July 21, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; United States post office chief operating officer Megan Brennan (left) and Margaret Stargell widow of Pittsburgh Pirates former first baseman Willie Stargell unveil a commemorative stamp honoring Willie Stargell before the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Miami Marlins at PNC Park. Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Looking back at Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell

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Last year, Frank Garland was one of two authors that examined Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame first baseman/left fielder Willie Stargell in his book, Willie Stargell: A Life in Baseball, published by McFarland.
Image Credit: McFarland Books

Image Credit: McFarland Books


Garland, a journalist for over 25 years, spent six years researching and writing the Stargell biography. His efforts started after visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and seeing that the only Stargell book on the shelves in the store was an autobiography published in the 1980s. Stargell had written his autobiography, Willie Stargell: An Autobiography, in 1984 with Tom Bird. It’s now out of print, of course, like many other autobiographies written by members of the Hall of Fame.

In his research on Stargell, Garland interviewed over 80 people, some of which have passed away since his interviews started such as former Pirates and Atlanta Braves coach Chuck Tanner. Garland interviewed friends, minor and major league teammates, opponents, managers, coaches, friends outside of baseball, his children, his two ex-wives, and sister.

He gets into the life of Stargell, from childhood all the way up to his tragic passing at the age of 61 in 2001, the same day that the Pirates opened PNC Park. Garland examines the racial discrimination that Stargell had to deal with in the 1950s in the minor leagues.

Stargell, unfortunately, played at the massive Forbes Field for the first portion of his major league career. This affected his home run totals. He did more damage at Three Rivers Stadium than he did at Forbes Field. By playing his first half at Forbes, he was robbed of probably 100 to 150 home runs in his career. Had the playing field not been as massive, Stargell would have finished well north of 500 home runs but ultimately, he finished tied at 475 long balls with St. Louis Cardinals icon Stan Musial. Not bad company.

While Pops hit 221 home runs at home, he hit 74 at Forbes to 147 at Three Rivers. As a member of the Pirates, he saw playing time at Forbes from 1962 until Three Rivers opened during the 1970 season.

I found it interesting that Stargell performed on stage after retiring from baseball.

As a coach with the Atlanta Braves after his playing days ended following a lengthy career with the Pirates, Stargell would take a job as a special assistant in the Braves office. This allowed him to work with the minor league players and is just one of the reasons as to why the Braves were so dominant in the 1990s.

Garland does a great job, overall, in writing about the Pirates icon.

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