Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2001

Stargell eulogized by fellow Hall of Famers

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Friends and baseball rivals remembered the joy Willie Stargell brought to life and the game at a funeral Saturday for the Pittsburgh Pirates' legend.

''He was my hero. He's the reason I wore No. 8,'' fellow baseball Hall of Famer and television commentator Joe Morgan told a packed congregation at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Stargell, the slugger who led the Pittsburgh Pirates to two World Series victories with home runs and classy calm, died Monday at age 61. He had suffered with a kidney disorder for several years.

Stargell's wife, Margaret, and his children from a previous marriage mingled in the 400-seat church with major league home run king Hank Aaron, former Pirates teammate Al Oliver, Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy and Dale Petroskey, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Those unable to enter the sanctuary watched the service on a closed-circuit television feed in a chapel next door.

Morgan said he and Stargell were friends for about 40 years during and after their playing careers. Morgan teared up as he described meeting and playing against the man he picked as the role model for his own professional career.

Morgan recalled a road trip early in his career when his Houston Astros visited Pittsburgh. Stargell talked him into hitting the town the night before an afternoon game on July 4th.

After Stargell, Morgan and other players stopped in several night spots, Morgan insisted on returning to his hotel to rest for the next day's game.

Stargell didn't return home until about 8 a.m., Morgan said. Hours later, Stargell slammed two home runs and was 5-for-5 on the day, while Morgan got one hit on a bunt.

On one of his trips around the bases after a homer, Stargell passed the Astros second baseman and said: ''Rest is overrated.''

''That was Willie Stargell,'' Morgan said.

''He was a player's player,'' added Aaron, who played with Stargell on several National League All-Star teams.

McClatchy said he got to know Stargell in recent years through his work as a special baseball adviser for the Pirates. Stargell was immortalized with a statue outside left field of the team's new PNC Park, which opened on Monday hours after Stargell's death. His likeness stands there with those of two other Pirates heroes, Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente.

Stargell was buried after the funeral at Oleander Memorial Gardens in Wilmington.

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