The old sweet warrior they call Pops, 38-year-old Willie Stargell, made no big deal out of it. He lashed a single, two doubles and a home run that fell out of the night to darken all Baltimore. They called him the most valuable player in this World Series. No big deal. "I'd divide it up between everybody who is a Pirate, "Stargell said.
He said that only when someone asked. In his moment of wonderful glory, a moment given to a player maybe once in his lifetime, Willie Stargell said nothing of his good work. To hear him, you might have thought the Pirates won the last three games of this Series with Jimmy Carter at first base.
"Luckily, I got enough bat speed to drive the ball," Stargell said of his sixth-inning home run that gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead they never lost in Game 7. "I just didn't know how far it would carry."
"Luckily" . . . he said. "Just didn't know" . . . he said. "One of the premier pitchers" . . . he said of his poor suffering victim, Oriole Scott McGregor. Whatever class is, whatever we think of as grace, they are Stargell, who in a moment when peacocks might have preened became a dove singing a song of joy and beauty.
Softly, he spoke of his old friend, Roberto Clemente, now dead. And Stargell said playing ball is no pressure, wheeling that black bat in intimidating circles against a pitcher with a 90 miles per hour bullet is no big deal. It is joy, he said, and he closed his eyes slowly, his full and open face a portrait of a man at peace with himself and the world.
"I hope the world can learn from this," Stargell said.
No big deal. He mounted no pulpit. Here is a man who puts on a big bowling tournament to raise money for research into sickle cell anemia. He is the boss of the Willie Stargell Foundation, which gives money to people who need it for education and medicine and mere survival in a hard world.
And here came Wilver Dornell Stargell, out of Earlsboro, Okla., a baseball professional for 20 years now, to a moment that will mark him for greatness -- and he said great things.
"I hope the world can learn from this," he said, and he meant the lesson in life these Pirates represent. "As men coming together that's it. From all points of the country, all states, blacks, whites, Latins coming together for a common cause."
"The Family Is Illegitimate," said a banner hanging from the upper deck at Memorial Stadium tonight. That banner's creator needs an immediate transfustion of common sense, for if the Pirates' adopted theme of "The Family" is to be denigrated on the grounds that the real family is sacred, then we all are in sad shape.
Willie Stargell read a Baltimore newspaper column the other day that suggested the Pirates "Family" is a sick abuse of the concept. It is a gimmick, the story said, nothing more, and Willie Stargell said of the story, "We know what we have."
No big deal. "We know what we have." Dave Parker, in the minute after the Pirates won the National League championship, took Stargell into a training room, and kissed him. Parker first called the old man Pops "because he is my baseball father." "We are a family in the very best way," said Tim Foli, the shortstop, "because we care for each other beyond what we do with a ball and bat. But only we know that the way it has to be known."
They shone television lights on Willie Stargell. Beads of sweat sparkled on his brow. They asked him about the home run -- his third of the Series, another of the Stargell moonshots that float white against the black sky -- and Stargell spoke softly into a microphone.
About Robert Clemente.
Clemente the great. A Hall of Family, an All-Star with the Pirates when Stargell came up. The last time the Pirates won the World Series, in 1971, Stargell had hit 48 home runs in the regular season but had a bad knee and could barely stand in the Series. "You got us here," Clemente told Stargell, "and I'll win it."
Clemente hit safely in all seven games. He died in a plane crash a year later, in a plane that went down taking food to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. And now, seven years later, when they asked Willie Stargell about his home run, when they gave Stargell his moment, he said it was for Roberto.
"His presence was felt throughout this Series," Stargell said. "He started the Pirate tradition of winning. We played in his spirit and with his drive."
In the '71 Seried, Stargell had only five hits for a .208 average. Instead of the record seven extra-base hits he had this time, he had only one double back then. No big deal. "I didn't have no broke neck," he said, explaining why he played in '71 with a knee that doctors told him required surgery.
"I gotta get me a bottle of damned wine," Stargell said tonight and he moved through a crowd of reporters, all of them following him through the bright lights and champagne humidity of the winner's clubhouse.
He had met President Carter minutes earlier.
What did the Georgia softball pitcher say to the Oklahoma home run hitter?
"He said he didn't have any peanuts," Stargell said, laughing and dazzling all with a smile that invited all to share his gentleness. "No, he just congratulated me and said it was a very exciting game and he enjoyed it."
If the Pirates are a "family," isn't it true that Willie Stargell is the paternal figure? He is the one who went to Omar Moreno in the clubhouse three days ago -- when Moreno was in a hideous slump -- and said, "Ou and me, Omar, we're going to fight in centerfield. Right now. C'mon, you've [TEXT OMITTED FROM THE SOURCE]
Moreno sat there, as if in an O-for-October coma, until Stargell slapped him on the knee. Finally, Moreno smiled and said, "You want to win?" The implication was that the Pirates needed Moreno to win.
"You gonna be in the hospital, watching it on TV, "Stargell said. He had that smile on.
Maybe it was coincidence.But Moreno, who had only five hits at the time, went six-for-10 after Stargell's play in the clubhouse.
Isn't he Pops? Isn't he the Pirate example? The players say so.
These guys are using me as an excuse," Stargell said. "They don't want to take credit for their talent."
Is this moment, winning a World Series, a dream made real under pressure?
"My only dream was playing major league baseball. That was my ultimate. To have a dream come true, you can't entertain the thought of pressure building up. How in the hell can there be pressure when you're doing what you always dreamed of doing, you're traveling universally, you're meeting wonderful people.
"It is really a joy, that's what it is."