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1960 World Series Remembered

Editor’s Note: Tonight the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals face-off in game seven of the World Series. It’s all on the line tonight and we thought it was appropriate to recall another famous game seven from the past. It’s the only time the World Series game seven ended on a homerun.

On October 13, 1960, fifty-nine years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series by beating the New York Yankees in seven games. The series was ultimately decided by the most thrilling play in baseball, the game ending, walk-off home run.

If you listen to the tape of the radio broadcast of the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, you’ll hear broadcaster Chuck Thompson describing the excitement and drama of a World Series Home Run. “We have seen and shared in one of baseball’s great moments,” said Thompson.  Hal Smith had just hit a three-run home run into Schenley Park. The ball easily cleared the ivy-covered brick wall at Forbes Field’s 406’ mark putting the Pirates ahead of the New York Yankees 9 to 7 in the bottom of the eight.  Announcer Jack Quinlan chimed in and said “I’m almost speechless. This is one of the most dramatic home runs of all time! Five runs are in and the Pirates have the lead.”

The game had been a see-saw battle with 3 lead changes and plenty of excitement. Just prior to Smith’s home run, Bill Virdon, with Roberto Clemente on first, hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop that should have been an inning ending double play but, on this day, nothing was routine. The ball took a wicked bounce and hit Tony Kubeck in the throat. It knocked him out of the game and set the stage for Smith.

The mighty Yankees with Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and pitchers like Whitey Ford and Ralph Terry were on the ropes. They had pummeled the Pirates 10-0, 12-0, 16-3 while the Pirates with only 2 home runs in the series, barely won three low-scoring games.  But it wasn’t over yet! The Yankees scored 2 runs in the top of the ninth and tied the game 9-9.

Sitting in the box seats that day, next to the Pirate dugout was St. Louis Cardinals all-star first baseman Stan Musial.  Born in Donora, Pennsylvania, he was the son of Polish immigrants.  Like much of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh and Donora were heavily populated with Polish, German, Slavs and Irish. He was beloved by Pittsburgh fans and for most of the game he was the most popular Polish baseball player in Pittsburgh.  But all that was about to change.

After Smith’s home run, Yankee manager Casey Stengel replaced Jim Coats with Ralph Terry. Terry got the Pirates out in the eighth and when the Yankees tied it, he took the mound for the bottom of the ninth.  His only job was to get his powerful Yankees a chance to bat in the tenth and surely beat these upstart Pirates!  As Bill Mazerozski, the Pirates second baseman strode to the plate announcer Chuck Thompson again lamented about the drama unfolding.  “Well, a little while ago”, said Thompson, “When we mentioned that this one, in typical fashion, was going to go right down to the wire, little did we know.” ………. The next few words spoken are forever etched in baseball history.  Once again, play by play announcer Chuck Thompson, “Art Ditmar throws, here’s a swing and a high fly ball to deep left field, this may do it, back to the wall goes Berra…. It’s over the fence, home run, the Pirates win!” With one swing of the bat, Forbes Field and the entire city of Pittsburgh erupted in celebration. Bill Mazeroski, a light hitting second baseman had just homered over the same 406’ mark that Hal Smith had done an inning earlier. It stands today as the only time in baseball history that a World Series game seven ended with a home run.  As Maz’ dashed around the bases, waving his batting helmet in the air, the Pirates players, coaches and fans flooded home plate to greet him.  Bill Mazeroski had now become Pittsburgh’s most famous (Polish) ballplayer.

The powerful, intimidating New York Yankees were second best that day. As Gino Cimoli, a Pirate utility player said after the game, “They broke all the records and we won the series.”

It hardly seems like fifty-nine years have passed since that most thrilling event of my childhood took place. I had just walked home from Holmes Elementary School on that Thursday and turned on the game.  We lived only a few blocks from Forbes Field.  As soon as Maz blasted it, I was jumping up and down and racing toward the park to be a part of the celebration!

Those of us who grew up in Pittsburgh during the fifties and sixties have that day carved in our memories. We remember where we were when Mazeroski hit the home run. It is one of those special events in people’s lives, like the assassination of President John Kennedy or first man to set foot on the moon. Kathy (Maurer) Knipple, now a resident of Poinsettia here in Simpsonville, grew up in Somerset, Pennsylvania. “On that day, we were in Mr. Egolf’s 9th grade social studies class, he was so cool, “said Kathy.  “The school day back then was longer, and he allowed us to listen to the game before the bell rung. At 3:36, when Mazeroski hit the home run, our class went nuts!”

If you Google, “Mazeroski Home Run” you can experience the excitement of that day. In the picture of the players and fans mobbing Mazeroski at home plate, obscured and hard to find is my brother John. He always found a way to get in the game and he was there jumping up and down at home plate. He was a great ballplayer in his youth and would go on to play for the Pirates and the Red Sox in the minors. Although he never made to the majors, he was one of the best ballplayers around. He died a few years ago and would have been proud to read about our Pirates again. “We had ‘em all the way” This article is dedicated to my “Big Brother”, John S. Gecy, September 26, 1945 – January 1,2006

Editor’s note:  An interesting twist to this story needs to be included. On a golf outing a couple of years ago, our son, Benji Gecy, was playing in a member /guest tournament at the Chechessee Golf Club in Beaufort. On the tee, a guest was introduced as a former baseball player with the Yankees. He had a Yankees Championship ring on his finger and said he pitched for the Yankees in the 60’s. Having shared my baseball stories with my sons, Benji could not pass up the opportunity to talk to this former baseball player about the 1960 World Series. As Ben introduced himself and began to talk about my childhood memories of Mazeroski’s home run he was abruptly interrupted and with some disdain. The guest golfer asked Ben if he knew who threw the pitch to Mazerozski. “It was not me”, he said. His playing partner that day was Art Ditmar, a former pitcher and a member of the 1960 Yankees. It seems to still be bothering him that the play by play announcer got it wrong when he said, “Ditmar throws! There’s a swing and a high fly ball…”  Art Ditmar made it very clear to Benji that he did not throw the pitch that Mazeroski hit for the game winner, he was in the bullpen. Chuck Thompson has apologized many times for that mistake. Actually, the losing pitcher that day was Ralph Terry but to this day if you play the tape it always says, “  Art Ditmar throws…”

“Beat ‘em Bucs!”

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