Casey Stengel's first error was surely his worst. He picked Art Ditmar (15-9), who had no decisions in World Series play, to start the first game over the vastly more seasoned Ford (12-9), the Chairman of the Board, who had a Series record of 5-4 and was the ace of the Yankees' staff. " Ford was our big pitcher," says Richardson, "and in any big game he would be the one to start. Stengel said that Forbes Field was a small park and Ditmar throws a sinker, and he was saving Whitey for New York-double-talk like that. Stengel was always playing hunches, but that didn't make any sense. I remember Mantle saying, 'How can you not start your best pitcher?' It was a topic among the players."
It was an even bigger topic when Ditmar was lifted in the first after facing only five batters, getting one out and giving up three runs. Pittsburgh went on to win 6-4, with Law getting the victory and Face the save. Mazeroski's Game 7 home run would be so stunning that it would relegate his other decisive swing of the Series to the precincts of half-forgotten trivia: In the fourth inning of Game 1, with one out, Hoak on first and the Pirates leading 3-2, Maz crushed an 0-2 fastball from Jim Coates that flew over the scoreboard in dead left and gave Pittsburgh a 5-2 lead. "I was on cloud nine," Mazeroski says. "A home run in the World Series! I thought it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. It relaxed me for the rest of the Series."
New York won the second game 16-3, and all the Pirates could talk about was Mantle's second homer of the day. Struck from the right side of the plate, it was a 450-foot blast that sailed over the iron gate in right centerfield and was still carrying as it left the park. Groat was whirlpooling an injured wrist at the end of the game when Virdon dashed into the clubhouse and blurted to him, "Roomie, you missed the granddaddy of them all! I never in my life saw a ball hit as hard as Mantle just hit it. So help me, it went over the iron gate, and it was still going straight!"
Those first two games set the tempo for the next four. The Yankees won in blowouts, the Pirates in tight games. In Game 3 in New York, Ford pitched a nearly spotless 10-0 shutout, deepening suspicions that Stengel had blundered in Game 1, but Law came back and won Game 4 for the Pirates 3-2, with Face again getting the save. The Series was even, 2-2. Matters only got worse for Stengel. He went with Ditmar over Bill Stafford in Game 5 and came under even greater fire when Ditmar gave up three runs and was chased in the second inning. Stafford pitched five scoreless innings as a middle reliever, but the Pirates won 5-2. Haddix got the victory, and Face threw 2? hitless innings in relief for his third save.
Face was a carpenter and lumberjack from upstate New York, and like his fellow backwoodsmen Law (an Idahoan who once worked as a deliveryman for a creamery) and Mazeroski, he was seen in blue-collar Pittsburgh as a hardscrabble working stiff. Nothing buoyed his teammates or the home crowds more than the sight of Face coming in from the bullpen, all 5'8" and 155 pounds of him. "He had that swagger," says Maz, "a little guy walking in there with that cockiness. He threw strikes and feared nobody."
All the Pirates had to do was win one more game at Forbes, and they would be world champs. The celebration would have to wait, however. Ford was back in Game 6, and he threw a seven-hit shutout, and New York won 12-0. In the New York clubhouse after that third slaughter of the Series, Berra muttered to Joe Reichler of the AP, "I dunno. This game is getting funnier and funnier. We do everything but punch 'em in the nose, and here we are all tied up.... How do you figure that?"
That was the question of the day. From the Pirates side, Red Smith reported, "Immediately on reaching the safety of the clubhouse, Pittsburgh's well-read leader, Danny Murtaugh, thumbed through the rule book and gleefully announced a discovery: 'The series will be decided,' he said, 'on games won, not total runs scored.' "
All of which made the prospect of the seventh game as delicious to contemplate as any in World Series history. Would the Pirates, starting Law, win another squeaker? Or would the Yankees, going with their Game 2 starter, Bullet Bob Turley, end it all with thunder?
The game went neither way. In fact, the old script was rewritten at the outset. By the end of the second inning, it was the Pittsburgh bats that had been heard. In the first, after Skinner, the leftfielder, had walked, the butt of Chub Feeney's little joke, Rocky Nelson, pulled a Turley fastball into the lower rightfield stands to put the Pirates ahead 2-0. In the second, with Hoak on third and Mazeroski on second, Virdon stroked a long single to center, scoring both runners, and the inning ended with the Bucs ahead 4-0.
Just as it looked like a rout by the wrong team, little Bobby Shantz—at 5'6", even shorter than Face—came in to start the third inning for the Yankees. Shantz could tease hitters into madness. Throwing a whole farmers' market of sinking pitches, the lefty had the Pirates hammering balls like stakes into the ground: Over the next five innings Shantz gave up just one base hit, a single to catcher Burgess that would prove to have unforeseeable consequences. Murtaugh lifted Burgess for a pinch runner, Joe Christopher, and brought Hal Smith in to catch in the eighth.