Just-turned 24-year-old Bill Mazeroski, son of a coal miner, stepped up to the
plate to lead off the fateful ninth inning and answer destiny's call. Though
decades later, many historians and analysts would continue to hail him as
likely the greatest defensive second baseman to ever play the game, it is this
one magical moment with his bat that he will most often be associated. After
taking Ralph Terry's first pitch for a ball, Mazeroski drove the second
offering, a high fastball, up and over left fielder Yogi Berra's head and into
the trees behind the ivy-covered wall. The jubilant young man danced around
the bases, waving his batting helmet around in his hand, as fans spilled out
of the Forbes Field stands to form a welcoming committee. As he came around
third base, home plate umpire Bill Jackowski desperately tried to hold back
players so Maz could touch home and make it official before being mobbed.
that instant, the city of Pittsburgh went berserk. Ticker tape and even phone
books were tossed out of office building windows; traffic was stopped at
intersections as horns honked and ecstatic fans paraded amidst the debris.
The town was reveling in its first world championship in 35 years. Arthur
Daley of the New York Times wrote, "This was New Year's Eve, the Mardi Gras,
and Armistice Day jammed into one boisterous package." A champagne-soaked
Mazeroski declared in the winner's clubhouse, "I'm too happy to think."
Dejected Yank pitcher Terry offered, "I don't know what the pitch was. All I
know is it was the wrong one." Berra, no stranger to postseason excitement,
including catching Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 admitted that this was
the most exciting game he ever played. Frank Gibbons of the Cleveland Press
wrote, "The last game may not have been baseball at its best, but it was
baseball at its most exciting; the kind of game that keeps alive the tradition
that is the national pastime." Jimmy Powers of the New York Daily News reckoned, "It was a win for the poor little guys against the big rich guys swollen
with past loot and overladen with records."
Pirate outfielder Gino Cimoli observed, "They set the records, but we won the
game." The Yankees had set a series record with a team batting average of
338 while Pittsburgh batted just .256. New York had outscored them 55-27,
with a team ERA of 3.54 compared to the Bucs' lofty 7.11. Individually,
little second baseman Richardson set a still-standing record of 12 RBI, and
remains the only World Series MVP to be selected from the losing team. Sports
Illustrated referred to him after as "the mouse that roared." The Corvette he
was presented with, however, was quickly traded in for a station wagon. Berra
established new series records for most World Series (11), Series games (68),
and RBI (36), to go along with adding to his records for at-bats (245), hits
(68), total bases (111), as well as several fielding records.
Add to this the lack of contribution from several Pirate regulars; left
fielder Bob Skinner missed five of the seven games with an injury; slugging
first baseman Stuart had zero RBI in 20 at-bats; 18-game winner Friend was 0-2
with a 13.50 ERA.
Whether or not it was supernatural forces at work, divine intervention, or
perhaps blatant favoritism from Lady Luck, the Pirates managed to render many
impressive statistics virtually meaningless.
From 1960: The Last Pure Season by Kerry Keene.
Copyright © 2000 by Kerry Keene. Reprinted with permission.