1979 World Series
As the 1970s came to a close, in sharp contrast to this self-centered, so-called “Me Decade,” a "Family" headed by “Pops” reunited for the Fall Classic and brought fun back to baseball. Willie Stargell had labored long and hard throughout the decade trying to restore a sense of enjoyment and pride that had been missing in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse since the tragic death of Roberto Clemente in 1972. Stargell—the jovial first baseman, team captain and team “cheerleader”—had built a close relationship with his teammates, and the new Buccos philosophy was noticeable both on and off the field. “Pops” had taken a few pointers from college football coaches (known as great motivators) and instituted his "Gold Star" program that awarded players with a prestigious star on their hats after a particularly good outing. At the time, the Pirates wore Cuban-style caps with gold bands around them, and the players vied against each other on the field and at the plate to see who could fill up more rows. It was a simple, almost child-like incentive, but it seemed to work as the Pirates captured the booty of the National League East Championship on the final day of the season.
Stargell had certainly earned his own stars as the 38-year-old veteran slugged 32 homers for the "Family" and its pater familias Chuck Tanner, and almost single-handedly swept the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Championship Series with a .455 average, two homers, and six runs batted in. In a rematch of the '71 Fall Classic, Pittsburgh and Baltimore found themselves once again facing each other for baseball's most prestigious title. The Orioles came out strong in Game 1 with five runs in the first inning including a two-run blast by Doug DeCinces. Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan made the numbers stand despite the best efforts of the Buccos’ line-up. Phil Garner and Stargell (a two-time National League home-run champ with 461 lifetime HRs) each collected two RBIs, as Dave "The Cobra" Parker bit Baltimore for four hits. Pops accounted for the game's final run with a clutch 8th-inning homer, but the Birds held on for a 5-4 opening victory.
Longtime teammate Manny Sanguillen gave Stargell and the Pirates a lift in Game 2, delivering a 9th-inning single that broke a 2-2 tie and enabled Pittsburgh to ace out ace reliever Don Stanhouse. As the Series moved on to the Steel City, any home-field advantage proved not be non-existent. As the teams took the field at Three Rivers Stadium, Baltimore shortstop Kiko Garcia single-handedly embarrassed the Pirates pitching staff in front of the home crowd. Garcia grabbed two singles, a double and a triple and batted in four runs. Fellow Oriole Benny Ayala also flew high as he launched a two-run homer deep into the cheap seats as the visiting American League champions prevailed, 8-4.
Game 4 first appeared to put the Pirate's ship back on course, but pinch-hitters John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley each knocked two -run doubles in the 8th for a miraculous 9-6 comeback. Now down three games to one, Pops had to rally his Family as they prepared to go against the victorious Flanagan in Game 5. Newly adopted Family members Bill Madlock and Tim Foli both stepped up as, respectively, the former Met third baseman drove in three runs, and both he and shortstop Foli went four-for-four to instigate a 7-1 setback for Baltimore. Bert Blyleven, arguably the greatest curveball thrower in the NL, worked four scoreless innings of relief to seal the deal. Next, Jim Rooker, who had won only four games during the ‘79 season, was, with some controversy, given the Game 5 start and performed beautifully with a very uncharacteristic three-hitter over five innings. On the heels of Rooker's turnaround, John Candelaria became the obvious choice for Game 6 and "The Candy Man" combined with side-armed reliever Kent Tekulve to hold the Orioles to seven meaningless hits in a 4-0 shutout. All three Pirates pitchers had risen to the occasion and evened the contest while earning their stripes as well as Stargell’s stars.
Pittsburgh's Jim Bibby and Baltimore's Scott McGregor went mano y mano in the grand finale that would crown the last world champion of the 1970's. Rich Dauer was the first to score with a 3rd-inning solo homer, which stood unchallenged until the 6th. After striking out Parker, McGregor gave up a single to Bill Robinson, and Stargell brought both them both around the bases with a tape-measure homer over the right-field fence. After tearing through five Orioles pitchers for two more runs in the 9th, the Pirates sailed off with a 4-1 victory and another World Series title. Pittsburgh became the fourth team in history to rise up from a three-games-to-one deficit to win a best-of-seven Classic. and their final statistics told the tale.
The Family's pitching staff had held the Orioles to an embarrassing two runs in the final 28 innings of the Series. Five different Pirate hitters had collected ten or more hits: Garner (who finished with a .500 average) and Pops Stargell tallied 12 each, Omar Moreno had 11, and Parker and Foli each tallied ten. It was no surprise to Pittsburgh fans that Pops had also led the offense overall with three homers, seven runs batted in and a .400 average. A few months later, the equally prodigious Pittsburgh Steelers won their unprecedented fourth Super Bowl in the past six years, thus rightfully crowning Pittsburgh, PA as “The City of Champions.” As a result, both Stargell and Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw were selected by Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s first-ever pair of Sportsmen of the Year.