With the Fall Classic 2016 in all the sports headlines now, a flashback to one of most dramatic moments in World Series history is in order. So come along and re-live that time – -New York Yankees versus Pittsburgh Pirates.
After slipping to third place in 1959, the Yankees were back in the World Series again. The Pirates won the first game of the series. Then Yankee bats took over .The New Yorkers won Game Two 16-3, Game Three 10-0. Behind the pitching of Vern Law and Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh won the next two to take a three games-to-two lead. The see-saw series saw New York tie things up with a 12-0 shutout from Whitey Ford. All of that set the stage for Game 7, a contest that stands as one of the most memorable games in World Series history.
The Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit to take a 7-4 lead going into the bottom of the eighth. The Bucs scored five runs in the eighth inning, the final three on Hal Smith’s homer, to take a 9-7 lead. A Yankee two-run rally in the top of the ninth tied the score, 9-9. Forbes Field was a madhouse.
Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the home ninth against Yankee right-hander Ralph Terry. The count on Maz was 1-0. At 3:36 P.M. it seemed there was no other sound in the ballpark except for the crack of the bat of Mazeroski against the ball served up by Terry. Maz thought the ball would reach the wall so he ran all out of the batter’s box.
Yogi Berra backed up in left field, then he circled away from the wall, watching the ball go over his head and over the wall. Then Yogi dropped to his knees in despair and anger. Yogi’s sour mood was the opposite of the sweet one at Forbes Field. It rocked. The Pittsburgh Pirates had their first World Championship since 1925. Bill Mazeroski became the first player to end a World Series with a home run.
“It’s hard to believe it hadn’t been done before,” Mazeroski, the greatest fielding second baseman in Pirate history, said “Every day of my life I think of that home run. Wouldn’t you if you had hit it? People always are reminding me of it. I suppose it must be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
“I was an 8 year-old Yankee fan in 1960,” Bob Costas mused.” I literally wept when Bill Mazeroski’s home run cleared the ivy-covered wall of Forbes Field. I believe I have come to terms with it, and can see Mazeroski for what he really was: one of baseball’s all-time great players.
Mickey Mantle batted .400 with three homers, 11 RBI’s, eight runs scored and eight walks in the series. It was not enough. “We outscored them 55-27,” Mantle complained, “and that was not enough. The best team lost.”
The Yankees of New York lost more the series. Five days after their defeat they fired their beloved manager Casey Stengel.
“I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 years old again,” the grizzled Casey snarled. He never did.
Dr. Harvey Frommer, a professor at Dartmouth College in the MALS program, is in his 40th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, he is the author of 42 sports books including the classics: best-selling “New York City Baseball, 1947-1957″ and best-selling Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball,as well as his acclaimed Remembering Yankee Stadium and best-selling Remembering Fenway Park.
His Frommer Baseball Classic – Remembering Yankee Stadium (Second Edition) is his newest sports effort. A link to purchase autographed copies of Frommer Sports Books is at: http://frommerbooks.com/
And finally is my acclaimed WHEN IT WAS JUST A GAME: REMEMBERING THE FIRST SUPER BOWL, now in paperback: http://www.lyonspress.com/book/9781493026753
The prolific author is at work on THE ULTIMATE YANKEE BOOK (2017)
photo: The remnants of Forbes Field by Mike del Tufo.