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POPS KNEW BEST
April 16, 2001
Members of the formidable Pirates teams of the 1970s remember Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell, who died on Monday of a stroke at age 61.
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April 16, 2001

Pops Knew Best

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Members of the formidable Pirates teams of the 1970s remember Hall of Fame slugger Willie Stargell, who died on Monday of a stroke at age 61.

Phil Garner, second baseman: "He had an unbelievable fire to play, but his emotions never got out of control. One time we were in St. Louis, and Darold Knowles came into a tie game and struck Willie out on a changeup. Willie came back to the dugout and said, 'I'll hit that changeup later.' Sure enough, ninth inning, Knowles throws him a change, and Willie hits it into the upper tier. And he comes back to the dugout very calmly and puts his helmet and bat away and takes a seat."

Tim Foli, shortstop: "If I'd broken into the big leagues with Willie, I'd have been a better player. He wanted you to respect the game and be proud of having a major league uniform on. His personality was infectious. You couldn't be miserable around him. He wouldn't let you."

Richie Hebner, third baseman: "He was always a teacher. For the past couple of years, during spring training, Willie gave a speech to all the Pirates' minor league kids. It was impressive. He said, 'Don't think you're here as a number or just another player. Everyone's goal should be to wear a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.' You could hear a pin drop."

Dave Parker, rightfielder: "He was my baseball father. That's why I called him Pops. I have a picture of Willie and me embracing after we won the '79 World Series, and the look on our faces is touching. In '78 I told the Pirates that the only way I would re-sign was if they brought Pops back too. That picture means so much to me because it shows how we felt, like father and son."

Bill Robinson, leftfielder: "Willie wasn't one to brag, but every time we'd go to Philadelphia, he'd point to a star on a seat way, way, way up in the rightfield stands and say, 'I hit Jim Bunning up there.' He was always pulling for you. Other guys would ask him, 'Should I take a pitch?' and Willie would say, 'Hit like you liveā€”hard.' "

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