Willie Stargell (Trading Card DB)

July 11, 1973: Willie Stargell sets Pirates’ franchise home run record in win over Padres

This article was written by John Fredland

Willie Stargell (Trading Card DB)Ralph Kiner’s 301 home runs, the product of an unparalleled slugging spree in the late 1940s and early 1950s, ranked first in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history when Willie Stargell made his big-league debut in 1962. Blossoming into a prodigious, consistent power threat over the next decade, Stargell overtook Kiner in 1973 with his 302nd career homer, a fifth-inning blast off Steve Arlin in the Pirates’ 10-2 win over the San Diego Padres on July 11 at San Diego Stadium.

In his eight seasons with the Pirates, Ralph Kiner left a singular imprint on club and league home-run records. The right-handed-batting outfielder, a Southern California product, racked up an unmatched seven consecutive homer crowns from his rookie year of 1946 through 1952, topped by a majors-best 54 homers in 1949. As of 2023, nobody in major-league history had reached 300 home runs in fewer games than Kiner.1

Along the way, Kiner’s 110th career homer, a three-run shot against Larry Jansen of the New York Giants on September 2, 1948,2 put him ahead of Pittsburgh’s previous franchise record-holder, Paul Waner, who hit 109 home runs from 1926 through 1940. When the Pirates traded Kiner to the Chicago Cubs in 1953, he had pushed his homer count – and the club record – to 301.3

Willie Stargell, who spent much of his youth in Northern California, arrived in the majors in September 1962 and hit his first big-league home run in May 1963, nearly 10 years to the day after Kiner’s departure from the Pirates. Renowned for his tape-measure range, which generated milestone-distance homers in ballparks around the league,4 the lefty-swinging Stargell hit at least 20 home runs in every season but one from 1964 through 1979.5

Stargell’s climb up Pittsburgh’s leaderboard was more deliberate than Kiner’s. He struggled against left-handers at the beginning of his career,6 leading to several seasons of platooning.7 He spent his first 7½ big-league campaigns swinging toward Forbes Field’s vast right field.8 By the Pirates’ July 1970 move to Three Rivers Stadium, only 74 of Stargell’s 181 career home runs had come at home.9

“I dreamed of the big crowds, artificial turf, our new tradition and my increased home run production,” Stargell wrote of Three Rivers Stadium and its symmetrical fences. “Forbes Field had been one of the most spacious parks in baseball, especially in right field, my power alley. … Dolores [Stargell’s wife] … predicted that I would have hit an additional 22 homers if I had been playing in Three Rivers instead of Forbes Field.”10

For the rest of his career, Stargell’s home-field homers were as frequent as his road shots.11 His 48 home runs for Pittsburgh’s 1971 World Series champions led the majors, and he hit another 33 in 1972, boosting his career total to 277.

The 33-year-old Stargell spent the first half of the 1973 season near the top of baseball’s home-run charts. On June 28 he reached 300 lifetime homers with a two-run blast off Rick Wise of the St. Louis Cardinals.12 Career homer 301, tying Kiner, was Stargell’s 24th of the season, a pinch-hit grand slam against the Cardinals’ Diego Seguí in the second game of a July 3 doubleheader.13

Stargell’s bat was as potent as ever, but the Pirates were struggling. Coping with star right fielder Roberto Clemente’s tragic death in a plane crash and rotation leader Steve Blass’s sudden loss of command,14 Pittsburgh, which had won three straight division titles and the 1971 World Series, had four losing streaks of five or more games by June – more than in the three previous seasons combined.15

The Pirates were fifth in the six-club NL East Division, eight games under .500, when they arrived in San Diego for a midweek series on July 10. A three-run rally in the seventh inning, capped by Stargell’s go-ahead double, gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 win in the opener.16

Arlin, a 26-year-old right-hander, took the ball in the series’ second game for the Padres, who were sixth in the NL West.17 He had blanked the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers in his two previous starts,18 but the Pirates snapped his 18-inning scoreless streak right away.19

Dave Cash led off the first with a single.20 He took second on a groundout by Manny Sanguillén, who was starting in right field after Gene Clines tore ligaments in his ankle in the previous night’s game,21 and third on Al Oliver’s infield single. Stargell’s sacrifice fly to left brought Cash home for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead.

The Padres pursued an equalizer when center fielder Johnny Grubb, batting .312 in his first full major-league season,22 singled with one out in the first, stole second with a headfirst slide, and continued to third when catcher Milt May’s throw went into center for an error. But Pirates starter Nelson Briles fanned Jerry Morales and retired Nate Colbert on a fly ball to strand Grubb.

Seeking stability at shortstop, Pittsburgh had claimed Dal Maxvill from the Oakland A’s on waivers on July 8.23 Better known for his glove than his bat, the 34-year-old Maxvill had two hits in the first game of the series, his Pirates debut. With two outs in the second against Arlin, Maxvill – who slugged just .259 in more than 1,400 career major-league games – doubled to center. Briles followed with a single to center, and Maxvill scored, sliding in safely while Grubb’s throw hit his helmet and bounced away. The Pirates had a 2-0 lead.

Oliver made it three scoring innings in a row with his 12th homer of the season in the third. Maxvill sparked yet another Pirate run in the fourth when he singled, took second on Briles’ sacrifice, and scored when Dave Roberts fielded Cash’s grounder to third and bounced the throw past first for an error.

Aided by Maxvill’s sharp play on Cito Gaston’s second-inning grounder – “He came in hard to field [Gaston’s] dunker behind the mound and made a quick throw to barely nip the San Diego outfielder,” the Pittsburgh Press reported – Briles retired the Padres in order in the second and third.24 San Diego broke the shutout in the fourth, as Grubb started the inning with a double and scored on Gaston’s two-out single, cutting the Pirates’ lead to 4-1.

Stargell led off the fifth, in his 23rd plate appearance since tying Kiner with his 301st homer. He connected on a drive to deep right field. Gaston never moved as the ball carried over the 330-foot sign and landed in the stands. Stargell, in his 1,416th game as a Pirate, was the franchise’s all-time home-run leader.25

“When the handful of kids in the right-field area scurried for the ball, they were shooed away by ushers,” the Pittsburgh Press observed.26

Five straight one-run innings had given the Pirates a 5-1 advantage, and Briles limited the Padres to just one baserunner from the fifth inning to the seventh to protect the lead. He fanned 21-year-old rookie Dave Winfield,27 pinch-hitting for reliever Gary Ross, to end the fifth.28 (During the seventh inning, 22-year-old Pirates rookie Dave Parker, called up from Triple A to replace Clines, arrived in Pittsburgh’s dugout after a full day of travel from Charleston, West Virginia.29)

San Diego rallied for a run in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Leron Lee led off with a double and took third on Derrel Thomas’s one-out infield single. Grubb’s third hit of the game, a single to center, drove in Lee; when Oliver bobbled the ball for an error, the Padres had two runners in scoring position with only one out. As in the first inning, however, Briles set down Morales and Colbert to stop the potential threat.

The Pirates eliminated any doubt by battering Mike Corkins for five runs on four hits and two walks in the ninth, with reserve shortstop Dwain Anderson’s error on Maxvill’s grounder making the final two runs unearned.30 Briles, who drove in his second run of the night with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly, set down the Padres in the ninth to cap his sixth complete game of the season and the 10-2 win.

“I’m going to keep this ball,” Stargell said about his 302nd homer. “I’ve never kept a ball before. When we go up to San Francisco [on Friday] I’ll see if my mother wants it. I know I’ll have to sneak it to her. She feels I deserve it because I’m the one who accomplished it. But I know she’d want it.”31

Stargell clubbed another home run, a three-run blast off Clay Kirby, as the Pirates closed out the sweep with a 4-0 win on July 12.32 Pittsburgh eventually pushed its way into first place in the NL East in September before losing 10 of its last 15 games to come in third in a wild five-team race, 2½ games behind the division-winning New York Mets.33

Stargell finished 1973 with a majors-best 44 home runs and 119 RBIs.34 He retired after the 1982 season with 475 career homers, which remained the Pirates’ franchise record as of 2023.35



This article was fact-checked by Russ Walsh and copy-edited by Len Levin. SABR members Gary Belleville and Kurt Blumenau had insightful comments on an earlier version of this article. SABR member Tom Larwin and Jay Rosso of the San Diego Public Library’s Central Special Collections provided helpful assistance in obtaining San Diego newspaper coverage of the game.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org for pertinent information, including the box score and play-by-play. He also reviewed game coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Press, San Diego Evening Tribune, and San Diego Union newspapers and SABR Baseball Biography Project biographies of several players involved in this game, including James Forr’s Willie Stargell biography, Doug Skipper’s Dave Winfield biography, Clayton Trutor’s Dwain Anderson biography, and Gregory H. Wolf’s Steve Arlin biography.





1 Kiner hit his 300th career homer in his 1,087th game, on May 25, 1953 against Al Corwin of the New York Giants. Ryan Howard, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2004 through 2016, took 1,093 games to reach 300 home runs.

2 Vince Johnson, “Kiner’s 36th in Vain as Bucs Bow, 5-4: 3-Run Blow Boosts RBI Total to 101,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 3, 1948: 16.

3 Kiner ranked 10th on the all-time home-run list, tied with Rogers Hornsby, when he was traded to the Cubs. Plagued by back injuries beginning in 1950, Kiner retired after the 1955 season at age 33 with 369 career home runs. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975. Lester J. Biederman, “Kiner Sidelined by Muscle Ailment: Slugger to Undergo Treatment for Back,” Pittsburgh Press, May 16, 1952: 34; Bob Smizik, “Kiner the Pirates’ Biggest Attraction,” Pittsburgh Press, September 18, 1987: C1.

4 Stargell’s long-distance milestones include seven of the 18 home runs to clear the right-field roof at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field and four of the first five homers to reach the upper deck when the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium; the first two home runs to exit Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium completely; a 495-foot homer that landed in a swimming pool outside of Montreal’s Parc Jarry in 1969; and home runs in the 1970s recognized as the longest ever at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. Bill Christine, “Stargell Hits Roof, Pirates Win: Willie’s Blast Turns Back Braves, 8-7,” Pittsburgh Press, April 26, 1970: 4,1; Bob Smizik, “Willie’s ‘Upper’ Cut Decks Gentry, Braves, 3-1,” Pittsburgh Press, June 1, 1973; Ross Newhan, “Stargell Hits a Pair, But Cey’s Homer Wins: Wilver Blasts Ball out of Dodger Stadium, But 3-Run Shot by Rookie Gives Los Angeles 7-4 Win Over Bucs,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1973: III, 1; Ted Blackman, “Pirates Give Expos a Bath on ‘Ball Night,’” Montreal Gazette, July 17, 1969: 27; Allen Lewis, “Phils Escape Cellar Despite 14-4 Blasting by Pirates,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1971: 22; Russ Franke, “Stargell Turns on the Power Again: 2 Home Runs Back Blyleven’s 3-Hitter,” Pittsburgh Press, May 21, 1978: D-1.

5 Stargell’s only season with fewer than 20 home runs during this period was 1977, when injuries limited him to 13 homers in 63 games. Charley Feeney, “Surgery Set for Stargell,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 24, 1977: 34. 

6 Through 1968, Stargell batted .200 with 14 home runs and a .327 slugging percentage in 556 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, compared with his .288 average, 117 homers and .528 slugging percentage in 2,322 plate appearances against righties.

7 Stargell was in Pittsburgh’s lineup for more than half of the time against left-handed starting pitchers only twice in his first six full major-league seasons: 1965 (26 of 48 games) and 1967 (22 of 39). As late as 1970, he started just 27 of 52 games against lefties. Charley Feeney, “Field General Murtaugh Not ‘Platoon’ Sergeant Yet,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 9, 1970: 32.

8 “Wilver Stargell hit most of his home runs in an architectural monstrosity called Forbes Field, the country’s only coal mine with seats, where the dimensions in right and center field (save for a ball hit EXACTLY down the foul line) range from 375 feet to 457,” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote in July 1973. Jim Murray, “Stargell’s Wrong Bid,” Los Angeles Times, July 11, 1973: III, 1.

9 During most of Kiner’s time with the Pirates, by contrast, “Greenberg Gardens,” a wire fence in left field, reduced right-handed pull-field home-run distance at Forbes Field by 30 feet. Of Kiner’s 278 home runs hit between the start of the 1947 season, when Greenberg Gardens was installed, and his trade in 1953, 167 – 60 percent – were at home. Ron Backer, “Greenberg Gardens Revisited: A Story About Forbes Field, Hank Greenberg, and Ralph Kiner,” SABR Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2 (2022): 39-47.

10 Willie Stargell and Tom Bird, Willie Stargell: An Autobiography (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 136.

11 In Pittsburgh’s first game at Three Rivers Stadium, a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on July 16, 1970, Stargell became the first Pirate to homer at the new stadium. From that point, he hit 147 home runs at home and 147 in away games.

12 Charley Feeney, “Ellis Squelches Cards on 5 Hits; Bucs, 6-0: Starg Hits 300th Homer; Oliver Hot,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 29, 1973: 10.

13 Charley Feeney, “Cards Take Steam out of Bucs, 4-0, 7-6: Ellis, Blass Lose; Stargell Bombs Slam in 2nd Tilt,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 4, 1973: 58.

14 Stargell and Bird, Willie Stargell, 160; Joe Donnelly, “Pirates Are Up in Arms … Over Arms,” Newsday (Long Island, New York), June 24, 1973: Sports/3.

15 The Pirates had one losing streak of five or more games in 1970, none in 1971, and one in 1972.

16 Charley Feeney, “Bucs Rally to Defeat Padres, 4-3,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 11, 1973: 24.

17 In August 1921, Arlin’s grandfather, Harold Arlin, broadcast a Pirates-Philadelphia Phillies game for Pittsburgh’s KDKA radio, the first-ever major-league baseball game broadcast over commercial radio.

18 Ross Newhan, “Arlin Stops L.A. on Two Hits as Skid Runs to 6,” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1973: III, 1.

19 Mitch Chortkoff, “Pirates Not Awed by Arlin’s Streak,” San Diego Evening Tribune, July 12, 1973: C-7.

20 Because the Padres did not field a Triple-A team of their own in 1969, their first NL season, Arlin appeared in 12 games with Pittsburgh’s affiliate, the International League’s Columbus Jets. His Columbus teammates included Cash and Bob Robertson, the Pirates’ first baseman in this game.

21 The Pirates had opened 1973 with Sanguillén, primarily a catcher during his first five major-league seasons, starting in right field and rookie Milt May catching. In mid-June the 26-year-old Clines became the regular right fielder, with Sanguillén moving back behind the plate. Charley Feeney, “Sangy Back Catching, Clines Goes to RF,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 15, 1973: 10; “Pirates Lose Clines, Tap Parker to Fill Hole,” Pittsburgh Press, July 11, 1973: 66.

22 The San Diego Union noted that Padres manager Don Zimmer “labeled the rookie centerfielder as the Padres’ best player” after the game. Grubb batted .311 in 1973 and finished sixth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Phil Collier, “Pirates Pound Padres’ Arlin in 10-2 Romp: Stargell’s 302nd HR Sets Pace,” San Diego Union, July 12, 1973: C-1.

23 Through July 8, the Pirates had divided shortstop between veterans Gene Alley (38 games started) and Jackie Hernández (15 games), both of whom played their final major-league games in 1973, and 24-year-old Rennie Stennett (29 games). After the Pirates acquired Maxvill, he started 73 of the final 80 games at short. Maxvill batted only .189 for Pittsburgh but strengthened the defense; Baseball-Reference.com credits him with 1.4 Defensive Wins Above Replacement in his half-season with the Pirates. “There’s little doubt that Willie Stargell is the most valuable Pirate, but if this team is to go anywhere in the 1973 season, Dal Maxvill will rank right beside him in receiving the most credit,” the Pittsburgh Press’s Bob Smizik wrote in August. “Pirates Get Maxvill to Play Shortstop,” Pittsburgh Press, July 9, 1973: 25; Charley Feeney, “Playing Games,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 10, 1973: 15; Bob Smizik, “Maxvill Moves In, Bucs Move Out,” Pittsburgh Press, August 1, 1973: 31.

24 “Parker May Start Tonight,” Pittsburgh Press, July 12, 1973: 32

25 His 25 home runs for the season tied him with Bobby Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and Darrell Evans of the Atlanta Braves for the major-league lead.

26 Bob Smizik, “Stargell Has a Ball With Record 302nd Homer,” Pittsburgh Press, July 12, 1973: 32.

27 Within a two-week span in June, Winfield had been selected fourth overall by the Padres in baseball’s amateur draft, earned College World Series Most Valuable Player honors with the University of Minnesota, and made his major-league debut on June 19 with a single against Jerry Reuss of the Houston Astros.

28 “Padres bonus rookie Dave Winfield is being platooned,” wrote the San Diego Evening Tribune’s Mitch Chortkoff. “The kid spends days at a time on the bench, which is not the way a talented prospect is going to get experience … but Winfield isn’t ready to play every day in the majors as he demonstrated last night in a rare confrontation with a good right-handed pitcher. He struck out in a pinch-hitting role against Nelson Briles.” Winfield, playing predominantly against left-handed pitching, batted .277 in 56 games in 1973. He became a regular in the Padres’ outfield in 1974 and recorded 3,110 hits in his 22-season major-league career. Winfield was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. Chortkoff, “Pirates Not Awed by Arlin’s Streak.”

29 Parker made his major-league debut by starting in right field in the next day’s game. In 19 big-league seasons, he made seven All-Star teams, won two batting titles, and received the 1978 NL MVP Award. He played on two World Series champions, the 1979 Pirates and 1989 A’s. “Parker May Start Tonight’’; Dave Parker and Dave Jordan, Cobra: A Life of Baseball And Brotherhood (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021), 113-116.

30 Coincidentally, Anderson and Maxvill had been St. Louis Cardinals teammates in 1972. When St. Louis traded Maxvill to Oakland in August 1972, Anderson was a leading candidate to become the Cardinals’ starting shortstop, but Mike Tyson won the job on Opening Day 1973 and St. Louis traded Anderson to the Padres on June 7. Doug Grow, “Cards Trade Anderson to Padres for Campbell,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 8, 1973: 4B.

31 Smizik, “Stargell Has a Ball With Record 302nd Homer.”

32 Bob Smizik, “Luke’s No Walker as Bucs Beat Padres, 4-0,” Pittsburgh Press, July 13, 1973: 25.

33 Bob Smizik, “Pirates Go Out With Class – Off the Field,” Pittsburgh Press, October 2, 1973: 30.

34 He was runner-up in the NL MVP voting to Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1979 Stargell and Keith Hernandez of the St. Louis Cardinals were NL co-MVPs.

35 As of 2023, Kiner was second on Pittsburgh’s home-run rankings, followed by Clemente with 240. Andrew McCutchen was fourth with 215 homers, and all-time major-league home-run king Barry Bonds’ 176 home runs as a Pirate ranked fifth in club history.

Additional Stats

Pittsburgh Pirates 10
San Diego Padres 2

San Diego Stadium
San Diego, CA


Box Score + PBP:

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