Exactly fifty years ago today, on Thursday, October 13, 1960, that the World Series saw its most exciting and dramatic finish ever.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ third baseman Bill Mazeroski reached out and poked a Bill Terry pitch high over the leftfield wall at Forbes Field. Maz’ homer ended the World Series – the first time the Fall Classic had ended with a walk-off home run. And it’s only happened once since. Joe Carter fans may remember that one. And remembering Mazeroski’s homer reminds us why there is nothing like the spectacle of sport.
The 1960 World Series was one of the most bizarre ever played. Behind the hitting of 26-year old Roberto Clemente and the pitching of Vern Law (20 wins) and Bob Friend (18), the Pirates had won their first National League pennant in 33 years. The New York Yankees, with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Moose Skowron, had just raised their ninth pennant since 1950. If you are thinking the Pirates were in tough, you are correct.
In those days, home field advantage in the World Series simply alternated between the NL and AL. Fortunately for the underdog Pirates, 1960 was the NL’s year to host Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. Danny Murtaugh’s Pirates shocked the Bronx Bombers in Game One, 6-4, with 30-year old Vern Law tossing seven innings and scattering ten hits. He also gave up a home run to the third batter of the game, making Roger Maris just the seventh player in World Series history to homer in his first at-bat in the Fall Classic. Mazeroski also homered in Game One – a two-run shot that staked the Bucs to a 5-2 lead.
In Games Two and Three, the New Yorkers absolutely pounded Pittsburgh, 16-3 and 10-0. Those can’t be World Series scores, can they? Then, in Game Four, the Yankees’ bats stopped working. On a Sunday afternoon, in front of over 67,000 at Yankee Stadium, the heart of the Yankees’ order (Maris, Mantle, Berra and Skowron) went 2-for-15. That after going 13-for-34 in the previous two games. The Pirates evened the Series with an improbable 3-2 win.
In Game Five, it was Mazeroski again, who keyed a three-run, second inning by doubling to left. Maz’ heroics came after Yankees’ third baseman Gil McDougald kept the inning alive by dropping the ball on a play at third. Back to Forbes Field.
And back to the Yankees pounding out 17 hits of six Pirates’ pitchers. For New York, Lefty Whitey Ford tossed a complete-game, seven-hitter, striking out five. And that set up Game Seven.
It’s 50 years ago today. Bottom of the ninth. Score tied 9-9. Yankees have just scored twice in the top of the ninth, breaking the hearts of 36,000+ Pittsburgh fans. No one, not even Mazeroski, knew this simple lead-off at bat would make him the stuff of legend. The model for a statue that now stands at PNC Park – sadly, far away from where Forbes Field once stood. He floated around the bases. Pirates’ fans went crazy. And that is the true beauty of sport.
Sport is spectacular. Unpredictable. Thrilling. And always worth remembering. For fifty years.