This Date in Pirates History: March 6

For the second day in a row we have a current Pittsburgh Pirates player celebrating a birthday before he actually played a game for the team. Shortstop Clint Barmes, who signed with the Pirates as a free agent in November 2011, turns 33 today. Just like yesterday with Kent Tekulve, we have a player that stands out in Pirates history above the rest of the group born on this date. Willie Stargell (1940) played 21 seasons in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform, three more than anyone else in team history. He also hit 475 homers and drove in 1540 runs, both tops among the team’s all-time list.

The Pirates signed Willie at the age of 18 as an amateur free agent in 1958 and he made his pro debut the following season playing Class D ball. He hit just seven homers in 118 games that rookie season. He moved up a level for 1959 and hit 11 homers in 107 games with a .260 average. Willie never had a great hitting season in the minors but his breakout year could be considered 1960 when he hit .289 with 22 homers playing for Asheville of the South Atlantic League. The Pirates jumped him up to AAA for the next season and by the end of the year he was up in the majors for ten late September games. He would be in Pittsburgh for good from that point on.

In his first full season, Willie started just 71 games and hit a modest .243 with 11 homers in 304 AB’s. He made his first all-star team in 1964 with decent, yet unspectacular numbers but the 1965 season was his first true all-star type season in the majors. He hit 27 homers and drove in 107 runs, earning his second of three straight all-star appearances and he also garnered some MVP consideration, finishing 14th in the voting. That would be one spot ahead of where he would finish in the MVP voting the next season when he had one of the best years of his career at the plate. He hit a career high .315 with 33 homers and 102 RBI’s.

After a couple down years including a 1968 season that saw him hit a career low .237, Stargell put together a solid 1969 season in which he hit .307 with 29 homers and 92 RBI’s. He followed that up with a 31 homer season in 1970 before putting together the best stretch of his career starting in 1971. The Pirates won the 1971 World Series and the man they would later call Pops, lead the way. He set career bests in both homers with 48 and RBI’s with 125. The Pirates won everything in the postseason but Stargell provided very little help. He went hitless in the NLCS, then hit .208 with one RBI in the WS.

Those playoff struggles would come back the next season. Despite finishing third in the 1972 MVP voting, he hit just .063 in the NLCS against the Reds and the Pirates lost the series. Willie would hit .299 in 1973 with a league leading 44 homers and 119 RBI’s. He set career highs with 106 runs scored and 43 doubles. During that 1971-73 stretch he finished second or third in the MVP voting every year. Willie still had plenty of good seasons left but the 1974 season would be the last time he played over 130 games in a year. He hit .301 with 96 RBI’s during the regular season then hit .400 with two homers in the playoff loss to the Dodgers. Stargell helped the Pirates to the playoffs again in 1975 by driving in 90 runs , earning a 7th place finish in the MVP voting.

The 1976-77 seasons were tough ones for Stargell between family and physical problems. He played just 180 games between those two  years. He was now 38 years old going into 1978 but he proved that he wasn’t done as a player. He hit .295 with 28 homers and 97 RBI’s in 1978, making his 7th and final all-star appearance. He wasn’t through though, he may not have made the all-star team in 1979 but he did one better. He led the Pirates to their fifth World Series title and in the process won the regular season MVP, the NLCS MVP and the WS MVP awards. He hit 32 homers and drove in 82 runs during the season, then hit .455 with six RBI’s in the three game NLCS and .400 with three homers and seven RBI’s during the WS.

That would be the one final shining moment for Stargell who still played another three seasons with the Pirates but only saw action in 179 games, many of them off the bench. In 1988, on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Pops was voted in with 82.4% of the votes. He finished with a .282 career average, 1195 runs scored, 2232 hits, 475 homers and 1540 RBI’s. He also holds the Pirates all-time record for walks with 937 and had 228 career intentional walks, still the 8th highest total ever.

Other Pirates players born on this date include:

Bert Husting (1878) pitcher for the 1900 Pirates. He began his pro career in 1899 for the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League playing for Connie Mack. The next year the team moved to the American League(one year before the league was recognized as a major league). The Pirates acquired him from the Brewers in August after he had a salary dispute. He would pitched just two games for Pittsburgh, both in relief, going eight innings in which he allowed five runs but recorded seven strikeouts. The next season he returned to Milwaukee and went 9-15 4.27 in 34 games, 26 as a starter. That Brewers team eventually became the current day Baltimore Orioles, with a stop in St Louis in between. He signed with the Boston Americans(Red Sox) for 1902 but after one very poor start in which he allowed 15 runs and 23 baserunners, he was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics, a team managed by Connie Mack.After going 14-6 for the Athletics that year Husting retired to take up law, ending his playing career.

John Coleman (1863) outfielder for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys from 1886-88 and 1890. He started his career as a pitcher for the Phillies in 1883 and set four pitching records as a rookie that will never be broken and none of them are records he wanted to hold. He lost 48 games that season while giving up 772 hits, 510 runs and 291 earned runs, all major league records. In his defense, the team wasn’t any better when he wasn’t pitching and he did throw 538.1 innings with the worst fielding team in the league behind him. Coleman played 31 games in the outfield his rookie season and by 1884 he was in the field more often on the mound. He pitched just 18 more games after 1884, two of them for the 1890 Alleghenys. John hit .299 with 70 RBI’s in 1885 and was hitting .246 with 65 RBI’s, 16 triples and 28 stolen bases when Pittsburgh picked him up at the end of the 1886 season. He hit .349 with nine RBI’s in the last 11 games, earning the starting right field job for 1887 when the team moved to the National League. That year he hit .293 while scoring 75 runs and driving in 54 runners. His production dropped way off for 1888 and he would play just nine more major league games over the next two seasons. Following his last season in the majors he played another four seasons of minor league ball before retiring as a player.

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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