The Pop History Dig is a terrific website that chronicles signature events and figures of 20th century popular culture. And the latest submission by encyclopedic author Jack Doyle is one close to the hardworking staff’s heart.
“The Mazeroski Moment”
1960 World Series
It was the ultimate in baseball – the final, showdown Game 7 of a World Series. The place was Forbes Field, a classic baseball park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was October 13th, 1960, that time of year when the last warm days of summer begin to meet crisper fall afternoons. Excitement was already in the air generally, both in Pittsburgh and throughout the nation, as a presidential election race was underway and a young man named John F. Kennedy was offering the country something new. Later that evening, in fact, Kennedy and his Republican opponent, vice president Richard Nixon, would debate on national television for the third time. But the business at hand in Pittsburgh that afternoon wasn’t politics; it was baseball.
Yes it was.
The hardrooting staff, which has been a Made Yankee Fan in Boston for 40 years, remembers that day like it was yesterday. But Doyle renders it like it’s today.
Cut to the chase:
Now it was the bottom of the ninth inning, with home team Pittsburgh coming to bat. One run, scored at any time that inning, was all the Pirates needed to win the World Series. Yankee pitcher, Ralph Terry, who had made the final Pirate out in the eighth inning, returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth . . . The first man he faced was Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski. Maz was having a pretty decent Series (in fact, he would go 8-for-25 over the seven games and bat .320 for the Series ), and although he had hit one home run earlier in the Series, in Game 1, he was still not regarded as a home run threat. During the 1960 season Maz had hit 11 home runs.
Terry’s first pitch to Mazeroski was a fast ball down the middle but high, for a ball. Next came a pitch lower in the hitting zone which Mazeroski unloaded on with a good swing. The ball popped off the bat and soared high into the afternoon sky heading toward and then over the left field wall. Bill Mazeroski had just made his Pittsburgh Pirates the 1960 champions of baseball.
The great Mel Allen’s call:
…There’s a drive into deep left field, look out now… that ball is going, going, gone! And the World Series is over! Mazeroski… hits it over the left field fence, and the Pirates win it 10–9 and win the World Series!
Years later, Mickey Mantle was quoted as saying that losing the 1960 World Series was the biggest disappointment of his career, the only loss, amateur or professional, over which he cried actual tears.
Hey, if The Mick could cry, why not me too?
Some years later I wrote this commentary for WGBH radio.
ANCHOR: Last week, the New York Yankees played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Steel City for the first time since their 1960 World Series seven-game classic. Here’s John Carroll’s Take.
It was the damnedest thing I’d ever seen, and I was 11 years old by that time. The 1960 World Series was entirely bipolar: The New York Yankees won 3 laughers by a combined 35 runs, while the Pittsburgh Pirates won 3 squeakers by a combined 6 runs. Everyone knew which team was superior.
Even so, there was still Game Seven to play at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Because Yankee manager Casey Stengel had completely botched his pitching rotation, it was journeyman Bob Turley – not money-in-the-bank Whitey Ford – who took the mound for the decisive game.
Bullet Bob lasted all of one inning – giving up three runs on two hits and a walk. But the Yankees clawed back –largely through the efforts of left fielder Yogi Berra, who drove in four runs on one hit and a walk.
SFX: 1960 WORLD SERIES 0036
YOGI HAS PRODUCED MORE HITS AND DRIVEN IN
MORE RUNS THAN ANY OTHER SERIES STAR IN HISTORY.
NEW YORK HAS A BRACE OF RUNS TO TAKE A
7-4 LEAD, AND THE PIRATES’ HOPES FADE
But in the fateful bottom of the eighth, Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek was hit in the throat by a bad-hop grounder that should’ve been a double-play ball. Instead, the Bucs went on to score five runs and take a 9-7 lead into the ninth.
The Yankees once again clawed back to tie the game. But leading off the bottom of the ninth, light-hitting second baseman Bill Mazeroski did this:
SFX: 1960 MAZ HOME RUN 0008
BACK TO THE WALL GOES BERRA
IT’S OVER THE FENCE – HOME RUN –
THE PIRATES WIN
Mazeroski’s clout went down as one of the most dramatic moments in sports history, not to mention my young life.
Years later, the Missus asked me in an offhand way what my all-time favorite team was. She had come across a mail-order company that sold reproductions of the hometown paper’s front page the day after a World Series win, and she wanted to get me one for my birthday.
I told her the 1960 New York Yankees.
Shortly thereafter, the Missus received the October 14, 1960 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette front page with the headline “BUCS ARE CHAMPS” in umpteen-point all-caps boldface. The Missus was, understandably, somewhat confused. She called the mail-order company and said, “No, I wanted the 1960 World Series front page.”
The mail-order gal replied, “Honey, you got the 1960 World Series front page.”
The Missus continued to be somewhat confused, so she asked me how I could be that attached to a losing team.
Because of the way they lost, I said. The 1960 Yankees were the team that taught me exactly how heart-stopping baseball could be. And in the end, that was even better than winning.
But man, it hurt. (Luckily, the next year worked out better.)
Subsequently, the Missus bought me this Official Souvenir Program, with the Game 7 box score filled in.
And this Game 7 ticket.
God love her.
I loved that series when the Yankees slaughtered the Pirates in the games they won, but the Pirates managed to win more games and the Series, even if they were by the skin of their teeth. It was also a Series with games played in the afternoon that I listened to on a scratchy portable radio, unlike these celebrity attended media events that pass for a World Series today. You know actual fans went to those old time Series.
Amen to all, Al. My memory might be failing me here (newsreels getting mixed up with reality and etc.), but I’m pretty sure I saw Mazeroski’s homer on TV that day. Either way, one of the most vivid memories of my ill-gotten youth.
Nice piece – then and now.