Willie Stargell made it to the Hall of Fame by doing everything in a big way.
He hit huge home runs to win big games. He had a big smile for his teammates and the fans. And, he always has a big heart for those in need.Now, to some, he's also bigger than life.
Stargell on Sunday became the 200th member inducted into the Hall of Fame as his golden plaque was unveiled on the steps of the National Baseball Library.
Many of Stargell's immortal brethren, including Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Ernie Banks, were on hand to see the newest member of their famous family.
"Coming out of Oakland, California, little did I know that once given the opportunity to do something that I dreamed of for many years - putting on a uniform - something unique would happen after spending four years in the minor leagues honing my skills so that I could get to the big leagues and perform such as so many of the great players (sitting) behind me," Stargell said.
Stargell was also joined by his family, several former teammates and one-time manager Chuck Tanner.
"There are so many people who have inspired me," Stargell said. "Baseball has afforded me the opportunity to rub shoulders with so many fine people. That has always been my bottom line. I am eternally grateful for these types of people in my life.
"I also accept this award for the people at the stadiums, the clubhouse guys, the batboys, the grounds crew, the announcers, the media."
In 21 years as an outfielder and first baseman with Pittsburgh, Stargell hit 475 home runs, drove in 1,540 runs and batted .282 in helping the Pirates win the World Series title in 1971 and 1979. In the '79 Series at the age of 38, Stargell hit .400 with three homers and was selected most valuable player.
Last January, Stargell became the 17th player to be elected in the first year of eligibility.
Stargell, who had five 100 RBI seasons and 953 extra-base hits, credits much of his success to Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who was a teammate for 11 years. Clemente was killed in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972 while on a mission of mercy to earthquake-shattered Nicaragua.
"I learned a lot from my teammates but I'd like to point out one particular teammate of mine who kind of shined a little brighter than most men," Stargell said of Clemente.
"He had the ability to play the game as if his life depended on every ball game.
"He taught me how to command respect rather than demand it. I'm talking about a gentleman who will always have a very special place in my heart - Roberto Clemente."
Through the years, Stargell also developed a special meaning to his teammates and people in need.
Throughout his career, Stargell was active in many charities and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to research sickle cell anemia, and he is currently honorary chairman of the Share Your Joy Campaign. The organization will be assisting parents to raise their children and reduce the incidence of child abuse.
Prior to Stargell's induction, sportscaster Lindsey Nelson and sports columnist Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times were given awards for their contributions to baseball.