Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Though a lifelong Pirates fan, I have no personal attachment to their dramatic 1960 World Series victory because I was not yet born. All I really knew about it was that Mazeroski hit a dramatic game-winning homer in the bottom of the 9th, that more people claim to have been there than could really have been there, and that that homer probably delayed Mazeroski’s entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame by calling attention to his power numbers which were not among his more important contributions.

So it has delighted me to read firsthand accounts of that series by Yankees and Pirates who played in it. WE PLAYED THE GAME: 65 Players Remember Baseball’s Greatest Era 1947-1964 is 643 pages of wonderful baseball stories told by old-timers who played the game because they loved playing the game.

All I knew about the Series was that Mazeroski ended it in historic fashion. The players tell the rest of the story.

Joe de Maestri, Yankees:
When we won, we destroyed them. We did everything right in that Series except win the final game.
[In bottom 8] Hal Smith hit a 3-run homer off Coates to put them ahead 9-7. That homer completely shocked me. Still, we came back to tie the game in the top of the ninth. Mickey’s base-running prevented a double play and kept the rally going.
Of course, I’ll never forget what happened in the bottom of the ninth. Ralph Terry threw the first pitch of the inning right down the middle to Bill Mazeroski. He didn’t swing, but Casey went to the mound to talk to Terry. He turned around and he was coming back toward the dugout. He was walking right toward me and was about 3 feet from the dugout when he heard Mazeroski lay into Terry’s second pitch, the same pitch. Casey [Stengel] never looked at the ball, but just made a left turn and walked toward the clubhouse. He didn’t have to look. Mazeroski really crunched that ball—it cleared the wall in left center and that was a long, long way. It was a devastating loss. I know Mickey cried. Other guys did too.

Bob Turley, Yankees:
We didn’t blame Ralph Terry for the Mazeroski homer. They guy who gave up the big hit was Jim Coates, who gave up Hal Smith’s 3-run homer in the 8th to put them ahead. He shouldn’t have been in there when we had Ryne Duren and Luis Arroyo sitting down in the bullpen. I’m sure that contributed to Stengel being fired.

Ryne Duren, Yankees:
Stengel brought in Coates too soon. He should have left in Bobby Shantz to face Bob Skinner. It should have been a left-hander against a left-hander. More important, it was a bunt situation and you don’t take out the best-fielding pitcher in baseball and replace him with one of the worst. Skinner was able to move up the runners. One out later, Clemente hit a slow grounder down the first-base line. Coates didn’t get off the mound quick enough and Clemente beat Skowron to first. Then Smith followed with his homer. That loss to the Pirates in the World Series was devastating to me.

Dick Groat, Pirates:
They hit about .340 that Series and outscored us 55 to 27. They killed us 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. There was no contest... But the great teams always win the close games. And we won every close game in the Series.
[In Game Seven, bottom 8] Bob Skinner was the next batter. It was then that Casey Stengel made a huge mistake. Sportwriters could have had a field day with him if they understood what was going on, but they never questioned his decision to take out Shantz, the best defensive pitcher in baseball and a left-hander, and bring in a right-hander, Jim Coates. Until my single, we hadn’t hit one hard ball off Shantz. And Skinner was going to bunt, without question, and Shantz was great at defensing bunts and forcing the runner at third. One thing about Danny Murtaugh was that he never went away from the book. They Yankees had scouting reports from Mayo Smith and Bill Skiff, who had been traveling with us for two months. They knew what we ate for breakfast, so they certainly knew Murtaugh would have Skinner bunt. So against Coates, Skinner bunted us to second and third. Then Rocky Nelson hits a fly ball that wasn’t deep enough for us to advance. So there were 2 outs and we were still 2 runs behind and Stengel’s decision hadn’t backfired yet. But then Bobby Clemente hit a high chopper to Bill Skowron, and he looked up and saw that Coates forgot to cover first base. Clemente beat it out. Now we were behind by one run, with the left-handed-hitting Hal Smith facing the right-handed Coates. Hal hit a 3-run homer and we went up by 2 runs. The Yankees had semi-beaten themselves.
[When Maz hit the home run] There was dead silence. The crowd swelled, but there was no sound in the dugout. Nobody said anything. Everybody was just kind of hypnotized, and when it went over, we just exploded out of the dugout.
Everything was shut down and you couldn’t go anyplace, and everybody was racing into town. Yet only about 3 windows were broken, nobody was beaten up, no cars were burned, no property was destroyed. Most of the cost for the cleanup went to remove confetti. Pittsburgh, then a baseball town, had the happiest celebration in the world.

ElRoy Face, Pirates:
I wasn’t surprised the [Maz] homered. People forget he had power and had 19 homers in 1958. He had homered off Coates in Game One to put that game out of reach.
I was thrilled, but not surprised we beat the Yankees. We were confident we could win. We knew we could win close games because we’d done that all season long.

Dick Schofield, Pirates:
The Yankees were fantastic, probably a better team than us…but in that year…we knew we were going to win. We were even more confident than the Yankees.
So many bizarre things happened in Game Seven. There was so much drama. But since so many guys on our team did things to help us win, it wasn’t surprising when Mazeroski homered to win the game, even though a right-hander homering off Ralph Terry was an unlikely prospect.
The town went nuts. 1960 was a tough year to top.

Tom Cheney, Pirates:
Against the Yankees, we were in a whole lot of trouble all the way down the Yankee lineup. They said don’t let certain guys beat you, but what’s the difference when you let the guy behind him beat you? Any 9 guys they put up there were capable of beating you. We couldn’t match up our lineup against theirs, so we talked at length that we had to beat them on defense and pitching in low-scoring games. And other than the seventh game, that’s how we won our games. As Gino Cimoli said, “They set the records and we got the money.”
Game Seven was a thriller. We were lucky because we beat them at their own game, a high-scoring game. After it got tied up and Ralph Terry pitched the bottom of the ninth, Bill Mazeroski led off. He was strictly a high-fastball hitter. The first pitch was a letter-high slider and Maz took it. I was in the bullpen. All the color drained out of my face. It was right in his wheelhouse. I couldn’t believe it. I would always tell him that I wanted to punch him for taking it. Maz claimed, “I was baiting him.” Terry came right back with the same pitch and Maz jerked it. Everybody knew it was gone when he hit it. By the time he reached home plate, it had been torn up and he had scratches and claw marks all over where people had grabbed him.
I was elated when I saw that homer. I was a tight as a guitar string. Everyone else was too. I had thought we’d lost, but then Hal Smith hit that 3-run homer in the 8th. Hal Smith made the statement about Mazeroski’s homer, “Hell, yes, I’m jealous. I was supposed to be the hero.”It was 2 a.m. before I could get a cab to take me home. People parked cars wherever they stopped, often right in the middle of the street. The police couldn’t do anything about it, so they just joined the people who went into bars to celebrate.


Dude said...

Wow, to think it came down to the defensive abilities of the Bombers' relief pitchers. Little nuggets like that is what makes baseball so great. I remember watching the Angels 2002 series at Disneyland with all my coworkers. There was a moment (I think game six) when Robb Nen was pitching for SF with batters on first and second with only one out. Scoscia ordered the batter to lay down a sacrifice. Everyone in the room erupted, calling Scoscia an idiot. Even Tim McCarver questioned the call. Then I said "Nen's best pitch by far is his sinker. Down by one run with a runner on third, he can't throw that pitch, and without it, he's as hittable as the next guy." The next batter drove in the runs and was the hero on the field as I was the hero in the workplace for knowing more than McCarver.

One other thing though - I think Maz doesn't even get close to the HOF without that HR. He is easily one of the weakest players enshrined and contrary to what you say about the HR drawing a second look at his power, I think in truth the HR drew a second look at his defense and he was elected on the merit of his eight Gold Gloves and that one HR.

Tom said...

This was as good as promised, E. I had read a few accounts that blamed Casey's firing on their losing this series, but I had never heard him blamed for his bullpen management which seems quite poor in retrospect.

My dad the young Yankee fan and Pony league pitcher would have been 17. I want to run the bullpen story by him to see if it conjures any memories. He always talked about it being a big heartbreak.

I've seen the shot 2 dozen times, but now I want to look closer to see if I can spot the claw marks.

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