Eriksmoen: North Dakota athlete had his life threatened for playing baseball


This team produced seven MLB players, a major league manager, five major league coaches, two members of the NFL, a professional basketball player, and one of the greatest sluggers to ever don a major league uniform. That slugger was 20-year-old Willie Stargell, who was in his second season of professional baseball. However, his season at Grand Forks gave no indication of the kind of player he would later become because, in 107 games, he hit only 11 home runs and batted .270.

Through determination and hard work, Stargell dramatically improved and spent 21 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leading his team to six division titles and two world championships. Because of his accomplishments, he was not only enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but, in 1981, a 12-foot statue of him was unveiled outside of the Pirates stadium, where it still stands today.

Wilver “Willie” Dornell Stargell was born March 6, 1940, in Earlsboro, Okla., to William Stargell and Gladys Vernell Hunt, who was one-quarter Seminole Indian. Shortly before Wilver was born, his father abandoned Gladys, who was only 17 years old,…

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