Home, Sweet (It Is) Home Stolen Here
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The home plate that Bill Mazeroski crossed to bring the Pirates their 1960 world's championship will be preserved for posterity, like the first airplane or a Lincoln manuscript.
It came up reluctantly in a spirited struggle minutes after the game ended and wound up in the possession of Harold Baird of 1211 Kelton Avenue, Dormont, now the proud owner of a piece of property cherished by many.
Baird's victory, as hard won as that scored by the mighty Buccos, occurred in full sight of 36,000 fans still standing at their seats, in screaming disbelief that the Pirates had beaten the Yankees.
They arose as one when Maz, dancing and waving his baseball cap in the air, rounded the bases and met a wall of Pirate fans who embraced and all but crushed him at home plate.
The mob surged toward the Pirate dugout, but within minutes the victorious ballplayers had slipped off to their clubhouse.
From the upper tiers confetti and paper, torn into bits, streamed onto the crowds below. Youngsters wrestled, deliriously happy, back of home plate.
Near the Pirate dugout, ringed by police, Bishop John J. Wright, a Pirate fan, embraced Joe Cronin, president of the losing American League.
Thousands still stood at their seats, watching the pandemonium that had broken loose on the field created by those a little less inhibited than they.
Donald Jackson and his wife, of Midway, Pa., roamed the infield delirious with happiness, dressed in red and black Pirate costumes and waving banners, that read "We Beat the Damn Yankees" and "The Magic Number is None."
Then the mob surged toward home plate, guarded by Assistant Police Supt. Larry Maloney and Lieut. Art Baker. Nobody made a move to dig up home plate.
"They're chicken," Maloney said. "We'd let 'em steal it but they won't."
"I want to touch home plate," said Mrs. Herbert Rich and Mrs. Max Kayser, of Mt. Lebanon. Gingerly, they touched feminine foot to the historic base.
Then others pressed in.
"They think it's the Blarney Stone," Maloney said. "They want to kiss it."
Suddenly, Baird got down on his hands and knees and began digging around home plate with a set of keys. He loosened it, then dug in with his bare hands. Mrs. Hubert Teitelbaum, wife of the U.S. District Attorney, got down to help.
Aided by others, tugging, sweating and struggling, they finally wrested home plate from the ground. Sam Omodio of McCandless Twp., got a spike. The crowd surged as if in panic, crushing those at the center of the activity.
Baird waved the base high above his head. Lieut. Baker suggested he slice it up and give up a piece of home plate to Mrs. Teitelbaum, but she said no, Baird had earned it. Police escorted him safely from the field.
Police didn't bother the delirious fans.
"When a player steals a base we don't do anything to them," Lt. Baker remarked. A patrolman escorted Baird and his home plate safely off the field. Long after had left, men and boys were still trying to pry out the other spikes that had held down the plate.
On the infield, Don Berratti of Swisshelm Park, an usher, grabbed another precious possession -- a rosin bag. But police drew the line at one effort of larceny -- when Z.N. Feher, of McKeesport, a Pitt student, tried to dig up the pitcher's mound police said nothing doing.
These epic scenes on the field after the game climaxed alternate moments of delirium and depths of despair throughout the tingling seventh game of the World Series.
The Pirates set their fans off to a rousing opening when Rocky Nelson smote his first inning home run out of right field. And in the second, when Virdon singled, the crowd rose out of their seats as one, overwhelmed with joy.
It was 4 to 0 now and nothing could stop the Bucs!
Mrs. Mary Gray, of Penn Hills, 65, and an avid baseball fan, a neighbor of Elroy Face, urged on the Bucs from her seat in the lower tier behind home plate.
"Bring it to Pittsburgh, Vernon," she would say as Law flung the ball toward home plate. "You're our boy, Vernon." And as Berra flied to Clemente in the fourth she said with 36,000 others, "That's our Vernon."
But now it was the fifth and Skowron homered and the crowd was subdued. "Good luck to you, Vernon," Mrs. Gray muttered. "We want this today in the worst way." She spoke the thoughts of them all.
Now it was the sixth.
"Oh dear," Mrs. Gray said when Mantle came to bat. "Don't hit a home run." Mantle obliged by only singling, then Berra slammed his homer with two on and the crowd died a little.
They were pretty sure all hope was lost when the Yankees made it 7 to 4 in the eighth. There was applause, but it was only perfunctory, when the Pirates came up in the eighth. Suddenly it was 7 to 6 Yanks, and Hal Smith hammered his home run over the center field wall. Clemente came dancing home ahead of him and spectators screamed, tore up paper streamers and shook hands with perfect strangers.
It was 9 to 7 in favor of the Bucs now, going into the ninth, but that dinky Richardson got on and now it was 9 to 9.
Yes, it was 9 to 9 and going into the ninth the Pirates' No, 9 -- Mazeroski strode to the plate. It looked like maybe extra innings.
Then Ralph Terry came in with that second pitch and Maz clobbered it out of the ball park and raced happily home and Forbes Field shook from end to the other.
First Published October 13, 2010 12:00 am