Sport as much as steel has cast the image of Pittsburgh to the
world. Pittsburghers have used sport to tell a story about who
they are both to themselves and to others. It's about tough,
hard-working, gritty people who struggle and win and lose and
win. The 1960 World Series was that story.
LECTURER IN SPORTS AND URBAN HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
Toward the end of that autumn afternoon at old Forbes Field, near
the close of a record-breaking World Series that had already
emerged as the weirdest, wildest, most improbable ever played,
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman William Stanley Mazeroski, the
24-year-old son of an Ohio coal miner, sensed that he had been
through all this before, felt he'd already lived and seen it.
Sensed it as he stepped off the field and inhaled the moment's
bitter, ascending air of gloom. How did this happen? he thought.
How is it they always come back?
It was 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, 1960, 40 years ago last
week, and the last half of the ninth inning of the Series'
seventh game was beginning. The Pirates and the New York Yankees
were locked in a 9-9 tie. Less than 30 minutes earlier Pittsburgh
had scored five runs in the eighth inning, coming from three runs
down to take a 9-7 lead. All the Bucs had needed to win it all,
to exorcise those roistering ghosts from the '27 World
Series--when Ruth and Gehrig, Lazzeri and Combs had swept them in
their last go at a world championship--was one more peaceful
inning, three more painless outs. But, as Mazeroski knew, these
were the 3M Yankees of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Moose
Skowron, the Yankees who had won eight pennants and six of 10
World Series in the 1950s, who had won their last 15
regular-season games while running their home run total for the
year to an American League record 193, three more than their old
mark, set in '56. New York had won its three Series games against
the Pirates by the scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0, setting a
passel of club and individual World Series hitting records. Sure
enough, in the ninth, just as Mazeroski had feared, the deathless
Yankees had struck again.
After Mantle singled in a run, driving second baseman Bobby
Richardson home as he raised his batting average in this Series
to .400, he kept New York alive by pulling off the strangest act
of baserunning in the Series. With one out and Mantle on first,
and third baseman Gil McDougald representing the tying run on
third, Yankees leftfielder Yogi Berra pulled a hard, one-hop
smash down the line that Pittsburgh first baseman Rocky Nelson
snatched deftly. After stepping on the bag to get Berra at first,
Nelson moved toward second base to throw out Mantle. But Mantle,
instead of racing for second, dove back toward first and crawled
like a lizard to the bag, slipping under the surprised first
baseman's reach as McDougald scored.
October 22, 2000
Many saw what Mantle did as dumb. All he had to do, to ensure
that McDougald would score and tie the game, was dash for second
and force a rundown. Had Nelson tagged out Mantle, the Pirates
would have been world champions. So why did Mantle scramble back
to first? Nelson says Mantle later told him that he thought
Nelson had caught Berra's drive on the fly and that, since he had
not tagged up, the only way to save himself and McDougald was to
scramble safely back to first.
In any event, after Skowron, the Yankees first baseman, hit a
grounder that forced Mantle at second to end the top half of the
ninth, the game was tied 9-9. The Yankees had new life. Recalls
Richardson, "We thought, Boy, we got 'em now!"
Stunned by the turn of events, Mazeroski went down the stairs
into the Pittsburgh dugout, sat on the bench and stared vacantly
across the ancient playing field--toward the vines that climbed
the outfield fence, past the silent thousands shifting uneasily
in their seats, beyond all those damned Yankees grinning as they
took the field and waited for pitcher Ralph Terry to finish
Mazeroski lapsed into a kind of trance, as though peering into
his backwoods past, into the days when he was growing up in a
little wooden house with no electricity or running water, on a
glade known as Skunk Hollow, on the banks of the Ohio River near
Rush Run. The sun lit his days, kerosene his nights, and on many
summer afternoons he listened to his battery-operated radio tell
stories of the distant suffering of his beloved Cleveland
Indians. In the dugout, Mazeroski remembers, "all I could think
of was how the Yankees used to beat up on Cleveland for years and
years, and how the Yankees would come back and how, just now,
they'd come back on us with all that hitting. I felt so bad; we
all did. I was staring out of the dugout and thinking about this
"Maz, you're up!" he heard a voice call out from down the pine.
So absorbed had he been in memory, Mazeroski hadn't realized he
was leading off. He rose from the bench, picked up his helmet and
bat and walked to the batter's box. For weeks preceding the
Series, Yankees scouts had tracked the Pirates from city to city,
and their report on Pittsburgh had been unambiguous: "They're
high fastball hitters. Give them low, breaking stuff all the
So Mazeroski, who'd been seeing a steady diet of curves, was
expecting another. He was a notoriously dangerous clutch hitter,
and all he could think of, as he stood facing Terry, was getting
on base, giving the Pirates a chance to end the game before New
York had another go in the 10th. He thought, Just hit the ball
someplace. Get on base. Hit the ball hard. Line drive! Line
drive! When Terry fired a fastball high and inside, a surprised
Mazeroski took it for a ball, and Yankees catcher Johnny
Blanchard stepped forward and hollered to Terry, "Get it down!
Get it down! This guy's a high fastball hitter."
Terry peered in at Blanchard. It was 3:36 p.m. Terry wound up and
fired his second pitch. It was lower than the first but still up
in the zone and looking as fat as a melon to Mazeroski as it
whistled toward the plate--a high hummer just where he wanted it.
He swung and struck the ball flush, sending it in a rising white
arc to left centerfield. Mazeroski was racing toward first base
when he saw what everyone else saw, what Pirates Bill Virdon and
Bob Skinner saw from the first base dugout, what Skowron saw from
first and Richardson from second, what all those millions saw who
were watching from the stands and on national TV: Berra, the
unmistakable squat figure in left, crabbing back to the 406-foot
mark, to the warning track, his back turned to the infield
diamond as he faced the wall and looked up, his rounded figure
looking like the 8 ball he was now behind. "Soon as you saw
Yogi's back, his number 8, you knew dang well that ball had a
chance," says former Pittsburgh pitcher Vern Law, who won two
games in the Series. "A dream come true!"
"I didn't think the ball was going out," Berra recalls. "A lot of
people thought I turned around to see how far it would go. I
thought it was going to hit the wall. I turned around because I
was going to play the carom."
The bespectacled Virdon, along with Skinner and every other
Pirate, leaped off the bench the instant Mazeroski swung. "We
knew he hit it good," recalls Virdon, "but we didn't know if it
was going out. We all looked at leftfield, and we saw that Yogi
was not going to catch it, so we started rooting for it to go."
Maz had no idea what he'd wrought. All he knew was that he had
hit a fastball solidly and that it had whizzed over short and was
climbing for the fence. He felt a rush as he sprinted around
first, hoping to stretch the hit into a triple. "I knew Yogi
wasn't going to catch it," says Mazeroski. "When he turned, I
knew it was over his head, and I thought maybe it was going to be
off the wall. I'd hit it hard, but it was 406 feet out there, and
the wall was 12 feet high. I was thinking, If Yogi misplays it
coming off the wall, then I could be on third base with no one
out, and I can score a hundred ways from third base, and we win!
Then I round first and I hear the fans going crazy."
Helpless, Berra watched the ball sail over his head and clear the
wall. "It grazed the vines as it went over the fence," he says.
Galloping toward second base, Mazeroski glanced over short and
saw the leftfield umpire, Stan Landes, make the call: "He was
holding up his hand and giving it this little circle thing, and I
knew it had gone out. From the time I hit second base, I don't
think I touched the ground the rest of the way home."
He pulled the helmet off his head, held it high and screamed to
himself, We beat the Yankees! We beat the Yankees! We beat the
Yankees! Fans raced onto the field and pounded his back as he
turned on third and headed for the plate. Pandemonium shook the
rust and coal dust from the girders of the 51-year-old ballpark.
A man later dug up home plate with a shovel as policemen watched.
Mantle sat by his locker and wept. Blanchard sobbed into his
hands. A red-eyed Skowron, who had tied a World Series record
with 12 hits, joined them in wordless mourning.
All over Pittsburgh, for the next 12 hours, reigned a state of
merriment unprecedented in the city's 202-year history. Confetti
rained on the just and the unjust alike. Office workers emptied
whole file cabinets into the streets, covering the trolley tracks
with so much paper that the trolleys stalled. It was bigger than
V-E Day, bigger even than V-J Day. So many thousands of revelers
descended on the town from outlying cities, from places like
Youngstown, Ohio, and Erie, Pa., that the cops closed off the
bridges and tunnels leading into the city. Unable to get home,
many commuters slept in hotel lobbies. By midnight, all the
downtown bars had run out of glasses--two-fisted drinkers were
wandering the streets with them--and to buy a drink you had to
bring your own tumbler. Except for the Pittsburgh Crawfords and
the Homestead Grays, both of the old Negro leagues, the city had
not had a championship team since 1925, when the Pirates beat
Walter Johnson and the Washington Senators 9-7 in the seventh
game of the World Series. The Steelers, as beloved as they were,
had had an undetectable pulse for decades, and the familiar
greeting of long-suffering Steelers fans was SOS, for Same Old
"It had been a long time," says Robert Ruck, the Pitt historian.
"There were two generations in Pittsburgh who had known nothing
Never had there been a World Series like this one, and no sooner
had the last stragglers left town than press-box wags were
calling it the Weird Series. Frederick G. Lieb, the estimable
baseball writer for The Sporting News, who had seen all but three
of the previous 51 world championships, said this one was the
"wackiest ever." For 50 years, since the 1910 World Series, when
a young team of Philadelphia Athletics teed off on a
cork-centered baseball, beating the Chicago Cubs in five games,
their team batting average of .316 had survived as the highest in
Series history--higher than that of any of those vaunted Yankees
clubs that followed. Then came 1960. New York, hitting a
phenomenal .338, eclipsed the record by 22 percentage points and
outhit Pittsburgh by 82 points.
And lost. The Yankees had 31 more hits than the Pirates (91 to
60), outscored them by more than 2 to 1 (55 runs to 27), had six
more home runs (10 to 4), 28 more runs batted in (54 to 26) and
the three liveliest bats in the Series: Mantle's, Richardson's
Richardson, a singles-hitting schnauzer at 5'9", had hit only one
home run all season, on April 30, so no one was more surprised
than he when, in Game 3 of the Series, he punched a grand slam
over the Yankee Stadium fence in left--for four of his six RBIs
that day, a single-game Series record. That was far more than
pitcher Whitey Ford needed, and he went on to win the game 10-0.
By the end of Game 6, in which Richardson had two triples, he had
knocked in 12 runs, a World Series record that still stands. Lieb
crunched the numbers and quietly asked, "Who ever would have
fancied, even in his wildest dream, that a club launching such an
offensive could lose a Series?"
As if credulity had not been strained enough, the whole unlikely
megillah came to the most dramatic finish possible--no other
Series in the Classic's 97-year history has ended with a homer in
the last inning of the seventh game--and only after the lead had
changed hands twice. No matter what the Yankees did, no matter
how hard and how far they hit the ball, the Pirates were
ultimately favored by the baseball gods to prevail. Tilting at
windmills had become as much a part of Pittsburgh's drill as
shagging flies and watching Ralph Kiner hit boomers in BP, but at
the start of the '60 season, after a disappointing fourth-place
finish the year before, no one except family and friends had
expected the Bucs to be in the chase for the pennant, much less
the world title.
Only eight years earlier, in 1952, the Pirates had finished last
in the league, with a record of 42-112, and had been proclaimed
to be among the worst teams in baseball history. They also came
in last in the next three years under general manager Branch
Rickey, but by the time the Mahatma was fired in the fall of
'55--the franchise had been hemorrhaging financially for years--he
had assembled the core of the '60 team, including pitchers Law,
Bob Friend and Elroy Face; shortstop Dick Groat, an All-America
basketball player whom Rickey had signed out of Duke in '52;
Mazeroski and rightfielder Roberto Clemente.
Rickey left his fingerprints all over the franchise. In early
'54, at a pre-spring-training camp for young players, Mazeroski
was one of seven shortstops doing fielding drills when he took a
turn at second base to pivot on the double play. Rickey saw that
Mazeroski was a natural second baseman, quick and agile, who
could throw without cocking his arm, and told the coaches, "Don't
move him. He stays at second."
It was the sea-change moment of Mazeroski's life. He taught
himself how to turn the double play, how to catch the ball and
release it so quickly that it seemed to enter one end of a bent
stovepipe and exit the other. He taught himself not to catch the
ball in the pit of his glove and then dig it out to throw--that
took too much time--but rather to deflect the ball off the heel of
the glove into his throwing hand and, in the same motion, toss it
That spring of '54 was propitious for the Pirates. Rickey told
Face that he would need more than a fastball and a curve to stick
in the big leagues, even with the last-place Bucs. "You don't
have a changeup, and you need an off-speed pitch," Rickey said.
At the Pirates' camp in Fort Pierce, Fla., former Yankees
reliever Joe Page was trying to come back, and Face saw him throw
his storied forkball, for which he fit the ball deep between the
first two fingers of his throwing hand and fired with the same
speed and motion he used on his other pitches. Today that pitch
is known as the split-finger fastball. Thrown well, it looks like
a fastball but, at the plate, falls off the world. Rickey's
decision to ship Face to Double A New Orleans for a year to work
on the off-speed pitch was the turning point in Face's career.
But nothing Rickey ever did for the Pirates quite matched the way
they picked the Brooklyn Dodgers' pocket. Rickey, a former
Dodgers general manager, knew that Brooklyn was hiding a gifted
Puerto Rican outfielder on its Montreal farm team. So he drafted
Clemente for Pittsburgh. Clemente was a rookie in 1955 and five
years later a .314-hitting All-Star with a Springfield rifle for
an arm and racehorse speed.
Those were the players Joe Brown inherited when he took over as
Pittsburgh G.M. in '55. By the 1960 season he had subtracted one
catcher and added three more, including lefthanded-hitting Smoky
Burgess and righty Hal Smith; acquired a fiery third baseman, Don
Hoak; and added the wiry, chain-smoking spot starter Harvey
Haddix, a lefty nicknamed the Kitten because as a rookie with the
St. Louis Cardinals in '52 he had studied at the paw of aging
lefty Harry (the Cat) Brecheen. Brown, who would win two
championships in Pittsburgh, in '60 and '71, traded with St.
Louis for the sweet-fielding outfielder Virdon in '56, the year
after Virdon had been voted National League Rookie of the Year.
Brown also added utility outfielder Gino Cimoli--a cheerful
butt-slapper in the clubhouse--and dug around the minor leagues in
search of missing links.
Because of his zeal, Brown took some ribbing from his colleagues.
Before the 1958 draft he asked one of his scouts to name the best
lefthanded hitter available. "Rocky Nelson," said the scout,
referring to a first baseman with Triple A Toronto, but he warned
that Nelson had been up and down and never stuck in the majors.
At the draft Brown was sitting in front of his longtime friend
Chub Feeney, G.M. of the San Francisco Giants, and when it was
Pittsburgh's turn to pick, Brown said, "The Pirates draft Rocky
Nelson from Toronto."
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, the TV show starring the
Nelsons and their sons, David and Ricky, was all the buzz in
those days, and in a loud voice--to much alpha-male
laughter--Feeney intoned, "Don't you mean Ricky Nelson?" Brown
tells that story in a flat, humorless voice, as though the remark
still bites him. "A lot of people thought Rocky was a joke, but
he was not," says Brown. "He served us admirably." Indeed, in the
most crucial game of 1960, Brown was the man still laughing.
No one knows why such things occur, whether it's the alignment of
the planets or the karma of the clubhouse, but every now and then
a team begins to play as though it has been touched by magic.
Unexpectedly, the 1960 Pirates started to win, and before long
they believed they would win every time they played. The city
folk started believing the same thing, and they came to games
flashing their BEAT 'EM, BUCS signs. All the while the team's
tobacco-chawing manager, beagle-faced Danny Murtaugh, thought the
world was his spittoon, and he sat there spitting on everybody's
shoes. "I started chewin' so I could spit back on his," says
Before you could say Pie Traynor, the Pirates had won 95 games
and the pennant, losing only 59. Groat hit .325 to win the
National League batting title. Nelson hit .300 in 200 at bats.
Law won 20 games and Friend, 18, while Face forkballed his way to
24 saves. Mazeroski led major league second basemen in putouts
(413), assists (449), double plays (127) and fielding average
By that year, his fourth full season in the major leagues,
Mazeroski had asserted himself as the finest second baseman in
the game, a nonpareil turner of the double play and a student of
the position who had brought his own aesthetic to playing
defense. "Nobody ever played second base like he did," says
Virdon, "and I've been in it for 50 years. One thing I know for
sure: Many second basemen could make the double play if they got
good throws. Maz did not have to have a good throw to complete
the DP. He worked on it constantly, every day."
Groat would play seven years at short with Maz at second base,
and together they would turn hundreds of double plays. Groat came
to view his teammate as an artist. "Mazeroski's release on the
double play was phenomenal," he says. "Bill made himself a great
defensive second baseman. And let me tell you something: You and
me, we couldn't catch a ball with the glove he used, it was so
small. But he had the most marvelous hands in the world."
In fact, says Brown, Mazeroski's hands were so fluid and smooth
that no one talked much about his quick, nimble feet, perhaps the
most important element of his genius as a fielder. "Danny
Murtaugh always said that no one mentioned what great feet
Mazeroski had," recalls Brown. "He had that blocky build, but he
was so graceful. He made everything he did look easy. So quick
with his feet, his body was always standing and facing the right
place to make the catch and the throw. Guys would slide into him,
into those powerful legs, and they'd just stop and drip off him."
Talented as they were, however, the Pirates would be hard-pressed
to beat the Yankees, and they nearly squandered what chances they
had in the World Series on Sept. 25, the day they clinched the
pennant despite losing to the Braves in Milwaukee. On the
Pittsburgh team bus a rowdy gang of players, tearing off one
another's shirts, grabbed Law--a nondrinking deacon in the Mormon
church--and wrestled him down. At the bottom of the pile, someone
grabbed and twisted Law's right foot, trying to pull off his
shoe, and sprained it. That was the pitcher's push-off foot, the
one that helped generate his power, but he insisted on playing
through the Series.
The bookmakers made the Pirates underdogs against New York, but
these Yanks were not Ruppert's Rifles, the Ruth-led team of in
the '20s, nor the Bombers of Gehrig and DiMaggio and King Kong
Keller in the late '30s and '40s, nor even the Yankees of the
'50s, with Hank Bauer and the young Berra and Mantle and all that
pitching. In a paragraph almost eerie in its foresight, New York
Herald-Tribune columnist Red Smith wrote before the first game of
the '60 Series, "Chances are the importance of the manager's role
is exaggerated oftener than it is underestimated, but in a series
of seven games or fewer it can be the deciding factor. There may
not be time to repair the damage caused by a single error in
Casey Stengel's first error was surely his worst. He picked Art
Ditmar (15-9), who had no decisions in World Series play, to
start the first game over the vastly more seasoned Ford (12-9),
the Chairman of the Board, who had a Series record of 5-4 and was
the ace of the Yankees' staff. "Ford was our big pitcher," says
Richardson, "and in any big game he would be the one to start.
Stengel said that Forbes Field was a small park and Ditmar throws
a sinker, and he was saving Whitey for New York--double-talk like
that. Stengel was always playing hunches, but that didn't make
any sense. I remember Mantle saying, 'How can you not start your
best pitcher?' It was a topic among the players."
It was an even bigger topic when Ditmar was lifted in the first
after facing only five batters, getting one out and giving up
three runs. Pittsburgh went on to win 6-4, with Law getting the
victory and Face the save. Mazeroski's Game 7 home run would be
so stunning that it would relegate his other decisive swing of
the Series to the precincts of half-forgotten trivia: In the
fourth inning of Game 1, with one out, Hoak on first and the
Pirates leading 3-2, Maz crushed an 0-2 fastball from Jim Coates
that flew over the scoreboard in dead left and gave Pittsburgh a
5-2 lead. "I was on cloud nine," Mazeroski says. "A home run in
the World Series! I thought it was the greatest thing that had
ever happened to me. It relaxed me for the rest of the Series."
New York won the second game 16-3, and all the Pirates could talk
about was Mantle's second homer of the day. Struck from the right
side of the plate, it was a 450-foot blast that sailed over the
iron gate in right centerfield and was still carrying as it left
the park. Groat was whirlpooling an injured wrist at the end of
the game when Virdon dashed into the clubhouse and blurted to
him, "Roomie, you missed the granddaddy of them all! I never in
my life saw a ball hit as hard as Mantle just hit it. So help me,
it went over the iron gate, and it was still going straight!"
Those first two games set the tempo for the next four. The
Yankees won in blowouts, the Pirates in tight games. In Game 3 in
New York, Ford pitched a nearly spotless 10-0 shutout, deepening
suspicions that Stengel had blundered in Game 1, but Law came
back and won Game 4 for the Pirates 3-2, with Face again getting
the save. The Series was even, 2-2. Matters only got worse for
Stengel. He went with Ditmar over Bill Stafford in Game 5 and
came under even greater fire when Ditmar gave up three runs and
was chased in the second inning. Stafford pitched five scoreless
innings as a middle reliever, but the Pirates won 5-2. Haddix got
the victory, and Face threw 2 2/3 hitless innings in relief for
his third save.
Face was a carpenter and lumberjack from upstate New York, and
like his fellow backwoodsmen Law (an Idahoan who once worked as a
deliveryman for a creamery) and Mazeroski, he was seen in
blue-collar Pittsburgh as a hardscrabble working stiff. Nothing
buoyed his teammates or the home crowds more than the sight of
Face coming in from the bullpen, all 5'8" and 155 pounds of him.
"He had that swagger," says Maz, "a little guy walking in there
with that cockiness. He threw strikes and feared nobody."
All the Pirates had to do was win one more game at Forbes, and
they would be world champs. The celebration would have to wait,
however. Ford was back in Game 6, and he threw a seven-hit
shutout, and New York won 12-0. In the New York clubhouse after
that third slaughter of the Series, Berra muttered to Joe
Reichler of the AP, "I dunno. This game is getting funnier and
funnier. We do everything but punch 'em in the nose, and here we
are all tied up.... How do you figure that?"
That was the question of the day. From the Pirates side, Red
Smith reported, "Immediately on reaching the safety of the
clubhouse, Pittsburgh's well-read leader, Danny Murtaugh, thumbed
through the rule book and gleefully announced a discovery: 'The
series will be decided,' he said, 'on games won, not total runs
All of which made the prospect of the seventh game as delicious
to contemplate as any in World Series history. Would the Pirates,
starting Law, win another squeaker? Or would the Yankees, going
with their Game 2 starter, Bullet Bob Turley, end it all with
The game went neither way. In fact, the old script was rewritten
at the outset. By the end of the second inning, it was the
Pittsburgh bats that had been heard. In the first, after Skinner,
the leftfielder, had walked, the butt of Chub Feeney's little
joke, Rocky Nelson, pulled a Turley fastball into the lower
rightfield stands to put the Pirates ahead 2-0. In the second,
with Hoak on third and Mazeroski on second, Virdon stroked a long
single to center, scoring both runners, and the inning ended with
the Bucs ahead 4-0.
Just as it looked like a rout by the wrong team, little Bobby
Shantz--at 5'6", even shorter than Face--came in to start the third
inning for the Yankees. Shantz could tease hitters into madness.
Throwing a whole farmers' market of sinking pitches, the lefty
had the Pirates hammering balls like stakes into the ground: Over
the next five innings Shantz gave up just one base hit, a single
to catcher Burgess that would prove to have unforeseeable
consequences. Murtaugh lifted Burgess for a pinch runner, Joe
Christopher, and brought Hal Smith in to catch in the eighth.
Aside from allowing Skowron's solo homer in the fifth, which made
the score 4-1, Law had frozen the Yankees' bats. Unable to push
off on his injured foot, he had to draw on his arm as his only
source of power. "I'd more or less fall toward the plate and make
up the difference with my arm," Law says. "In doing that, I
learned later, I tore my rotator cuff."
Murtaugh came to the mound in the sixth, after Law had given up a
single to Richardson and had walked shortstop Tony Kubek on a
full count. Murtaugh was ready to bring in Face, but Law didn't
want to leave the game. "Skip, I feel O.K.," he said. But
Murtaugh just shook his head. Hoak came in from third as Law, his
head down, stood on the mound waiting.
"Look here, Deacon," said Hoak. "You walk off this mound, you
hold your head up! You've done a good job."
Face's fourth Series appearance came at the end of a season in
which he had pitched in a National League-leading 68 games, and
he was tired and not at his sharpest. After Mantle rolled a
single through the box, scoring Richardson, Berra golfed a
towering shot down the foul line toward the upper deck in
rightfield. It looked to Berra as if the ball might hook foul. As
it flew past the pole, a three-run homer, Richardson saw the
stoical Berra do something he'd never seen him do. "Halfway
between home and first, he was jumping up and down," Richardson
recalls. "Boy, was he happy to hit that ball!"
The Yankees mobbed him. Now they were ahead 5-4, and they finally
had the measure of Elroy Face. When they scored twice more off
Face in the eighth, the Yankees led 7-4 and were looking like
winners yet again.
Then came the most bizarre half-inning of the Series. Cimoli led
off by clipping Shantz for a dinky single to short right. Skowron
and Cimoli had played on the same all-star team when they were
teenagers, and as Cimoli stood on first base, Skowron needled him
about the dinker: "Jeez, Gino, did you eat any breakfast today?
Hit the ball!" The next batter, Virdon, slashed a low grounder
toward the rocky Forbes infield at short. It was heading right at
Kubek for an easy double play, and Virdon shouted, "Oh, s---!"
But when the ball struck the dirt, it rose suddenly like a
high-kicking tennis serve and struck Kubek in the Adam's apple.
Kubek fell backward, holding his throat. Cimoli stopped at
second, and time was called. Stengel ran over to Kubek and tried
to break up the crowd gathering around him. "Stand back!" he
yelled. "Give him room. He'll be all right."
Cimoli drifted over. "He started to choke; he was gasping for
air," he says of Kubek.
Skowron watched the shortstop gag. "He was coughing up blood," he
Richardson heard Kubek gasp, "Get me to the hospital. I can't
breathe." When Kubek was taken off the field, the crowd gave him
a standing O. It was not much consolation to the Yankees. Instead
of two outs and nobody on, the Pirates had two on and nobody out.
Then, after Groat had lined a single to left, scoring Cimoli,
Stengel made another fateful move. With no one out, men on first
and second and New York leading 7-5, the situation called for the
batter, Skinner, to bunt. But Stengel had another hunch, and
though Shantz could field anything--"Bobby was probably the
greatest fielding pitcher in the history of baseball," says
Brown--the manager lifted him for Coates.
The Pirates were euphoric. "Bobby Shantz had dazzled us," Groat
Skinner's sacrifice bunt was fielded cleanly by Clete Boyer, but
it moved Virdon to third, Groat to second. After Nelson flied out
to Maris, with Virdon holding at third, Clemente came to bat with
two outs. What happened next is now a part of 1960 World Series
lore. Clemente hit a slow chopper toward first. Skowron
backhanded it and looked to throw to Coates covering first, but
Coates was not there. It is the Series moment that Richardson
remembers best. "Routine play!" he says. "Any ball to the right
side of the infield, the pitcher covers first."
The inning should have been over, the score still 7-5, Yankees.
Instead, Virdon scored from third, making it 7-6. Groat was on
third and Clemente on first as catcher Hal Smith walked to the
plate. In the stands, Virdon's wife, Shirley, was sitting next to
Smith's wife, also named Shirley, when Coates fired a fastball.
Smith swung and missed. Coates threw a second heater to the same
spot, and Smith launched it on a 420-foot flight over the
leftfield wall. All of Forbes went up in a roar. Shirley Smith
threw her camera high into the air, and Shirley Virdon reached
out to catch it.
Smith was rounding second before it dawned on him what he had
done. "I looked over, and people were dancing on the dugout," he
recalls. "They were dancing in the stands and screaming and
hugging and jumping up and down all over the ballpark. I remember
thinking, Boy, this is something!"
Groat and Clemente met Smith at the plate, and both yelled to him
above the din, "You won the game! You won the game!"
Pittsburgh's euphoria disappeared, of course, when New York
roared back in the ninth to tie the score. As the Pirates sat in
the dugout, waiting for Maz to hit, a saddened Smith said to
Skinner, "Bob, I guess I wasn't destined to be a hero."
Forty years have come and gone since Mazeroski hit the Home Run,
and it has remained a part of Pittsburgh's mythology, as big and
vivid now as when it happened. It left its imprint on many lives.
Stengel did not survive it as Yankees skipper. Many sportswriters
speculated during the Series that the 70-year-old Stengel would
retire after the last game, but he wanted to stay after suffering
the bitterest loss of his career. At his final press conference,
five days later, he said, "They have paid me off in full and told
me my services are not desired any longer by this club."
Ralph Houk took his place and led the Yankees to two world
titles, in '61 and '62. Seeing Mazeroski years later, Houk kidded
him, "If it weren't for you, I might not have got that job."
Some of Maz's former teammates think that, in a perverse way, the
Home Run has prevented him from gaining induction into the Hall
of Fame. "That's all people remember about him," says Groat.
There is considerably more to remember about Mazeroski as a
player. Bill James, the guru of baseball statistics, has
developed a numerical system for judging fielders, and his
conclusion is unequivocal: "I have no doubt that Mazeroski is the
premier defensive second baseman in the history of baseball, and
I would list him among the five best defensive players of all
time." James puts him in the company of Ozzie Smith, Honus Wagner
and Johnny Bench. Mazeroski was a .260 lifetime hitter, but he
had 2,016 hits over 17 seasons, and no doubt he prevented more
runs with his glove than most major leaguers have scored. Like
many of his teammates and many fans who saw him play, Mazeroski
hopes the Veterans Committee will vote him into the Hall.
Mazeroski is sitting in the living room of his house in Panama
City, Fla., which he shares with his wife, Milene, whom he met
through Murtaugh and married in 1958. The old second baseman
spends his days fishing for striped bass and playing golf. A shy,
humble man, protective of his privacy, he is not one for
indulging in nostalgia.
Every year since 1985, on the anniversary of the Home Run,
several hundred people have congregated on the Pitt campus at the
site where Forbes Field stood until 1970 and where a part of the
centerfield wall remains. At 1 p.m., the time Game 7 began, they
start listening to a tape of the game's radio broadcast. At 3:36
p.m., sure enough, the announcer calls the Home Run.
Where the wall in left center used to be, a bronze plaque
embedded in a sidewalk marks the spot where the ball sailed out
to win the World Series. Mazeroski has never attended the ritual
rebroadcast of the game. He has trouble fathoming all the fuss.
He shifts in his chair at home. "Forty years ago!" he says. "I
never dreamed when it happened that people would still be talking
about it 40 years later. It has seemed to grow and grow and grow.
Amazing, really amazing."
What he appreciates is that he was blessed to live the oldest of
youthful dreams. As a boy in Skunk Hollow, he would go down to
the highway with an empty bucket, fill it with stones and trudge
back up the hill. He would then spend hours whacking the stones
with broken broom handles.
"That is so clear in my mind, throwing those stones up and
hitting them," he says. "All summer long. I didn't have anybody
to play with. I'd hit it so far for a single, so far for a
double, so far for a home run. I was Babe Ruth. Always. You
always got in a situation when it was the seventh game of the
World Series, everybody's counting on you. Then you hit the home
run. I was no different from any other boy doing that."
Just one difference, really. He nods his white-thatched head.
"I got to do it in real life," he says.
To Nelson's surprise, Mantle dove back and crawled like a
lizard to first base.
The first two games set the tempo. The Yanks won blowouts, the
Bucs tight games.
After New York tied Game 7 in the ninth, Richardson thought, Boy,
we got 'em now!
Every now and then a team, like the '60 Pirates, begins to play
as if touched by magic.
The series will be decided," said Murtaugh, "on games won, not
total runs scored."
Mazeroski is the premier defensive second baseman in history,"
James says unequivocally.