No matter what happens during baseball's postseason scramble, one thing's for certain: The Pittsburgh Pirates are the World Series champions. They beat the great New York Yankees. They did it on Oct. 13—at 3:36 p.m., to be exact—thanks to a cataclysmic clout by a 24-year-old second baseman in the final inning of the seventh game.
Confused? Don't be. It happens every year.
Getting in is never a problem. Next season you can have a front-row seat. Just head over to the University of Pittsburgh campus, where Forbes Field used to stand. The stadium was razed in 1971, but a portion of the ivy-covered redbrick outfield wall is still there, including the painted 457-foot marker and the flagpole from deep centerfield.
The person responsible for the Pirates' continued World Series success is Saul Finkelstein, a customer service rep for the Pittsburgh Symphony, who has been taking off every Oct. 13 since 1985, when he got his hands on a tape of the radio broadcast of the most dramatic game in Pirates history. Finkelstein was 12 on Oct. 13, 1960, when his hometown Pirates, who had gone 35 years without a championship, beat the Yankees, winners of 17 World Series during that same period. When he obtained a copy of radio announcer Chuck Thompson's dramatic play-by-play, which was originally broadcast by NBC, Finkelstein celebrated by going to the old wall and listening to the game in its entirety. "It's one of the most incredible broadcasts I've ever heard," he explains. "You can actually see it better listening to it than you could watching on TV."
Finkelstein has repeated die ritual every year since, and it now draws as many as 300 listeners. Just before 1 p.m. he pushes the PLAY button on his tape machine. When New York takes a 7-4 advantage in the eighth, there are groans. The Pirates close it to 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, and then backup Pirates catcher Hal Smith smacks a three-run homer to give Pittsburgh a 9-7 lead going into the ninth. Color commentator Jack Quinlan calls it "one of the most dramatic home runs of all time." The Yanks tie it up in the top of the ninth.
Then Bill Mazeroski leads off in the bottom of the ninth. As the clock hits 3:36, he knocks Ralph Terry's 1-0 pitch toward the leftfield wall—the very wall at which the modern day crowd is gathered—and the listeners see leftfielder Yogi Berra drifting back, turning and dropping to his knees. They imagine themselves charging the field as Maz, his right hand raised in triumph, lands with an exuberant thud on home plate.
One person missing all these years has been Mazeroski himself. "One of these days," says the 62-year-old Maz, who lives in nearby Greensburg, Pa., "I'm just going to have to show up."
May we suggest a 3:37 arrival?