21 May 2016

Willie Stargell sculpture by Susan Wagner

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There are four sculptures around PNC Park that pay tribute to some of the Pittsburgh Pirates greatest players. Three of them were created by Susan Wagner between 1994 and 2010. Those include Roberto Walker Clemente, Willie Stargel, and Bill Mazeroski. The fourth, Honus Wagner, was done back in 1955 by Frank Vittor. His brother Tony Vittor did the relief work on the base of the Honus Wagner sculpture.

Willie Pops Stargell

If ever there was a heart to a sports team, it was Pops. The Pirates have had their share of great players and fan favorites, but Willie Stargell was one of a kind. Yes, he was a tremendous hitter with 475 home runs, but that doesn’t tell you what a leader he was. Pops was the heart and soul of the team that won two World Series (1971, 1979), two National League pennants and six National League East titles. He was the force that brought the players together and made them more than just a team. He made them a family.

Dan Gigler of the Post–Gazette quoted artist Susan Wagner as saying that she used old photographs and film of Stargell as well as vintage uniforms and bats to create the sculpture. It took a year.

Once again, Astorino and Associates architecture firm designed the base for the sculpture and gave it a truely personal touch. They’ve inscribed a quote from Willie Stargel on his first impression of Pittsburgh when he arrived here.

Last night, coming in from the airport, we came through the tunnel and the city opened up its arms and I felt at home.

Willie Stargell used to give out Stargell Stars to reward teammates. The embroidered stars were worn proudly on thier hats, and images of those prized possesions are embedded in the pavement around the sculpture.

An unmatched power hitter, Pops was the only player to hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium for almost 30 years. He hit the ball so far that in two stadiums they painted the seat where he had hit to in a different color. (Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and Olympic Stadium in Montreal)

Number 8 was retired by the Pirates in 1982. We may see a better player someday, but filling his shoes as the heart and soul of Pittsburgh baseball will be near impossible.

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