Sidelights on Sports: Like Dropping A-Bomb
It just had to happen.
It couldn't have been any other way for the victory-starved, emotionally drained Pittsburgh baseball populace and its beloved Pirates.
It was written into the books long ago that the Pirates would go all the way in the year of 1960 and at exactly 3:36 yesterday afternoon by the scoreboard clock at Forbes Field, they had it all the way.
This was when Bill Mazeroski laced into the second pitch served him by Ralph Terry and sent it in on a beautiful arch over the left center wall for a home run which beat the New York Yankees, 10-9, in the ninth inning of the seventh and deciding game of the World Series.
Thus came to an end one of the most suspenseful and dramatic battles in series annals. Forgotten was all the bad baseball played by the two clubs in the previous six games. Forgotten, too, for the moment, were all exciting plays and early developments which set the stage for Maz's wallop and which erupted one of the wildest mob scenes ever seen in sports anywhere.
The husky Pirate second sacker was mid-way between first and second base, kicking his heels in delight and waving his helmet cap in a victory gesture when the 36,683 citizens present collectively blew their tops. Several hundred jumped onto the field to become part of the delirious Pirate players' reception committee at home plate. We'll never know if Maz's spiked shoes ever touched the plate because of the wild surge about him.
Neither umpires nor police could hold the mob off but what happened here was mild by comparison with the jubilant fans' actions following the game. They milled around for several hours shouting and singing: "Our Pirates are going all the way. Beat 'Em Bucs."
It mattered not to them that their Pirates had already gone all the way and they did beat 'em, Yanks.
It was the kind of game Pittsburgh will never forget. In many ways, it was even more exciting than the final battle of the 1925 World Series when Bill McKechnie's Pirate stalwarts defeated the Washington Senators, 9-7, in the rain and mud which enveloped Forbes Field.
Yesterday's weather was beautiful. Everything was beautiful. Even the rugged-looking, tobacco-stained dark Irish face of Danny Murtaugh was beautiful.
Danny climaxed the Pirates first pennant winning season in 33 years with a world's championship.
Even Rocky Nelson, the bald-headed, eight-times major league reject with his John L. Sullivan batting stance, looked beautiful when he cracked a home run in the first inning with one on base to give the Bucs a 2-0 lead.
Beautiful, too, were the chiseled features of Hal Smith, an ex-American Leaguer, who put the Bucs back in the ball game and out in front, 9-7, with a three-run homer in the eighth inning when all seemed lost for the home cause.
This reminded historians in the press box that the Pirates of 1925 scored four runs in the eighth inning, one short of the five Murtaugh's boys recorded yesterday in the same frame. With the score the same, 9-7, it offered a series' victory repeating paragraph which the boys dutifully noted.
But, it wasn't to be that way. As someone must have pre-ordained in the long ago, the powerful Yankees were to score two in the ninth inning to tie at 9-9. Then, it was written that Mazeroski would come through, in the home half with his game-winning homer.
Ironically for the Yankees, the docile, punchless Pirates, who had hit only one home run in the first six games (and that by Mazeroski) used the big wallop to ruin the Yankees. The drives by Nelson, Smith and Mazeroski accounted for six of the ten runs the Bucs scored yesterday.
The first six games of this weird series saw Pittsburgh score only 17 runs and no more than three in one inning until they exploded for five in the eighth. This big drive, coming when it was most needed, canceled what could have been Stengel's glorious exit from baseball. The grizzled dugout genius, who may retire soon, battled Murtaugh and the Bucs all the way only to see his hopes of a farewell victory gift crumble all about him.
For better than two hours yesterday, Stengel appeared on his way to the big triumph. He had seen his team battle from behind to overcome an 0-4 deficit at the hands of the great Vernon Law to go ahead first at 5-4, then 7-4. He also saw his club put on a two-run rally in the ninth to tie before bowing out of the picture.
If Stengel and his Yankees cry out loudly at the baseball fates which laughed at them yesterday they can't be blamed. The Pirates got a big assist from the hard-as-cement infield just as they did most of the season.
The "alabaster infield," as it is dubbed by opposing teams, provided the break in the eighth inning which led to the Bucs' five runs and broke the heart of little Bobby Shantz.
The gritty, pint-sized southpaw, who had taken over from Bob Turley and Bill Stafford for the Yankees in the third when the score was 4-0 against his club, held the Pirates to one hit in five innings before the eventful eighth.
Gino Cimoli, batting for Face, opened the frame with a single to center. Here was where the break occurred. Bill Virdon hit a sharp double play grounder right at Tony Kubek at short. The Yankee shortstop was ready to glove the ball when it took a bad bounce and hit him in the larynx, knocking him out momentarily. Instead of the double play, two men were on base and Kubek was out of the game because of the injury.
Dick Groat, a negative hitting force in the series to date, contributed a clutch single to left to score Cimoli. This got Shantz out of the box and brought in Jim Coates. Skinner sacrificed, advancing the runners. Nelson flied to right, the runners holding. Clemente, with two strikes on him, beat out a bleeder to first base, scoring Virdon and putting Groat on third. Then with the count 2 and 2, Smith crashed his three-run homer practically over the same spot where Maz was to hit his later.
It would have been nice to see Deacon Law win his third game and join other pitching immortals who performed the same feat. The handsome Mormon appeared on his way when the Bucs jumped on Turley and Stafford for a 4-0 lead. He was working easily despite a painful ankle injury, and had held the Yanks to two singles, one by pinch-hitter Hector Lopez and the other by Mickey Mantle in the first five innings.
Law was rocked for a homer by Bill Skowron in the sixth to make the score 4-1 and when Richardson singled and Kubek walked to start the sixth, Murtaugh called on his little Hercules, Roy Face, for the fourth time.
Here again, we had the perfect setting for a big story -- Face saving his fourth game for the Bucs. But it wasn't to be. A Mantle single scored Richardson. Then, Yogi Berra, the squat iron man, rifled a home run into the stands in right field to hush the Pittsburgh fans as the Yanks moved ahead 5-4.
When two runs were added off Face in the eighth, the Pirates going all the way seemed to be in reverse. Then came the five-run rally and it was Face's game to win.
Bob Friend took over the mound chore in the ninth but singles by Richardson and pinch-hitter Dale Long brought Murtaugh out to call on Harvey Haddix. The tough Mantle drove one run in and when Berra hit a rap to Nelson, Rocky had a double play in front of him but missed when he couldn't tag Mantle after stepping on first to get Berra out. Gill McDougald running for Long, scored the tying run.
All these bizarre happenings had the fans in a constant uproar but nothing by comparison with the riotous scenes when Maz clouted his historic homer.
Practically unnoticed was the victory given Haddix, his second of the Series. He and Law thus divided the four wins equally.
First Published October 13, 2010 12:00 am