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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Bradshaw, Stargell: Kings of the Kingdom

For years they had been regarded as spear carriers, flitting about in the shadow of their peers, but national attention has finally come to the architects of the Golden Age of Sports which hit Pittsburgh in the 70s.

“Sports Illustrated” will have the faces of Terry Bradshaw and Willie Stargell on the cover, hailed jointly as Sportsman of the Year.

Now there is nothing unusual about Bradshaw – the first pro football player so honoured – and Stargell appearing on the cover of S.I. Both have been there before. But they join select company in being featured on the cover of the traditional year-end holiday edition.

In the 26-year history of the prestigious highly coveted award, their predecessors include such giants as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Roger Bannister, Muhammed Ali, all proper celebrities in the world of fun and games.

Stargell and Bradshaw each will receive a symbolic award, a replica of a Grecian amphora, a narrow necked, two handled ceramic jug which was used by the Greeks around 500 B.C.

There is even symbolism in this, for an amphora could have been used as a container for wine and Stargell is a connoisseur of the grape. The jug’s decorative theme portrays a javelin thrower which was the reason for Bradshaw’s first appearance, as a face in the crowd, in the pages of S.I. when he was 17.

In his cover story, “Two Champs in the City of Champions,” author Ron Fimrite concedes that neither one seems like Pittsburgh’s sort of guy.

“One, Terry Bradshaw, is a Southerner, a Bible Belt country boy who come on so naïve at first that he was written off a round town as a dummy,” explains Fimrite. “The other, Willie Stargell, is a Californian, a black man from the housing projects whose gentle manner and it’s-only-a-game philosophy scarcely hold to the standards of a mill town that rates toughness as the prime virtue.

Yet, Fimrite adds, alluding to the City of Champions, each is an example of the “yearning spirit of this brawling, sentimental and tough but friendly place” and each has become revered in the city where he plays.

“Bradshaw, for all of his other, now properly-renowned skills,” Fimrite continues, “is as rugged as anyone who has played in the NFL, a gritty competitor who will boost his bruised body off the turf and bounce back into the melee. Stargell is a large and powerful man whose apparent nonchalance conceals a fierce inner drive that surfaces dramatically in crises.”

Pittsburgh loves these guys, concludes Fimrite. It was the second dual award given by Sports Illustrated. A former UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, and tennis star Billie Jean King were similarly honoured seven years ago.

Willie Stargell

In Fimrite’s portrayal of Stargell, the writer senses that Willie’s love for his teammates, black and white, oozes out as freshly as hot coffee bubbling in a percolating pot. The words Willie uses in speaking of the men who share his dugout bench are words that cite the worth of a man.

“The finest hitting coach in baseball, Bob Skinner; all our pitchers respect Harvey Haddix; Jim Rooker, he’ll walk into the clubhouse with wild meat dishes. That’s probably why we win, we eat so good,” said Willie, who often whips up a delectable clubhouse dish himself. “Bert Blyleven. I’ll go out to talk to him during a game and he’ll say, ‘Get off my damn mound,’ HIS damn mound.”

Sports Illustrated has been criticised for many of its Sportsman of the Year nominees in the past. It goes with the territory. But in dividing the 1979 award between Stargell and Bradshaw, the magazine, in a sense, has stifled dissent.

Certainly, no one can question their right to Sportsman of the Year, as they have earned that on the field. Certainty, no one can doubt the example that either man brings to professional sports; no one can devalue their worth to their town and their team.

S.I. has made an excellent choice, but more than that, it’s Sportsman of the Year Award is a paean to man’s humility and to real men’s feelings for the fellow man.

Pat Livingston
Pittsburgh Press December



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The Steelers 1979 season updated January 22nd 2021.

Ben's early Steelers games.

The Pittsburgh Americans' 1936 season added June 2020.

The Steelers 1978 season in full.
The Steelers 1977 season in full.
The Steelers 1976 season in full.

The Steelers 1975 season in full.
The Steelers 1974 season in full.

The first NFL champions the 1902 Pittsburgh Stars added June 2016

The Pittsburgh Americans added August 2015.

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