Wilver Dornell Stargell, known as Willie, was born March 6, 1940 in Earlsboro, OK. His major league debut was in 1962, as a left fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would remain with the team for his 21-year National League Career. Beloved in Pittsburgh for his style of play and affable personality, Stargell was known for hitting huge home runs, including 7 of the 16 balls ever hit completely out of Forbes Field. At one time Stargell held a record for the longest homer in nearly half of the National League Parks.
Standing 6’2”, Stargell seemed larger with his long arms and unique bat handling. Popular and powerful, Willie Stargell crushed 475 career homers, leading the National League with 48 blasts in 1971 and 44 in ’73.
A father figure in the clubhouse, Willie rewarded teammates performance with “Stargell Star’s” for their caps, and earned the nickname “Pops” from his players. His leadership and talent helped the Pirates win 2 world series in 1971 and in 1979.
Stargell was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988 with an 82% vote. He was a Seven Time All-Star. In ’79 he was the National League MVP, Championship Series MVP, and the World Series MVP, taking most of baseball’s Top Honors for the year.
The Pirates retired his #8 Jersey. Willie married Margaret Weller of Wilmington in 1993 at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church. They quickly took up an active role in the Wilmington community that led his popularity to various events and non-profits in the area including the Cape Fear United Way, the Community Boys and Girls Club, The Rape Crisis Center and the Junior League. He spoke at the Little League Optimums Club Openers and threw out the first pitch for the kids opening game.
From the White House to rural neighborhood grocery store, Willie Stargell had a rare ability to connect with anyone he met. Willie Stargell passed away April 9, 2001 after a valiant fight against kidney disease. His legacy of charity and hope lives on through the Willie Stargell Foundation which hosts a Celebrity Golf Tournament each year to raise money for kidney disease research and treatment. Beneficiaries of the Golf Tournament have included the National Kidney Foundation, the American Kidney Fund, the UNCW School of Nursing, Cape Fear Community College Nursing School, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, as well as individuals suffering from kidney disease. The Pirates have commemorated his legacy with a giant statue of Willie Stargell that stands by the entrance to left field.
The Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducts Willie Stargell.