Pirates Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski is best known for his walk-off home run in Game 7 to clinch the 1960 World Series over the New York Yankees. His legendary home run and record-breaking accomplishments as a second basemen have earned him a spot among the greatest players in Pirates history.
Mazeroski was born Sept. 5, 1936, in Wheeling, W.Va. His father, a coal miner who played minor league baseball, taught his son the sport at an early age. Young Bill played shortstop and pitched at Warren Consolidated High School in Tiltonsville, Ohio, where he led his team to the state baseball championships. Shortly after graduation in 1954, he tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who signed the 17-year-old and assigned him to the Class A team in Williamsport, Pa.
Impressed after watching him effortlessly turn a double play in 1955's spring training, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey moved Mazeroski from shortstop to second base.
Two years after signing with the Pirates, Mazeroski made his Major League Baseball debut on July 7, 1956.
In 1958, during the Pirates' best season since 1944, Mazeroski batted .275 with a career-high 19 home runs and turned more than 100 double plays. He earned his first All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove Award for his efforts.
Two years later, Mazeroski helped to lead the Pirates to the 1960 World Series against the heavily favored New York Yankees. The Bucs took a 3-2 series lead, but a 12-0 shutout by Yankees southpaw Whitey Ford forced a seventh game in Pittsburgh. With the game tied 9-9 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mazeroski blasted a 1-0 pitch from Yankees hurler Ralph Terry over the left field wall at Forbes Field to win the game. The 10-9 victory secured the Pirates' first championship since 1925.
Mazeroski spent his entire 17-year career with the Pirates, retiring in 1972 as the all-time Major League leader with 1,706 double plays as a second baseman. Mazeroski played in seven All-Star Games, earned two World Series titles and won eight Gold Glove Awards.
In 1987, the Pirates retired Mazeroski's No. 9 jersey, one of only 10 to be retired by the organization. In 2001, he was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his outstanding career and starring role in one of the greatest moments in sports history. In 2010, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1960 World Series, the Pirates organization unveiled a bronze statue of Mazeroski outside the right field gate at PNC Park.
Visitors to the Heinz History Center's Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum can see a lifelike museum figure of Mazeroski, also unveiled in 2010, as well as the pitching rubber used in the 1960 World Series. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
-- By Michele Sneddon,
History Center communications department