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Hall of Famer Willie Stargell dead at 61 after long illness

Monday, April 9, 2001
Stargell called heart and soul of Pirates
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – In 1979, Willie Stargell led the Pirates fans in choruses of "We Are Family" on the way to a World Series comeback.

On Monday, the family was giving a little of that love back.

Fans gathered outside the slugger's new statue at PNC Park after his death Monday morning in North Carolina at age 61.

Stargell played for Pittsburgh both at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium and was a leader on the 1971 and 1979 Series-winning teams.

"There goes Pops again, stealing the show," said Kevin Stennette, who had two tickets to Monday's home opener with Cincinnati. "He's a star – just can't help it. He always will be."

Stennette said he has memorized most of Stargell's statistics and grew up watching him play first base at Three Rivers.

Don Clyde, an employee of a Youngstown radio station and a longtime Pirates fan, said Stargell's death will divert Pittsburgh's focus from the new park. He visited the new Stargell statue Monday morning.

"He was just the heart and soul of the Pirates," said Clyde, 37.

Stephen Reiser headed past the park on the way to his job as a construction worker and recalled seeing Stargell in Reiser's first trip to a ball game in 1977.

"Oh my, that's just sad, that's just horrible," Reiser said. "He's everything to this town. He's Pittsburgh baseball."

Rich Cromer recalled the anticipation in the crowd every time Stargell stepped up to bat.

"There was energy on the field when Stargell picked up the bat," said Cromer, an emergency technician in Pittsburgh. "You just felt for pitchers facing him. They didn't know whether to pitch or run." Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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