You could look in the storefront and see boxes piled against the walls. The family's clothes were in those boxes. The storefront was at the corner of Preston and Hamilton streets in a Pittsburgh suburb named Homewood. Homewood is not a pretty place. It is a poor place. It is a place where you go live in a vacant storefront when your house burns down.
Johnny Moore delivers mail in Homewood and he knows the people and he knows how tough the world is if you live in Homewood. He is up from Clinton, S.C., by way of Washington, D.C., and when he heard about the family of nine or 10 kids living in the storefront, he knew he had to tell his friend, Bubba.
Bubba Stargell plays baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates and everyone knows his name properly is Wilver Dornell Stargell, familiarly known as Willie Stargell, Superstar. Johnny Moore who delivers the mail calls him Bubba because they have been friends for 10 years, ever since the best man in Johnny's wedding had Stargell to his house for dinner one night.
"Willie would call me and invite me to his house, but I wouldn't go," Moore said today when someone asked why he wore a T-shirt with Stargell's picture on it. "I didn't want to seem like I was trying to be somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. He was Willie Stargell and who was I?
"But one day he called me and said to come over and watch football. It was 10 'til 2 and I was laying in bed. I said okay, but I kept laying there. Five minutes later, the phone rings again and it's Willie wanting to know why in hell I'm not at his house. I went then."
Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, Moore says, Stargell calls him and wants to know how many turkeys the mailman needs. They are turkeys for people who can't buy them. Johnny Moore knows his town and he knows the winos and he knows the people who are down on their luck. He saw the nine or 10 kids in the storefront and he knew Bubba would want to know.
They drove to the storefront. A winter night in Pittsburgh. They knocked at the door and a small child, maybe 10 years old, came to see these two men, one big as a house and the other a little guy, Bubba and the mailman.
"Is your mother here?" Stargell asked the child.
No, mother wasn't there. The nine or 10 children were in the storefront with their lives in boxes piled against the wall. No, the mother was gone somewhere, and Moore said Stargell then asked, "Who's in charge?"
"I am," the child of 10 said.
"Do you have an older brother?"
A boy of 14, 15 came to the door and Stargell took money from his pocket. Moore says it was $200.
"Go buy some food," Stargell said.
The boy said thank you, he would buy food. But just in case desire overwhelmed necessity, Stargell stayed at the storefront until the boy returned from Loblaw's grocery with food for his brothers and sisters.
This is a thing Willie Stargell doesn't want to talk about. Someone mentioned Johnny Moore's story to Stargell today. It was an hour after Stargell had been named the most valuable player in the league championship victories over Cincinnati. Stargell closed his eyes, as if to say he wished Johnny Moore hadn't talked about the turkeys and helping people who need help. That isn't baseball, it isn't public, it is the way one man lives, and all Stargell would say was one sentence, spoken so softly he was asked to repeat it.
"We got to find a way," Stargell said, "to do it."
Dave Parker, baseball's best player, said, "I love Willie dearly. When I came up not knowing what to expect, he taught me everything. I look at him as being my baseball father. That's why I gave him the name 'Pops.' If you can't like Willie Stargell, you're not ready for people."
"He is the greatest guy in baseball as a person," said Joe Morgan, who was a kid in Oakland with Stargell. "If you went to the 600 major league players, you couldn't find one who didn't like Willie. He bubbles with life, like that champagne he's drinking today. He's fun and he cares about people. When I look at him, I don't see Willie Stargell, Superstar, and I don't see Willie Stargell, who might hit five home runs.
"I see Willie. I see a person who has feelings for people. Willie."
"The Willie I know," said Johnny Moore, "is better than the ballplayer Willie Stargell -- and the ballplayer is great."
A man in a pinstriped suit had Stargell cornered in the Pirates' locker room.
"Politics?" Stargell said, and the man said Willie would be great in politics, that he should think about it, and Stargell said, "I'm no politician. I'm just me. As far as politics go, I don't even know what it means."
For 18 seasons, Stargell, now 38, has been the guiding light of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a beacon of common sense in a business whose practioners often get lost in the fog of stardom. It is no accident, though Stargell would never own up to it, that the Pirates have fun in their locker room, that they like each other, that they go through the world minding their manners because to do anything less would be to disappoint Willie Stargell.
In 1971 Stargell hit 48 home runs, drove in 125 runs and batted .295 for the National League champions. He played with a bad left knee that doctors wanted to operate on before the World Series.
"I said, 'Hell, no.'" Stargell said. "I was just so happy to be in the World Series. I didn't have a broken back. So I was going to be out there. I remember Roberto Clemente saying, 'You got us here and I'll win it.'"
Clemente hit safely in every Series game as the Pirates came from a 2-0 deficit to beat Baltimore in seven games.
"It's important that I don't get fancy with my life," Stargell said. "Really, the man upstairs put each of us here for a purpose and regardless of what happens, I am blessed and grateful. Winning and losing, I could care less. I am joyful for living and being able to do what I dreamed of doing.
"This may sound corny, but I get on my knees every night and give thanks. If somebody thinks something is bigger than that, I feel sorry for them."