My first baseball memory was the 1960 World Series. It was the ninth inning of the seventh game, the teams were knotted at nine apiece. One for each inning, I probably thought, because I’ve always created relationships between numbers, often fancifully. Of course, maybe not, since I had just turned four and probably didn’t think that much about numbers at all.
How the teams got to 9-9 is a story, but not one I knew. The game was played on Thursday, October 13, starting at about 1:00 PM (television and radio coverage began at 12:45 PM). From the start of the game to its dramatic conclusion took two hours and 34 minutes. I remember coming home some time after the game started, having missed the start.
Home from preschool? My mom had started a preschool at the Presbyterian Church that year, in part to make sure I had a good school to go to, but it only offered half days. Maybe I went home with a pal, or maybe we’d been out shopping. One thing is for sure, my brother was just two-and-a-half months old.
I remember listening on the radio in the kitchen, my mother was getting things ready for dinner, I suppose, or tending to some other business. My brother was sleeping in his cradle, or eating. What else did babies do? I imagine everyone was tired, but I don’t remember that.
We listened on the radio, maybe not that attentively. We listened on the radio because that’s what everyone did for the World Series. Those four to seven games were a soundtrack to the American experience in those days. That week in 1960 the US contemplated the start of sanctions on Cuba, an embargo, and John F. Kennedy and Vice President Nixon debated, as election day approached. But everywhere you went the game was on the radio. People who didn’t pay attention all year long tuned in, or turned on the TV, which would play in the background while business went on.
So, we listened to the radio, and I’m sure I did something or other else, too. I was a baseball fan, just turned four, but I can’t imagine I followed the events of this back and forth slugfest of a game.
The shock of discovering the Yankees trailing, the thrill of the Yankees going ahead 7-5 in the top of the eighth, and then the total devastation of Hal Smith’s homer over Yogi Berra in left, plating Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente as well, putting the Pirates up 9-7 going into the 9th. (I don’t remember this stuff, but I’m sure I was listening to it on the radio. I didn’t remember Hal Smith’s homer, I looked that up.)
I read today that Mel Allen said in the game’s broadcast that Smith’s three-run shot was one of the most dramatic home runs ever in a World Series game, one that would be long remembered. Right.
I like to think I didn’t give up hope. The Yankees were the best team of all time, they could do it. Singles by Bobby Richardson and Dale Long got the rally going in the top of the ninth. This I know from Retrosheet’s account of the game. Harvey Haddix came in to face Roger Maris and got him to pop out. But then Mantle singled Richardson home, and Long scored on a ground out by Yogi Berra. Tie game!
Ralph Terry, who had thrown the last out of the eighth inning, came out for the ninth. Mazeroski stepped up to the plate. Maz was a second baseman, batting eighth in the order, just ahead of the pitcher. I probably didn’t know enough yet about the game to think, “No worries.”
The first pitch was a change up high. Maz took the pitch. The catcher Johnny Blanchard went out to the mound. He says he told Terry to keep the ball down, Maz like the high stuff.
Terry’s second pitch was lower, but right down the pipe, and Mazeroski reached out and slugged it. The ball jumped off his bat, shot out to left field, though I couldn’t see that. What I heard was the roar of the crowd and the announcer’s voice, which rose and rose in excitement and exploded with “it’s gone!” After a pause, “The Pirates have won the 1960 World Series.”
To this day, 55 years later, Bill Mazeroski has the only walk-off Game 7 World Series homer. (Joe Carter hit a walk-off Series ender for the Blue Jays against the Phillies, but that was Game 6.) What I remember most was the excitement that homer generated, the chatter and energy and conversation, even as the Yankees lost. It would have been about that time that my love for the game grew. But I imagine myself that day, sagging there in the kitchen, not believing that anything so awful could ever happen. Little did I know.
Here’s a link to a USA Today story (pdf) about an annual celebration of Maz’s home run in Pittsburgh. They play the radio show of the game, starting at 1:00 PM, so the call of the homer is at 3:36 PM. Nice. Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski 50 years later, shot still echoes – USATODAY
I haven’t found the radio broadcast of the game yet. The radio announcer, Chuck Thompson, says of the final pitch: “Art Ditmar throws…” misidentifying the pitcher, confusing Ralph Terry with Ditmar, who was warming up in the bullpen.
The greatest home run ever: https://youtu.be/65Og0gUKfvc
MLB’s Greatest Moments: Maz’s Walkoff http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/6479266/v3218957
This is a showing of the entire game’s tv broadcast in Pittsburgh in 2010, with interviews.