First Pitch: Willie Stargell, Hall of Fame Pitchers, and Enough Ray Sadecki Already

In yesterday’s First Pitch, we looked at the performances of the great Roberto Clemente against Hall of Fame pitchers. I decided that it was a fun piece to do, so I moved on to the next most obvious player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today we see how Willie Stargell did against the best pitchers of his era. We also take a look at a pitcher that he never liked to look at during his playing days.

Clemente faced 17 Hall of Fame pitchers during his career. Many of them also faced Stargell, who saw 19 Hall of Famers himself. In fact, the only differences in their lists is that Clemente faced Whitey Ford, while Stargell saw Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith and Rollie Fingers, three relievers.

Here’s Stargell’s performances against the 19 Hall of Famers he faced, going from the most plate appearances on down. For reference here, Stargell was a .282/.360/.529 hitter during his career.

Don Sutton – These two saw each other 165 times, with Sutton getting the win here (relative to Stargell’s career that is). Pops hit .247/.309/.447, with eight homers and 21 RBIs.

Bob Gibson – The toughest Hall of Fame pitcher for Clemente didn’t have the same success against Stargell, who posted a .290/.388/.435 slash line in 152 plate appearances. However, that OPS is still 66 points below his career average.

Tom Seaver – Seaver held Stargell to a .238 average and a .301 OBP. He didn’t keep the slugging percentage down though due to eight doubles, four triples and eight homers in 143 plate appearances. Once again we see the pitcher get the moral victory with an OPS 42 points under his career mark.

Phil Niekro – The knuckleballer had some success against Stargell. In 136 plate appearances, he hit .228/.338/.430, with six homers and 20 walks.

Steve Carlton – Carlton held Stargell below his career OPS, but you would think a great lefty would have more success than he did. Stargell hit .262/.362/.458 in 127 plate appearances.

Gaylord Perry – Perry did not like facing Stargell, but he had to do it 117 times. Pops hit .324/.376/.583, with seven homers and 21 RBIs.

Juan Marichal – Perry’s teammate couldn’t teach him anything about retiring Stargell apparently. Marichal held him to a .174/.202/.275 slash line in 114 plate appearances, with just three homers.

Fergie Jenkins – Jenkins also had success against Stargell, though not quite like Marichal. In 96 plate appearances, Stargell put up a .235/.323/.353 slash line, with just two homers.

Don Drysdale – Clemente  has some success against Drysdale, led by a .361 average. Despite that mark, the Dodgers hurler definitely liked facing the Great One more than Pops. In 79 match-ups, Stargell batted .389/.392/.681 with five homers.

Jim Bunning – Stargell had his issues with Bunning, who would become his teammate for two seasons (1968-69). He hit .190/.292/.381 in 73 plate appearances.

Bruce Sutter – There was a big difference in plate appearances between Bunning and the next most on this list. Sutter faced Stargell just 28 times and held him to a .227 average. Stargell could still claim a small victory due to six walks and two homers, resulting in an .893 OPS.

Sandy Koufax – This was an ugly match-up. The young Stargell only saw Koufax in his prime and after they moved to Dodgers Stadium, where the afternoon shadows made things impossible on hitters. Stargell went 2-for-23 with a triple, walk and ten strikeouts.

Warren Spahn – Stargell only caught Spahn at the end of his career, but the old southpaw still did well. In 19 plate appearances, Stargell went 3-for-18 with a single, triple, homer and one walk.

Nolan Ryan – Ryan didn’t face Stargell or Clemente often, but the two Pirates sluggers didn’t mind. Stargell went 1-for-14 with nine strikeouts. The lone upside here is that the hit was a homer.

Jim Palmer – Stargell and Palmer only faced each other in the World Series (1971 and 1979). The Orioles hurler won the match-up (but neither series), as Stargell went 2-for-13 with two singles and a walk.

Robin Roberts – Stargell wished he saw Roberts more often, which very few hitters would claim. In 15 plate appearances, he went 6-for-12 with two homers and three walks, for a 1.683 OPS.

Rollie Fingers – Fingers held Pops to a 2-for-11 with seven strikeouts. One of those hits was a homer, plus he added two walks, so it wasn’t completely one-sided.

Hoyt Wilhelm – Stargell went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer and a walk in their only four match-ups.

Lee Smith – Stargell faced Smith once on June 2, 1981 and struck out, though he reached base on a wild pitch.

Clemente was owned by Jackie Collum, a lefty who pitched nine years in the majors. The Great One couldn’t do a single thing in 17 plate appearances against the southpaw. Stargell didn’t have anyone who completely shut him out over a significant number of match-ups, but his nemesis might be even worse.

Stargell faced lefty Ray Sadecki 52 times from 1963 until 1975. He was able to collect three singles, two walks, one RBI and….and nothing else, except 22 strikeouts. That’s an .060/.096/.060 slash line. During the 1969-70 seasons, Stargell faced Sadecki just once and hit an RBI single. He probably should have quit while he was ahead.

Sadecki pitched 18 years in the majors and won 135 games, so he was no slouch. He wasn’t a Hall of Famer though. Perhaps Stargell just hated facing “Sad” pitchers. Bob Sadowski held him to an even lower OPS (.143 vs .156), with Pops going 1-for-14 with a single against him. Sadecki gets the nod here though due to the sample size.


Well, it is…




By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus one game of note.

On this date in 1951, Cliff Chambers pitched the second complete game no-hitter in team history. In 1907, Nick Maddox pitched the first complete game (nine innings) no-hitter, and one year earlier, Lefty Leifield pitched a shortened no-hitter during the second game of a doubleheader. Harry Camnitz also tossed a shortened no-hitter, with the game being called due to darkness. For Chambers, it was not your typical no-hitter. He didn’t dominate the Boston Braves that day, walking eight hitters, while striking out four. He also threw two wild pitches. Boston had baserunners in six different innings. The Pirates won 3-0 that day, with Chambers driving in the third run. Just like with Leifield’s game, Chambers was also pitching the second game of a doubleheader.

Alberto Lois, outfielder/pinch-runner for the 1978-79 Pirates. He was a talented player who had questionable desire to play the game according to many. Lois was signed as an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic and he went right to A-ball, where he hit .260 with 51 walks and 39 stolen bases in 119 games. That season would be the only one in which he played 100 games due to injuries and assorted ailments. He was still able to move up the minor league ladder quickly due to hitting .302 in 1975 in the Carolina League, then improving to .316 the next year, splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A. Lois slipped to .282 in 1977 at Triple-A and he played only 49 games, but the Pirates were still considering him for their 1978 Opening Day roster. He ended up spending the year in the minors and missing half of the season. In September he got called up to the majors for the first time and played just two games through the end of the month, without getting a plate appearance. The Pirates were eliminated from the playoffs in the next to last game of the year. The next day, Lois got the start and went 1-for-4 with a triple. In 1979, he played just 18 minor league games before getting recalled in mid-August. He got into eleven of the last 42 games of the season, all as a pinch-runner. He scored six runs and stole one base. Alberto was injured in a car accident during the off-season and never returned to play ball. The Pirates signed him for 1980 and placed him on the DL, but an eye injury from the accident left him unable to play again.

Dick Cole, infielder for the Pirates in 1951 and then from 1953 until 1956. He was originally signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1943, but didn’t make his big league debut until the 1951 season. On June 15, 1951, the Cardinals traded Cole along with four other players (including Joe Garagiola) to the Pirates for Cliff Chambers and Wally Westlake. Cole ended up playing 42 games for the Pirates in 1951, hitting .236 with 11 RBIs, getting most of his time at second base. He spent all of 1952 in the minors, returning to Pittsburgh in 1953 in a platoon role at shortstop. That year Cole hit a career high .272 in 97 games. That next year he played a career high 138 games, seeing plenty of time at both third base and shortstop. He hit .270 with 40 RBIs. Cole’s average and playing time dropped each of the next two seasons, hitting .226 in 239 at-bats in 1955 and .212 in 99 at-bats the next year. Right before the 1957 season started, the Pirates traded him to the Braves for Jim Pendleton. Cole played 15 games for the Braves, while also playing part of the season in the minors. He then played two more seasons in the minors before retiring.

Earl Turner, catcher for the 1948 and 1950 Pirates. He was originally signed by the New York Giants in 1942 and would start serving in the military during WWII before his first seasons was done. He returned to pro ball in 1946 as a member of the Braves organization, spending the year in the minors. In 1947, Turner joined the Pirates organization, spending the year at Albany, where he hit .305 in 94 games. He moved up to Indianapolis (Triple-A) the next year and hit .313 in 85 games. The Pirates called him up in late September for the last week of the season. He came in late as a defensive replacement at catcher one game and pinch-hit in another. Turner spent the 1949 season in the minors, although he almost played for the Pirates. In the middle of July, the Pirates had two catchers get injured at the same time and they recalled Turner. As he was on the train to Pittsburgh, the Pirates were able to work out a deal for Braves catcher Phil Masi. When Turner got to Pittsburgh, they put him right back on a train to Indianapolis. In 1950, he made the Pirates roster out of Spring Training as their third string catcher. Through 82 team games, he got 13 starts behind the plate, hitting .243 in 74 at-bats. The Pirates sent him to the minors on July 20, 1950 after they purchased Bob Dillinger from the Philadelphia A’s. Turner would not return to the majors, finishing his playing career two seasons later in the minors.

Bob Chesnes, pitcher for the 1948-50 Pirates. Pittsburgh paid a heavy price to get Chesnes from the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League. It cost them four players and $100,000 in cash. A month before the trade he was nursing a sore arm and shortly after the deal he underwent minor elbow surgery, but the Pirates were obviously still high on him. It was said at the time that even if he didn’t make it as a pitcher, he would be able to play shortstop in the majors and hit well. Chesnes went 22-8, 2.32 in 233 innings for the Seals in 1947 and he carried that success over to the majors in his first season. In the 1948 season, he went 14-6 for the fourth place Pirates, with a 3.57 ERA in 194.1 innings. In 1949 he really struggled, at one point taking the loss in nine straight starts. He showed glimpses of the pitcher he was during the previous season, but he also had some extremely poor starts. In 1950, Chesnes was again pitching poorly when the Pirates decided to send him to the minors. He would return to pitch just one more game, a late season start in which he gave up four runs in one inning before being pulled. He played in the minors briefly during the 1951 season and was still in the Pirates plans late in 1951, but never played pro ball again. He was used 26 times as a pinch-hitter during his brief Major League career and had a .256 lifetime average

Luke Boone, shortstop for the 1918 Pirates. He was a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., who had a long career in pro ball. He played 20 seasons in the minors, managed for five years (four as a player/manager) and spent another five seasons in the majors. Playing for the Yankees from 1913-16 (full-time in 1914-15) he got into 288 games around the infield (SS/2B/3B) and hit .210 with 95 runs scored. In 1917, Boone spent the season with Toledo of the American Association, where he hit .235 in 111 games. He began the 1918 season back at Toledo before joining the Pirates in early August. He started off hitting strong with a .350 batting average through his first twelve games, but he finished the season with a 4-for-47 streak that dropped his average to .198, and ended his Major League career. He was still active in the minors 17 years later without getting another big league shot. Boone collected over 2,200 hits during his pro career.

Ed Karger, pitcher for the 1906 Pirates. He pitched one year in the minors before signing with the Pirates for the 1906 season. Karger went 24-8 in 1905 for Houston of the South Texas League. In two starts and four relief appearances for Pittsburgh in 1906, he had a 1.93 ERA in 28 innings. During his second start, which happened eleven games into the season, he was pulled after just five innings by Fred Clarke, despite giving up only three runs on three hits and three walks. The newspapers said he was still pitching well at the time he was taken out. The crowd was relentless in their displeasure for Clarke’s move and they let him know about it every chance they got. The boos got worse as the Pirates new pitcher, Mike Lynch, started getting hit hard and the team lost by six runs that day. Karger was moved to a relief role after that game. The Pirates traded him to the Cardinals on June 3, 1906 for pitcher Chappie MacFarland, who won just one Major League game after the trade. Karger went on to win another 46 games after the trade. Even though he was 19 games under .500 for his career, he still had a lifetime 2.79 ERA.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Share article

Pirates Prospects Daily

Latest articles

Pirates Prospects Weekly

MONDAY: First Pitch

TUESDAY: Article Drop


THURSDAY: Roundtable

FRIDAY: Discussion

SATURDAY: Pirates Winter Report

SUNDAY: Pirates Business

Latest comments