Sunday, January 29, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #55 Willie Stargell

For me, Game 7 of the 1979 World Series was inconveniently played on a Wednesday night during the school year. The era of every World Series game played under the natural light of the sun had given way to the draw of prime-time. I got to watch a few innings on TV, but could not convince my parents that I should be allowed to break the routine of my sleep schedule. They didn't care it was the seventh game, I had to go to school in the morning. It really didn't matter, I had covertly been listening in the dark to ballgames on my transistor radio for years. Looking back, trading the ABC television crew of Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Don Drysdale for the CBS radio voices of Vin Scully and Sparky Anderson was a pretty fair exchange.

I was pulling for the funky black and gold clad Pirates, temporarily forgiving them for rudely supplanting my Phils as NL East Champions. After falling behind the Orioles 3 games to 1, Pittsburgh righted their ship and came storming back to force the deciding game. Appropriately they were behind 1-0 in the fifth inning when I finally stomped up the stairs to my room. Baltimore's #8 hitter Rich Dauer had homered in the bottom of the third and it looked like the O's starter Scott McGregor was going to make it stick.

By the time I settled under the covers and set the radio volume to a safe enough level to prevent detection the game had moved to the sixth inning. Bill Robinson collected a bad hop single with one out, I had that giddy feeling of anticipation knowing that Willie Stargell was coming to the plate. Pops had basically carried the Pirates the entire season. He had already singled and doubled in the game and was experiencing one of those hot streaks you can only dream about. On McGregor's first pitch, a low fastball, Willie turned on it... blasting it high into the cold Baltimore night. It landed in the Pirates bullpen behind right center field fence. Pirates lead 2-1. I smiled and quietly clapped my hands.

Pirates Manager Chuck Tanner stayed with middle man Grant Jackson for the 6th, 7th, and into the 8th before Kent Teckulve came in to close the door and fulfill the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates destiny as World Champs.


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