At age 6 in 1967 i became a baseball fanatic and living in the Pittsburgh area I became a Pirate fan. I was really fortunate, the Pirates from the time I became a fan until the early 80’s had very good to great teams. They won two World Series in 1971 and 1979. They won six National League East titles in the 1970’s. They also had some great players in future Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski. Robert Clemente remains the most exciting baseball player I’ve ever seen. When my father started to take me to games in 1968 at Forbes Field my eyes would be on Clemente. I have memories of watching him just warming up on the sidelines. His every move seemed dramatic. Clemente was “The Great One” and one of my favorite all-time players. But my favorite player then and forever is Willie Stargell. Clemente was like a God on the ball field that you worshipped, Stargell to me seemed more like me. He was left handed and a power hitter. He played left field then and later first base, I played first base. I liked the home runs! Clemente would lead the Pirates to the 1971 World Championship. Stargell carried the club the entire year but went into a post-season slump. Clemente -who in 14 total World Series games- had a hit in every game- was the star in the 71 Series. Stargell would get a second chance late in his career and in 1979 carried the Pirates on his back in the ’79 World Series.
The saddest moment at a ballpark I have experienced is at the end of the 2000 season. The final game at Three Rivers Stadium. They had all the great Pirates back for the occasion. It was known that “Pops” Stargell was in poor health. Near the end they announced to close the stadium the pitcher who closed out so many games would do the honors- Kent Tekulve. Tekulve walked out to the mound and said it would be only right that Willie Stargell would throw the last pitch at the stadium. Willie came out and threw the last pitch. He was so weak he could only throw the ball a couple feet. I knew then seeing him out there that the end was near. He would pass away on this date- April 9th, 2002 the day that the new ballpark- PNC Park opened in Pittsburgh. Willie was only 61 years old. A very sad day.
I bought this t-shirt jersey about 15 years ago. It was a very high quality t-shirt- fit great and hasn’t fell apart in hundreds of washings. I am going to my first Pirate game of the year on Monday. Maybe it’s time to buy a replacement.