Born on March 6, 1940 in Earlsboro, Oklahoma; Wilver Dornell “Willie” Stargell had moved to Alameda, California by the time he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1958. His Major League career began in the early 1960’s along with Joe Morgan, Lou Brock, Dick (Richie) Allen, high school classmate Tommy Harper, and others in a group of young African American ballplayers as the National League continued its integration pace faster than the American League.
After surviving racial discrimination and segregation that still existed where he played in the Pirates’ minor league system, Stargell made his Major League debut on September 16, 1962. The Pirates had fallen out of contention since winning the World Series in 1960. Using Stargell and their established star, future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, the team created a nucleus from which it built a consistent winner by the 1970’s and included several other black and Hispanic players. For the first time in Major League baseball history, the Pirates fielded an all-black line up (exclusively African American and dark skinned Hispanic ballplayers) in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on September 1, 1971. Playing left field and batting fourth that day, Stargell got two hits and drove in two runs in the Pirate’s 10 – 7 victory.
Willie Stargell played on two Pirate World Championship teams (1971, 1979) and hit 475 career home runs; 29th place on the Major League’s all-time home run list. The all-time Pirate home run and RBI leader (1,540), he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.