- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
And so did Pittsburgh's Pirates when Bill Mazeroski swung his bat and hit the ball (arrow) over Forbes Field's distant left field wall. Yankee hopes were dead, the seventh game was over and the Pirates had won their first World Series in 35 years.
AN UNFORGETTABLE FINISH FOR AN UNUSUAL SHOW
The 1960 World Series ended just a week ago, but the Great Debate it engendered is still raging everywhere except, possibly, on TV. The question: Did the Pirates win on their remarkable determination and higher over-all level of skill, or did the Yankees lose through an amazing sequence of mischances?
The answer to Part 1 of the question is yes, and the answer to Part 2 is no. Certainly the Pirates got some breaks (see opposite page), and they took advantage of them, as a good ball club will. But the Yankees got breaks, too. They had to face perhaps the best Pirate hitter, Bob Skinner, in only two games; he missed the others because of an injured thumb. Dick Groat, the National League batting champion, was still recovering from a broken wrist. If there was one bad hop in the Series, there were a dozen for each team, a fact Casey Stengel admitted after it was all over. If a Bill Skowron home run curved foul, so did one by Vernon Law. The Pirates had breaks, the Yankees had breaks, and breaks have a way of evening out.
Hardly anyone has mentioned what really happened: the Pittsburgh Pirates, playing the same kind of baseball they played all year, beat a New York Yankee team which was playing over its head. If anything, the Pirates were subpar. With a season-long team batting average of .276, they were able to hit only .256 in the Series—and that, more than anything else, is a tribute to the ability of Whitey Ford. The Pirates were shut out only four times all season—never by Warren Spahn or Lou Burdette, not by Don Drysdale or Sam Jones or Mike McCormick or Larry Jackson—yet Ford did it twice in two attempts.
Not once could a Pirate pitcher throw a complete game, not even Vernon Law, who completed 18 during the regular season, or Bob Friend, who completed 16. Law beat the Yankees twice in three tries and he made them look bad, but Law was pitching with an injured ankle and he needed help in all three games from Roy Face. What happened to Friend is anyone's guess; during the season he was as good a pitcher as Law, sometimes better, yet the Yankees drove him out three times. Vinegar Bend Mizell failed, too. Harvey Haddix pitched very well for six innings, which is the way Haddix pitches. As for Face, he saved three games, and the surprising thing is that he failed to save a fourth, for Roy Face is the best relief pitcher in the business. So the Pirate pitching was generally subpar, too. But the Pirates won in seven games.
During the 1960 season the Yankees batted .260. They set an American League home run record of 193, but only one Yankee hitter was over .300 ( Moose Skowron at .309), and not another was over .284. Yet in the World Series the Yankees hit .338 as a team. Elston Howard was .462, John Blanchard .455, Mickey Mantle .400, Skowron .375, Bobby Richardson .367, Tony Kubek .333, Yogi Berra .318. Richardson, in particular, was sensational. A .252 hitter with one home run and 26 runs batted in for the year, Richardson set records for runs batted in during a game (six) and during a Series (12). As a team the Yankees set records for most hits (91), most runs (55), most RBIs (54) and highest batting average. It was a spectacular performance, but if anyone thinks this is the way the Yankees play baseball all the time he has not seen much of them in the last two years.
Until the final game, it was a World Series lacking in many things. The three games which the Yankees won were so one-sided that pity for the Pirates was the predominant emotion; there was no suspense at all. If suspense existed in the three early Pirate victories, it was there merely because of an awareness of what the Yankee hitters might do, not because of what they did. The Yankees, once behind, seemed content to stay there.
There were only two stolen bases, both by the Pirates in the first inning of the first game. Bill Virdon's wonderful catches and a superb job at third base by Don Hoak supplied most of the fielding excitement; the two shortstops made a total of five errors, and the two fine second basemen had nothing but routine chances.
Then came the seventh game.