The late Willie Stargell, the one-time l baseball player who later joined the Pittsburgh Pirates, gets his own Major League Baseball All-Stars Forever postage stamp today.
Baseball fans and stamp enthusiasts have pre-ordered a record 1.5 million stamps in the Baseball All-Stars issue, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Today's issue also includes stamps honoring Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Cleveland Indian Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League.
Stamps are available in several forms, including a sheet of 20 stamps honoring Stargell individually and a set of four first-day covers.
Although no special activities are planned in Alameda, the Postal Service will hold a dedication ceremony honoring all four players today at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. Stargell's widow, Margaret Weller-Stargell, is expected to attend. Another ceremony dedicating the Stargell stamp is planned Sunday at at PNC Park in Pittsburgh before the 7:05 p.m. Pirates/Marlins game.
According to the Postal Service, Stargell is perhaps best remembered for powering the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, a multicultural team known as “The Family,” to a World Series title. He is also remembered for promoting harmony among players from different backgrounds.
Born in Earlsboro, Oklahoma, Willie Stargell was of Seminole Indian as well as African-American heritage. During his teens, he lived in a housing project in Alameda, where he began playing organized baseball.
In Alameda, he played baseball for Encinal High before graduating in 1958 and also for the Alameda Boys Club. Willie Stargell Avenue, which runs from Webster Street to Alameda Point, is named in his honor.
A brief biography from the Postal Service says, "In the late 1950s, he [Stargell] overcame racial intimidation while playing on some of the Pirates' minor-league farm teams in the South. Called up to the majors in 1962, he played 21 seasons, all for Pittsburgh.
"During the 1970s, the Pirates won six of 10 divisional titles. After the great Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash in 1972, Stargell became the team leader. He handed out “Stargell Stars” to teammates for outstanding play and promoted team harmony, showing special talent for bridging gaps between white, black, and Latino players. Nicknamed “Pops,” he instigated the adoption of the Sister Sledge disco hit “We Are Family” as the unofficial anthem for the '79 Pirate team. That season he tied for National League Most Valuable Player, then garnered MVP honors in both the National League Championship Series and the Pirates' upset win over the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
"Standing six feet two inches tall and weighing some 225 pounds late in his career, Willie Stargell twice led the National League in home runs (48 in 1971 and 44 in 1973), and was famous for smashing baseballs out of stadiums. At one point, he held the record for hitting the longest homers in half the National League ballparks. The left-handed slugger wound up his career with 475 home runs.
"Stargell coached for the Pirates in the 1980s and returned in 1997 as an assistant to Pittsburgh's general manager, a position he held until his death in 2001. The Pirates erected a 12-foot tall statue of Stargell outside their new PNC baseball park, which opened for a new season the day he died."
Did you know Willie Stargell when he lived in Alameda? Share your memories in the comments section below.