For all Bill Mazeroski's fame, having hit baseball's greatest home run and now about to be immortalized with a statue outside PNC Park, nothing has stripped away any semblance of his humble roots.
Especially the humble part.
"I couldn't believe it when I first heard about it," Mazeroski said of the statue yesterday in a phone interview with the Post-Gazette from Panama City, Fla. "Things like that... I don't know. I came out of Ohio, the back woods down there, had hardly nothin', and here I am getting a statue up in Pittsburgh. It's just something I can't comprehend. It probably won't sink in until I see it."
Mazeroski, the soft-spoken coal miner's son from Little Rush Run, Ohio, will attend the unveiling of a model of the statue Friday at the team's media luncheon to kick off PirateFest at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The model will be on display at PirateFest all weekend, and Mazeroski will sign autographs Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
More details about the statue emerged yesterday, as per multiple sources:
• The pose will be based on the indelible image of Mazeroski rounding second base -- arms fully extended to his sides, the right hand twirling the cap, running seemingly on air -- after his epic home run that beat the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.
• The tentative location will be the circular, riverfront edge of the now aptly named Mazeroski Way, just outside PNC Park's right-field entrance. Currently, there is a small overlook and bike rack there.
• Second base, which was Mazeroski's Gold Glove position, will be part of the display, just behind his figure.
• The circular sidewalk near the statue would be converted to an infield-looking appearance -- through chiseled and colored cement -- allowing fans the chance to imagine running the bases with Mazeroski.
• The sculpture will be complete at some point in the season's second half but probably not in time for the Pirates' 50th anniversary celebration of the 1960 title, June 18-19.
Mazeroski was told of the statue plans during a November alumni meeting, when team owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly called him into an office.
"I just said, 'Holy cow, this can't be happening,' " Mazeroski said of his reaction. "There have been so many great things happen to me, I don't know which one is the greatest."
There were no tears, though, which might surprise those who remember a deeply emotional Mazeroski having to cut short his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2001.
How might he react at seeing the statue?
"I don't know," he replied with a laugh. "For a guy who cries watching commercials on TV... "
Mazeroski stressed, as he always has, that his home run should not solely define that team. And he backed that sentiment this past weekend at the Pirates' annual fantasy camp in Bradenton, Fla., by taking polite exception to getting top billing for the event.
"They were billing it, 'Bill Mazeroski and the '60 Bucs.' It's not about that. It's about the '60 Bucs," Mazeroski said. "I was just part of it. I got one lucky hit. I get too much credit. It took a 25-man team to win it, and I was just a very, very small part of it."
On Saturday night, at the farewell dinner for the camp, Mazeroski surprised observers -- including 1960 teammates Bob Friend, Vernon Law, Bob Skinner, Bob Oldis and Joe Gibbon -- by briefly taking the podium to address that topic.
Kent Tekulve, the closer for the Pirates' last championship team in 1979, was the emcee.
"I was prepared to make a statement about the whole 1960 team, and Maz got up, unannounced and walked up to the podium, which is not at all like Maz," Tekulve said. "He said, 'Guys, just remember one thing: The 1960 Series wasn't all about Bill Mazeroski. I just happened to be the guy standing at the plate when it happened.' "
Mazeroski, 73, remains in excellent health. He hit a round of golf yesterday -- "I didn't do too bad, I guess" -- and once again will be a special instructor for the Pirates' current players at spring training.
He was asked, based on his view of the current situation, if Pittsburgh might ever see another baseball moment like the one he brought a half-century ago.
"In about four to five years, I'm looking forward to it," Mazeroski repled. "I think the people they have in there now are doing their jobs the right way. It's not going to be overnight, but I think we have a chance to become a winning club. Once you do that, anything can happen in the playoffs and World Series. I know that it sure would be fun in my lifetime to see that again."
NOTES -- Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett, the relievers the Pirates designated for assignment last week to clear space on the 40-man roster, passed through waivers and were outrighted to Class AAA Indianapolis. ... They also were invited to spring training, raising the number of non-roster players to 22. There will not be many more such additions, if any.