Willie Stargell had already crafted the majority of his Hall of Fame career when the 1979 World Series began. But by the end of those seven games against the Baltimore Orioles, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lovable slugger had cemented a legacy destined for Cooperstown.
Thirty-three years ago this week, on Oct. 17, 1979, Stargell hammered a two-run homer off Baltimore’s Scott McGregor in the sixth inning of Game 7, erasing a 1-0 Orioles lead. The Pirates went on to win the game 4-1, capturing the World Series title.
It remains the last time a team has won Game 7 of the Fall Classic on the road, with nine home teams posting wins since.
Stargell was named the Most Valuable Player of that World Series, capping a season where he was also the co-National League MVP (along with Keith Hernandez) and the NLCS MVP. He accomplished it all at the age of 39.
“Having (Stargell) on your ballclub,” said Pirates manager Chuck Tanner, “is like having a diamond ring on your finger.”
In Game 7 of the 1979 World Series, McGregor had allowed just three hits in his first five innings – two of which came off the bat of Stargell. In the sixth, Bill Robinson – the Pirates’ cleanup hitter – stroked a one-out single to left field before Stargell followed with a blast to deep right on the first pitch of the at-bat.
The Pirates tacked on two more in the ninth – Stargell grounded into a double play against reliever Dennis Martinez to end the frame – before Kent Tekulve retired the Orioles in order in the last of the ninth to clinch the title for Pittsburgh.
For the World Series, Stargell hit .400 with three homers, four doubles and seven RBI. His 25 total bases are a World Series record, shared with Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series.
“(Stargell) doesn’t just hit pitchers,” said Hall of Fame hurler Don Sutton. “He takes away their dignity.”
Stargell retired following the 1982 season with a .282 batting average, 475 home runs and 1,540 RBI. The seven-time All-Star led the NL in home runs in 1971 and 1973 and played on six Pirates teams that reached the postseason, including World Series winners in 1971 and 1979.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1988.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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