Stargell’s Backstory on Becoming the King of the All-Stars Stamps
In 2012, the Postal Service™ immortalized four Major League Baseball All-Stars on Forever stamps — Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby, Willie Stargell and Ted Williams. Here’s the backstory on the evolution of the stamps and the Stamps Batted In (SBI) competition among baseball fans that positioned Willie Stargell as the most popular.
The Postal Service receives about 40,000 suggestions for stamp ideas each year, yet only 20 to 25 topics make the cut to appear on stamps. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente and Mickey Mantle are just a few of many sports legends that have been commemorated on stamps.
Each of these Hall of Famers was a perennial All-Star selection, and each left an indelible impression on the game:
- Joe DiMaggio (1914–1999), nicknamed “the Yankee Clipper,” is best known for his incredible, unmatched 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
- Larry Doby (1923–2003), the first African American to play on an American League baseball team, joined the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, and was a seven-time All-Star selection.
- Willie Stargell (1940–2001) twice led the National League in home runs and helped power the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates, a multicultural team known as “The Family,” to a World Championship.
- Regarded as one of the all-time greatest hitters in baseball, Ted Williams (1918–2002) of the Boston Red Sox was the last Major Leaguer to bat over .400 for a single season in 1941.
Illustrator Kadir Nelson worked with art director Phil Jordan to create the stamp art based on historic photographs.
The Boston/New York Rivalry
The stamps were to be issued in sheets of 20 to include five stamps of each player. But that quickly changed once we heard from baseball fans who cringed at having their icon share the same stamp sheet as their rival. So to please sports fans we played ball by developing a “Stamps Batted In” voting competition based on the number of stamps pre-ordered and created individual sheets of 20 stamps depicting each player.
Williams took the lead early in the competition trailed closely by DiMaggio, Stargell and Doby. About a week prior to the July 20 stamp issuance, Yankees fans stepped up to the plate to put “Joltin Joe” DiMaggio out in front. This changed quickly once the Boston media shared this news. Boston fans then placed Williams on top of the competition on the First-Day-of-Issue.
Pre-orders for stamp sales eclipsed 1 million. Leading by a close margin Williams fans hit 300,385 SBI, followed by DiMaggio fans at 290,925. Stargell’s fans were hitting 237,785 SBI followed by Doby’s fans hitting 232,745.
Stargell’s wife, Margaret Stargell of Wilmington, NC, then came up with a new strategy to hit it out of the park. Thanks to her genius, she helped us work with the Pirates to promote a letter writing campaign tagged as Stargell’s “8 on 8” campaign. Pirates fans were encouraged to write eight letters on August 8 (Stargell’s birthday and jersey number) to eight friends bearing Willie’s stamp.
“Willie would be so humbled by this timeless recognition,” said Margaret. “Both he and my father Fritz Weller, who was a letter carrier for the Postal Service, would be thrilled to know that people will reach out to their family and friends with a letter of love in his honor on 8/8.”
Although Stargell was not involved in selecting number 8 for his jersey, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on 8/8/88, and his car’s license plates read “HOF. 8.8.88.”
As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
While quite popular, they are no longer available in most Post Offices. They can still be purchased at this link.
Have an idea for a stamp? Submit your proposal in writing to:
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee
c/o Stamp Development
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300
Washington, DC 20260-3501