan for 55 years and what I can remember most about Captain Willie was the crash of the bat against the ball. When he timed the pitch I don't think anyone that ever played the game could hit it harder. Witness the ball parks in the National League that have marked the spots where Willie has hit prodigious home runs.

When Willie was a young outfielder he hit three in one game against the Dodgers at Los Angelos and that was the clue of what Willie would accomplish for himself, his baseball fans.

He cost Bob Prince the famed Pittsburgh announcer a pretty penny one night when he said I'll pay for Chicken on Hill if Willie hits one out of here and Willie hit one out and the people of the Hill District in Pittsburgh dined at Bob's expense.

We may never have another one like Wilver Stargell.
John Kiefer

As a child living in Los Angeles, I was a devoted Dodger fan, until "Pops" hit a ball over the right field pavillion roof at Dodger Stadium, into the parking lot. I can still see the ball flying over my head as my best friend and I sat there in amazement. After that evening, I was a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, and Willie Stargell stood as my inspiration in life. I wanted to hit just like him, imitating his prolific pinwheel style during my at bats even to this day.

The baseball world has truely lost one of its finest ambassadors the game has ever seen. My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire organization, and the family of Mr. Stargell. I will cherish forever, his memories, and the countless number of cards, and memorabilia that I have collected throughout my lifetime. I will never forget you....POPS!
Patrick Reynolds
Concord, California

Willie was special

I worked for the Durham Bulls for 7 years and frequently saw Willie Stargell when he was an instructor in the Braves organization. He was a class act in every sense of the word. He was always signing autographs for the fans and never too good to stop and speak to you. A great individual that will truely be missed.
Michael Snee

I had the opportunity to watch Willie Stargell during several seasons, 1st time was at Chavez Ravine in the summer of '66, the last time at Riverfront Stadium in 1979, and he was awesome. His windmill motion at the plate was unique and intimidating to opposing pitchers, but it was his presence on the field that commanded respect. He was a player of yore, who played for the love of the game. Played over injuries and aching pains because of his passion and desire to win. Many players today should have his dedication, work ethics and love for the game. Money was not a major concern for Willie as it was winning. May he be playing with all the other great ones in the fields of heaven. God Bless Willie Stargell
Marcos Rodriguez
Willis, Michigan

My first Major League game was in Pittsburgh in May of 1973. The Pirates played the Mets. They lost to a guy named TOM SEAVER who pitched a two hit shut-out. The only two hits were that of Doc Ellis and Willie Stargell. Stargell had a triple off the centerfield fence that missed being a home run by inches. He only had three triples that year. Later that year, I watched him hit a home run in the same place. It was the winning hit in the first game of the Doubleheader that the Pirates swept from Philadephia. Both games 5-2. Over the years, I watched him hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium and I watched him hit a ball out of an exit in Philadelphia's Veteran's Stadium. In 1977, a fight between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh broke out. Stargell and Rose met the around the pitcher's mound and looked at each other, shook hands and went around and stopped the fighting. I was living in Maryland at the time the Pirates beat the Orioles in 1979 with his home-run. What a joy it was to hear the DJ's who said that the would not play "We Are Family", unless the Pirates won. It was on every station that you turned to.

My step-father was his biggest fan and the only trip he ever made to Cooperstown was to see Stargell inducted. The only other one he waited for was Maz. My step-father died two years ago. Maybe he and Pops will watch Maz go in together in August.
Rodney Adams
Hagerstown, MD

I grew up in Pittsburgh and we used to make signs for Stargell to "Spread some chicken on the Hill, Will". He was baseball after Clemente died, and was the only one who could have saved Pittsburgh baseball with the loss of Clemente. He was a great player for kids to look up to, and unlike todays players, he always cherished the reposibility, never ducking the obligation. God bless you Wilbur!
Jack Ridilla

I have to say that I had one of the best childhoods any kid can dream of. My father played with Willie Mays for 5 years in SF and then when traded to the Pirates in 65 where he played with Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargel. I will always remember Willie Stargell telling me that my father had a "grande corazon" (big heart), but really what he meant was that it still wasn't as big as his. He was cool, always respectfull and a lot of fun. He was a big man with a huge heart. In the 1971 World Series, my father hit a double in the 7th game and drove Willie in all the way from 1st base. It was the series winning run. I guess that in my heart, that had to be the best memory of Willie. There are numerous memories of Willie that I'd like to share with you. His his deep voice and kindness will always be in my heart. My thoughts, condolences and prayers are with the Stargell family.
Jose A. Pagan Jr.
Newington, CT

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