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Willie Stargell, Pittsburgh Pirates Leader of the 1979 World Series Champs
Willie Stargell was the leader of a close knit Pirates bunch known as “We Are Family”. He helped the younger players with helpful suggestion, advice, and what it takes to be a Major Leaguer. At the start of the 1979 season the Philadelphia Phillies were picked by most experts to win the National League East. Most of the so-called “experts” didn’t believe that the Pirates had what it would take to overcome the Phillies. The Pirates had the talent, but they needed a leader. Willie Stargell was the man who would step up to the plate and take the leadership role.
The Pittsburgh Pirates struggled out of the gate when the season began, but Stargell boosted team morale by handing out “Stargell Stars” to anyone (including the bat boy, or equipment manager), who would step up and make a positive contribution to the team. He also adopted a popular disco song at the time for the team called “We are family”. This song would become the team motto and caught on with Pirate fans. Soon the song was played during the seventh inning stretch at Pirate home games. Soon, the “We are family” mania took off. The Pirates responded by going on a nine game winning streak and moving to within one game behind the first place Expos in July.
Willie Stargell was 38 years old, but despite his age, Stargell was still productive and making key contributions on the field. He was still coming up with clutch hits and making key plays during critical games in the division race. When the Pirates and Expos met in a key divisional game on September 18th it was time for Stargell to come up big once again. With the game tied 3-3 in the 11th inning, Stargell mashed a two run home run to win the game. A week later, Willie beat the Expos again by hitting two home runs this time! Just to put icing on the cake, Willie Stargell blasted a solo home run that helped his team clinch the National League East title.
Stargell always played his best during big games. In the NL Championship game, he hit a home run in the 11th inning of game 1 to put the Pirates ahead in the series. In the pennant clinching game, Willie Stargell knocked in three more runs to send the Pirates to the World Series.
You wouldn’t think that Stargell could get any better, but in the World Series he managed to do just that. He led his team in hits, runs, home runs, and RBI’s. In the seventh inning of game 7 against the Baltimore Orioles Stargell stepped up to the plate with his team down 1-0. On a 2-0 pitch Willie Stargell got the pitch he was waiting for and sent a game winning home run over the fence.
Stargell, through his clutch hitting and team leadership in the clubhouse proved that hard work and determination (along with plenty of talent) could bring a team together and become World Champions.
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