In mid-October of 1960 in newsrooms across America, manual typewriters
hammered out words like "fantastic," "implausible," and "weird" to describe
the just-completed Pirates-Yankees World Series. Renowned sportswriter Fred
Lieb, who had witnessed 47 Fall Classics wrote that it was "the wackiest ever
played." It was believed that future historians would review the statistics
and wonder "what happened?". The Yankees' individual statistical dominance
was such that for the only time in the history of the World Series, the Most
Valuable Player came from the losing team.
While the Yankees were regular visitors to World Series play over the previous
several decades, lifelong Pirates fans as old as 35 had never known the
excitement of watching their team in postseason play. The "Murderers Row"
Yankees of 1927, featuring Ruth and Gehrig had dispatched Pittsburgh in four
straight, and the drought began. The Pirates had actually won the Series two
years before in 1925 against Walter Johnson's Washington Senators. Several
members of that World Championship team were to be on hand for Game One at
Forbes Field, including "Pie" Traynor and the team's manager Bill McKechnie.
Constructed in 1909, Forbes Field was the first modern-era steel and concrete
ballpark. In its maiden season, the Pirates, led by Honus Wagner, went on to
defeat Ty Cobb's Tigers in the '09 World Series.
The drama was set to begin at one o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, October 5 in
Pittsburgh, the city of steel. Stengel was looking to capture his eighth world
championship, which would surpass the seven earned by former Yankee pilot Joe McCarthy, and give him sole possession of the managerial record. The odds were
placed at seven to five in favor of New York helping Stengel to achieve the
milestone. The match-up of the two teams was generally billed as "Yankee
power" versus "Pirate pitching," and many felt that New York's slugging
ability plus its vast edge in series experience would prevail. Mantle
expressed confidence in his ability to swing for the fences in Pittsburgh,
noting that the outfield dimensions were not that different from Yankee Stadium. He recalled, "I played here twice before, and I hit one over the
right field roof the first time." Mantle was referring to a blow that
traveled more than 500 feet in an exhibition game in 1957, making him one of a
small handful of hitters to reach that location.
With an overflow crowd of nearly 37,000 jammed into the cozy ballpark, the
entire city was consumed by the Pirates' quest for their first world
championship in 35 years. A local judge even delayed the start of a murder
trial on the grounds that a jury might not be able to concentrate on the
evidence due to the excitement of the Series. Even across the country, all but
diehard Yankee fans seemed to be pulling for the "working class lunchpail
hardhats" to emerge victorious over the "city slicker businessmen".
Pregame ceremonies included Pennsylvania Governor David Lawrence throwing out
the first pitch to veteran catcher Smoky Burgess, and Pittsburgh native Billy Eckstine singing the national anthem to the accompaniment of the University of
From 1960: The Last Pure Season by Kerry Keene.
Copyright © 2000 by Kerry Keene. Reprinted with permission.