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Jimmy Scott's High & Tight: The Dee Stargell Interview Pt. 1

By Jimmy Scott - Posted on 01 February 2010

"The Glamorous Life of the Ballplayer's Wife."  As far back as 1971, Dolores "Dee" Stargell had the title and outline for a book about her life in The Game.  She even discussed it in THIS ARTICLE, written by Charles Feeney in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called "The Other Half."  Now, 39 years later, the book remains an idea; something that sounded interesting but was never completed.

Dee Stargell was then married to Willie Stargell, the former outfielder/first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates and 1988 Hall of Fame inductee.  Dee was there throughout the entire careeer, from the 1971 World Series championship to Roberto Clemente's tragic death that off season.  She was there for the closing of Forbes Field and the opening of Three Rivers Stadium.  She was there as Willie's body started to betray him.  And she was there when he had that last season of greatness, in 1979, when Willie shared the National League MVP Award with Keith Hernandez and won a second World Series with Pittsburgh.  She was there when Willie played his last game.  And then, strangely, she wasn't there anymore.

In Part 1 of the Jimmy Scott's High & Tight Interview with Dee Stargell, she mentions how Willie once said to her how they would one day sit in matching rocking chairs on the front porch when they were old.  But something happened on the way to getting old. 

There is a side to our favorite baseball players we are rarely privy too.  It's the private side; the side that Twitter, cellphone pictures and never see.  This is the side that Dee Stargell talks about.  Much of it is incredibly unglamorous. 

A ballplayer can only be home during half of a baseball season.  If you include spring training, this lasts from mid-February through the end of September - the end of October if everything pans out just right.  That's a minimum seven and a half months of a year where a baseball marriage has to make it so that come November, a couple can have a solid three and a half months together.

But Willie Stargell was a celebrity.  He was a huge baseball star.  This meant that those three and a half months had to be compressed even more.  He was pulled.  Attend this show.  Go to this appearance.  It was difficult to say no and, to his wife's growing frustration as the years went on, Willie rarely did.  So he was usually gone, making public appearances, running their restaurant, playing baseball...  He did everything that a good public servant does.  Except spend enough time at home with his wife.  The marriage suffered and, after his playing days were over, it ended.

There was another issue as well.  In May, 1976, Dee was having a terrible headache.  Luckily for her, Willie was home.  He took her to the hospital.  She was suffering from a brain aneurysm and, simultaneously, a stroke.  For the next six weeks, Dee was in a coma.  When she miraculously awoke, she was paralyzed on her left side. After rigorous rehabilitation, she was able to recover.  But something was different. 

Dee says that if Willie hadn't been home when she had her aneurysm, if he had already left for the ballpark (the Pirates played the Expos that night), she'd be dead today.  But he was there and he did help to save her life.  Yet, after the aneurysm, she felt differently about her marriage.  She became paranoid.  She made the marriage harder on both of them.

Curious?  You should be.  As you listen to Dee Stargell, you'll get a sense that the life of the baseball wife hasn't changed that much since the '60s and '70s.  In fact, it's pretty much the same.  Sure there's more money, but beyond that, it's the exact same life with the same temptations, the same trials and tribulations.  Spend some time listening to Dee Stargell and get to know her point of view.  Then come back, because if you think she has something to say in Part 1, you're going to be equally impressed with Part 2.

So sit back and listen.  This is a good one.


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