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100 Things Pirates Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Steve Ziants
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
All rights reserved.
3:36 pm, October 13, 1960
If you were alive and a Pirates fans, you remember where you were. If you had not yet been born, you learned it along with your ABC's. And if you were there, it still might not seem real. That's hardly unexpected. Even the protagonist in that day's storybook tale had a hard time wrapping his mind around the blow he struck on an unseasonably warm October Thursday afternoon that charged a city and changed a man's life, and he's been living that life every day for more than half a century. "Fifty years later, I don't think it's sunk in yet," Bill Mazeroski told Robert Dvorchak in a wonderful story written in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of the moment voted the greatest in Pittsburgh sports history and, arguably, the greatest in World Series history.
Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pirates and New York Yankees had already given the 36,683 at Forbes Field that day their fill of drama and theater as had the six games that preceded it. The vaunted big-city Yankees, winners of seven of the previous 11 World Series and 18 overall, had outscored the Pirates by a combined 38–3 in their three wins, including 12–0 in Game 6. They had outhit the Pirates (78–49), out-homered them (8–1) and, with a 2.38 earned run average to the Pirates' 6.79, outpitched them. The mill-town Pirates, who had not been to a World Series in 33 years, not won one in 35, finished last or next-to-last in the National League eight times in the previous 10 years, and had won 23 games in their final at-bat during the season just to get to October, had scratched out 6–4, 3–2, and 5–2 wins in Games 1, 4, and 5.
That afternoon, the Pirates had seen a 4–0 lead after three innings become a 5–4 deficit after six, a 9–7 lead after eight, and then a 9–9 tie after 81/2. For a few minutes, maybe 10, it seemed that Hal Smith, a journeyman catcher, would be the game's hero and the player who would be remembered 50 years later after his three-run home run in the eighth inning put the Pirates ahead 9–7 and turned Forbes Field into "an outdoor insane asylum." But the Yankees rallied for two runs off Bob Friend in the top of the ninth, runs that elbowed Smith from eternal hero to historical footnote and made way for the 24-year-old son of an Eastern Ohio coal miner with soft hands, a legendary turn at second base, and 49 major league home runs to write his way not just into Pittsburgh history but into the very cement and steel and sky of the city itself.
Earlier in the game, Mazeroski had singled and scored in the second inning. Earlier in the Series, he had hit a two-run homer for what proved to be the winning runs in Game 1. But, like Smith, they became footnotes to the one at-bat that was to come, to the one swing that met a Ralph Terry "slider that didn't slide," to the one hit that would never get old, and to the one and only home run ever to end a World Series Game 7. "For a second there, I didn't know what to do," Mazeroski "wrote" in his Series diary that appeared the next day in the Pittsburgh Press. "But the message finally got to my legs, and I set sail." It wasn't until he approached second base that he realized it was a home run; that the ball that he hit toward left field had carried up and out, past Yankees left fielder Yogi Berra, past the Longines scoreboard clock, and ultimately over the piece of the Forbes Field brick wall that measured 406' from home plate.
Three-thirty-six in the afternoon of October 13, 1960. The game was over. The Series was over. The wait for Pittsburgh was over. "From second to home, I never touched the ground," Mazeroski said in 2010 — the year the Pirates unveiled a statue in his honor. By second base, he'd pulled off his hat. Between second and third, he waved his arms and his steps found new altitude. By the time he hit third, he'd been joined by seemingly half the fans in Forbes Field. By the time he touched home plate, the rest of Pittsburgh had joined them.
"It was V-E Day, V-J Day, New Year's Eve, and the Fourth of July all rolled up in one," wrote Vince Johnson of the Post-Gazette. "It elevated the status of a shot-and-a-beer industrial city trying to remake itself from its sooty past," wrote Dvorchak. "Emotionally, nothing quite like it had happened in Pittsburgh since 1758 when Gen. John Forbes clobbered the French," wrote Joe Williams in the Press. "All hell broke loose," wrote Al Gioia of the Post-Gazette. One estimate put the celebrating crowd in Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle at 300,000. Entryways into the city were shut down by mid-evening. Confetti piled up knee deep in parts of the city. Pittsburgh has celebrated six Super Bowls, three Stanley Cups, and two more World Series since that night. None of those celebrations approached that level of spontaneity or tapped the vein of pure joy of Mazeroski's homer.
"I just figured it was another home run to win a ballgame," said Mazeroski in a story that appeared the morning his statue was dedicated. "But here we are 50 years later, and it's bigger now than it was then. The longer and longer it went, the bigger and bigger it got."
It was a good quote uttered in typical Mazeroski raised-on-a-dirt-road humility. But also not necessarily honest. For no matter how much time passes or how many times the events of October 13, 1960, are re-told, the product of human memory and recollection can never be bigger than the storybook ending that he wrote that afternoon. It just isn't possible. Not in Pittsburgh. Not in baseball.
Forbes' Last Day
Call it cosmic. Call it poetic. Call it an homage to coincidence. Not quite 10 years after Bill Mazeroski struck the most famous blow in the 61-year history of Forbes Field, the old park hosted its last games on June 28, 1970 — a doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates collected their last hit in the seventh inning of the nightcap. The owner of that last hit? William Stanley Mazeroski. Maz — fittingly, seeing as he was the game's best-fielding second baseman more than he was a home-run hitter — also made the park's last play, a grounder to second by Chicago's Don Kessinger that he turned into a force out of Willie Smith at second.CHAPTER 2
The Perfect Loss
There was no reason to believe that Harvey Haddix, a 5'9" lefthander from Ohio farm country, would do what he did that night in Milwaukee. He had given up 10 hits to the St. Louis Cardinals in his previous start. He was fighting a cold. Rain threatened. The winds were picking up. And he was on the road facing the two-time defending National League champion Milwaukee Braves, against whom he was 1–5 with a 4.47 earned run average over the previous two-plus seasons. But then, the impossibly amazing wouldn't be so if it were expected or scheduled. Then it would be the everyday, the routine, the ordinary.
To be sure, there was no trace of ordinary in what Haddix did from the mound of Milwaukee's County Stadium the night of May 26, 1959. On that Tuesday night, beginning just after 8:00 and stretching over the next 2 hours, 54 minutes, and 12-plus innings, he authored arguably the greatest game ever pitched.
And he lost.
Therein lies the tug of his story. He lost. The other men in baseball history who had pitched perfect games had all won. But on this night, in the 13th inning, after setting down 36 consecutive Braves batters, including Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron four times each, Haddix lost. "A note so despairing," wrote Lester J. Biederman in the next day's Pittsburgh Press, "that the boxscore might have been compiled by William Shakespeare, who realized that defeat at the brink of heroic victory is the essence of tragedy."
This was sporting tragedy, for Haddix had given great theater.
For 12 innings — three innings longer than any pitcher in baseball history — he had set the Braves down 1-2-3; the definition of the perfect game and then some, spilling out into the margins of the book where no pens had before written. Even his pitch count was perfect, particularly in the light of twenty-first century standards in which so many pitchers need 100 pitches just to get through six innings. Against the Braves that night, Haddix threw just 115 in 122/3. Eighty-two for strikes. No more than 14 in any inning. "The greatest game in the history of baseball," was said or written more than once in the hours and days afterward. History has done little to negate that instant analysis. But he lost. Because his Pirates teammates, despite collecting 12 hits — all singles — could not score against Milwaukee pitcher Lew Burdette.
And so 0–0 it went into the bottom of the 13th inning. Milwaukee fans, all 19,194 realizing they'd been blessed to witness something no one had seen before or likely would again, gave him standing ovations after the ninth, 10th, 11th, and 12th innings. But there would be no ovation after the 13th.
Felix Mantilla led off the Braves' bottom half of the inning with a routine grounder to third baseman Don Hoak. Hoak fielded it cleanly, but his throw to first was in the dirt. Milwaukee's first-base runner was aboard on a throwing error. The perfect game was gone. Still, the no-hitter remained. How important was a single run on this night? Mathews, who would lead the National League with 46 home runs that summer, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Mantilla to second. Haddix walked Aaron intentionally, bringing up Joe Adcock. After throwing a ball on the first pitch, Haddix hung a slider that Adcock swung at — and hit deep to right-center field. Center fielder Bill Virdon ran hard to the wall. "I never jumped so high in my life," Virdon said. "I never wanted to catch a ball so much in my life." But it dropped over. Not far out of reach. But far enough, perhaps defining the distance Shakespeare had in mind.
The final score would not go down as 3–0, however. In a messy scoring twist to a clean night, Aaron, thinking the game was over once Mantilla crossed home plate, headed for the dugout after touching second base. Adcock kept running and passed him. Aaron did not score. Adcock was ruled out. The final score would go down as 1–0. Not that it mattered.
"A man pitches a perfect game like this once in a lifetime — once in baseball history — and we can't win it for him," Virdon bemoaned, reflecting the sentiments of the Pirates' clubhouse.
Everyone except for Haddix. He didn't sleep that night, walking the streets of Milwaukee until dawn. But he cast no blame — at Hoak or the Pirates offense. He begged no sympathy. His only regret was that the Pirates lost the game, not that he lost his chance at immortality. Funny thing about that, though. The immortality he might have thought lost was, in fact, paradoxically enhanced by the way the game played out. Even baseball's decision later to rule that what Haddix did that night was not a perfect game could in no way diminish what he did, what players on both teams saw, what the 19,194 in the stadium witnessed, and what writers for generations have tried to explain.
"It's like a good story with that final twist in the end," Haddix would later say.
Could Shakespeare have said it better?CHAPTER 3
The First World Series
In a mostly vacant professional team sports landscape, decades before national all-consuming events like the Super Bowl and college basketball's March Madness and just seven years after the return of the Olympic Games, Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had an idea. It wasn't a new idea, but it was the version that history most remembers because it was the idea that endured. It was 1903 and professional baseball was emerging from a decade of labor wars in which teams and leagues fought for players, fans, and their very survival. Earlier that year the National League had acknowledged the two-year-old American League as its equal. The American, in turn, promised to cease raiding National League rosters for players. But labor peace alone wouldn't be enough to re-invigorate the imagination of fans for the sport.
Dreyfuss, then 38, envisioned something greater — a season-ending series of games between the champions of the two leagues. A series that would channel the enmity and rivalry built up on the labor front, spark interest among fans wearied by the bickering, and — oh, by the way — make a few dollars along the way. In a sport that wouldn't have a commissioner or centralized administration for nearly 20 years, Dreyfuss was free to act on his vision. In August, with his team headed to a third consecutive National League pennant, he wrote to Henry Killilea, owner of the Boston Americans (forerunner of the Red Sox), who were running away with the AL pennant behind manager and star third baseman Jimmy Collins. "We would create great interest in baseball, in our leagues and in our players," Dreyfuss wrote. "I also believe it would be a financial success." On September 18 — less than two weeks before the first game would be played — Dreyfuss and Killilea met in Pittsburg (no 'h' yet) to sign the agreement for a best-of-nine "Great World's Series."
It would be a Series we might find difficult to recognize in a twenty-first century of specialists, pitch counts, and schedules dictated by television. Not only was it best-of-nine instead of best-of-seven, there were other elements unique to its day.
Pirates 25-game winner Deacon Phillippe started five of the eight games played, won three, and pitched 44 innings.
The Boston duo of Cy Young and Bill Dinneen proved even more durable, combining to pitch 69 of a possible 71 innings.
The teams combined for 25 triples, a number inflated by overflow crowds allowed to ring the outfield in both Pittsburgh's Exposition Park and Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds, a decision that forced a ground rule whereby any ball hit into those fans was an automatic triple.
Losing players earned a bigger series check than winning players (Dreyfuss pitched in his own share of the gate), meaning each Pirates' player share was $1,316.25, and each Americans' player share was $1,182.
Betting was a big part of the series and figured prominently in daily newspaper coverage. Dreyfuss reportedly lost $7,000 betting on the Pirates. He was not alone.
The two-time defending National League champion Pirates, led by Honus Wagner, Ginger Beaumont, and player/manager Fred Clarke, were decided favorites. For four games, they looked the part. Beginning with the first game in World Series history — October 1, 1903, at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds, a 7–3 Pirates victory that included the first pitch in Series history (by Boston's Cy Young to Beaumont), first hit (Pittsburg's Tommy Leach), first run (Leach), first RBI (Wagner), and first home run (Pittsburg's Jimmy Sebring off Young) — they won three of the first four games with Phillippe earning the win in all three. But with Clarke lacking a dependable arm other than Phillippe because of illness (Ed Doheny would be committed to an insane asylum before the end of the year and never pitch again) and injury (Sam Leever hurt his shoulder in a trap-shooting contest days before the start of the Series), the Americans rallied behind Young and Dinneen to win Games 5–8 and win the Series 5–3. They limited the Pirates to eight runs over those last four games, with Young pitching a four-hit, 3–0 shutout in the deciding Game 8 on October 13, 1903, in Boston. Wagner was the most noteworthy victim of Young and Dinneen, going just 1-for-14 in those last four games.
Excerpted from 100 Things Pirates Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Steve Ziants. Copyright © 2014 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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