1960 World Series

It was more than just Mazeroski; Many contributed for both teams; The details will never be forgotten

Curt Smith

A Home Run and Its Wake!

Criticized by some for seeming old-timey, baseball adopted several changes this year to enliven its entertainment and rate of play. Today, part three of a four-part retrospective of an event that thrived at both: the 1960 World Series, particularly Game Seven, a pyrotechnic classic taking barely two and a half-hours.

How Game Seven started?

October 13, 1960, Game Seven of the World Series, broke mild and bright in Pittsburgh. Introducing Pirates Voice Bob Prince, the Yankees’ Mel Allen saluted “one of the zaniest World Series that you could ever witness.” Half a century later, the final set of that Fall Classic was shown in its entirety for the first time since then, on November 13, 2010 at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater—and  telecast nationally that December 15 on MLB Network.

In the first inning, New York’s Bob Turley yielded “a drive, deep right field, way back she goes!” by Rocky Nelson, bayed Prince. “And you can kiss that one good-bye!” For the first time that day girders throbbed at Forbes Field. Next inning Bill Virdon’s two-run double off reliever Bill Stafford gave Pittsburgh’s 20-9 regular season pitcher Vern Law—to Prince, “Meridian, Idaho’s pride and joy”—a 4-0 lead. In 2010, after Bobby Shantz became the Yankees’ third pitcher, MLB Network left play-by-play to return in the third inning to the Byham Theater, where many of 1960’s principals had converged.

You’re amazed by the participants immediate recall. Each one is instant and to the point. 

Noting how some hitters recall a pitcher’s sequence long after an at-bat, MLB host Bob Costas said: “Do you remember how Stafford pitched you?” Virdon, a defensive wiz, drew a laugh: “I don’t have a clue.” The Yanks’ Bobby Richardson pondered skipper Casey Stengel’s curious decision to start Art Ditmar in the opener, delaying Whitey Ford’s start and perhaps making him unavailable to work the final. Bobby mused that the move made “Stengel the Mets’ [first] manager,” hired by the N.L. expansion club after his firing in the Series wake. MLB retrieved play-by-play in time for New York’s Bill (Moose) Skowron to lead off inning five. “And there’s a drive to deep right! That ball has a chance to get out of here! And you can kiss that one good-bye!” warbled Prince, nicknamed the Gunner for once making a crack to a woman in a bar only to have her husband pull a gun.

Mel Allen

Allen was still on the money

Allen took the mic in Pittsburgh’s fifth. In the Bronx Bombers’ sixth, Richardson singled, “his 10th World Series hit.” Law, “pitching very carefully [on an injured ankle] . . . a stout-hearted man,” said Mel, walked Tony Kubek, leading Bucs manager Danny Murtaugh “to bring in Roy Face for the fourth time in the Series.” After Roger Maris fouled out. Mickey Mantle’s grounder barely eluded shortstop Dick Groat: 4-2. Yogi Berra then lofted a drive “deep to right field, but it is going to go . . . foul, out of play,” Allen said, amending, “it is all the way, excuse me! All the way for a home run!” Umpire Jim Honochick signaled fair. “[Outfielder Roberto] Clemente never moved over,” Mel explained, “and we thought the ball was curving foul! A home run for Yogi Berra!” The Yankees led, 5-4. The tone at Forbes changed on a dime.

Next week Sports Illustrated mocked “[the] greatest Classic miscue since Clem McCarthy’s historic miscall of the 1947 Kentucky Derby [sic Preakness].” In the last of the sixth, reliever Shantz, his last miscue a third-inning walk, retired his 12th straight batter, Pittsburgh’s  No. 21.

The emotion of the game

Before the seventh inning, MLB Network revisited the Byham, Costas noting of Clemente, “Every time he is seen on screen here, whether he’s just warming up . . . stepping into the box  . . . at the plate . . . catching a routine fly ball . . . there’s a reaction in the audience here,” which promptly applauded. “Throughout baseball, your husband,” Bob told widow Vera Clemente, “is not just respected or admired, he’s revered. What does it mean to you to watch him play 50 years later?” Vera: “He used to say that he loved the town so much that ‘if the Pirates decided to trade me, I would quit.’ Every day, I see people on the street, they talk about him,” his presence always there.

Despite Clemente batting .310 in the Classic, “the score is 5 to 4, Yankees,” Allen said as the eighth inning started, eerily prophesying, “but it may not stay that way.” With two out, Berra walked. Skowron’s infield trickler became a then-Series record-tying 12th hit. Johnny Blanchard arced a “line drive into right-center field,” tallying Yogi. Clete Boyer doubled, scoring Moose: 7-4. Still overlooked: in his fifth inning of scoreless relief, Shantz, swinging, bounced a foul down the left-field line that almost became a two-run double. Fair, it would have plated two more (9-4) New York runs, making the ninth inning a different beast. Instead, as Gino Cimoli, batting for Face, led off Pittsburgh’s eighth and Mel declaimed, “This is the 57th World Series, and the 17th to be decided in seven games,” Cimoli singled. Virdon then lanced Shantz’s 0-1 pitch: the pivot on which the Series turned.

Wild hops

“There’s a [double play] ground ball hit to short—knocks—and it hits Kubek in the face!” yelped Allen.

“The ball took a hard hop … bounced up and hit him in the face! And all hands are safe!!” Writhing on the ground, Tony grabbed his throat, began to cough blood, and had trouble breathing as Stengel and trainer Gus Mauch bolted from the dugout. Casey rasped, “Give him room.” With no TV instant replay, different angle, analyst, or even color man, America was unsure what she had just observed. “Tony wants to stay in,” said Mel. “Casey wants to make sure.” Momentarily: “Tony doesn’t want to go out, trying to convince Casey that he’s all right. And Casey says, ‘Look, if you’re not, let’s not be a hero, in that sense.’” Joe De Maestri became New York’s new shortstop. Tony, now standing, went by ambulance to a hospital.

Later Kubek, among four Yankees with at least 10 Series hits, said, “The ball hit something”—a pebble, spike mark, or Forbes rough spot, no one knows—”and hit me [in the larynx].” Allen nicely summed up “the Pirates’ new lease on life: Two on and nobody out, when it appeared for a moment as if there would be two out and nobody on.” Groat’s single straightaway scored Cimoli: 7-5. Unaccountably, given the next two left-handed batters, Stengel pulled Shantz for right-hander Jim Coates. After Bob Skinner’s bunt advanced Groat and Virdon, Rocky Nelson flew to short right field, Maris’ arm keeping Virdon at third. With two out, Clemente brooked a 1-2 count. “A peak moment in World Series drama,” said Mel. “Hearts race and pulses pound . . . [He] hits a soft dribbler toward [first baseman] Skowron and nobody’s going to get over! Bases loaded [actually, Virdon scored: 7-6]!” Even the imperturbable Allen seemed perturbed.

The late Dick Groat

Coates’ faux pas—trying to catch the “dribbler,” he failed to cover first—reprieved the Bucs: still two out and on. An inning earlier, slow-moving catcher Smoky Burgess had singled, left for a pinch-runner, and been replaced by reserve Hal Smith. Presently the once-Yankees prospect “hits a drive to deep left field! That ball is way back out there!” Mel said. “Going, going, gone! And pandemonium breaks loose at Forbes Field! The fans go wild in Pittsburgh!” As Groat, Clemente, and Smith scored, the Orioles’ Chuck Thompson, calling NBC Radio play-by-play with the Cubs’ Jack Quinlan, dubbed Forbes “an outdoor insane asylum”: Bucs 9, Bombers 7. At this moment mayhem was king, and disbelief first minister.

Smith’s 2010 taped thunderclap drew what the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com dubbed “a thunderous standing ovation” from the Byham audience. In the show’s next studio segment, Prince Hal recalled that as he neared second base, seeing people standing on the dugout roofs, he asked himself, “‘What have I done?’ I was absolutely overwhelmed.” Film shows him being lifted by Clemente and Groat in the air between home plate and the dugout, Allen describing “one of the most dramatic base hits in the history of the World Series.” Soon, however, in keeping with the schizophrenic nature of this Series, joy at Forbes Field yielded to angst about another Yankees ceiling crashing in. (Forbes Field, 1909-70), Oakland section of Pittsburgh)

The game – until it concludes dramatically

In the ninth inning, Richardson led off by singling off new pitcher Bob Friend. Dale Long pinch-singled, whereupon Maris fouled out off another reliever, Harvey Haddix. Mantle then slashed “a line drive into right-center field,” said Mel of Mick’s third hit of the afternoon. “Richardson will score. Long around second and goes on to third, and it’s 9 to 8.” At about this time in the Byham, Bobby, ever the gentleman, turned unscripted to Groat on stage and said, “Boy, this is exciting!” On film, Gil McDougald ran for Long at third base as Berra, homering and walking his two past at-bats—at 35 still baseball’s best bad-ball hitter—reached the plate.

Tension was almost insupportable. Each TV close-up shot, the medium barely a decade old, revealed the strain. Mantle led off first base. On a one-out 2-0 count, Yogi triggered a play almost no one had seen before. “And there’s a shot, grabbed by Nelson, steps on first [erasing Berra as a runner] and Mantle gets back to first! He’s safe, and McDougald scores the tying run on an amazing turn of events!” Allen explained. “On a hard shot by Berra, Nelson grabbed the ball, stepped on first, and Mantle, with quick thinking, stopped in his tracks, slid underneath the tag, got back to first, as McDougald scored the tying run. How about that! And so what appeared to be the game-ending double play results in the tying run!”—Mel’s sketch quick, precise, and true.

Tony Kubek

After the Series, Mantle phoned Kubek in the hospital, conversation turning to the play. Mickey conceded that after Rocky Nelson retired Berra, “I just froze” a few feet away. “I just didn’t know what to do.” In 2010, Costas mused, “If he [the Yankees’ No. 7] just gets into a run-down, McDougald’s going to score [from third base] for sure” before Nelson could tag Mantle. Instead, Rocky hesitated, too, Mickey’s decision working, “because his athleticism paid off.” Like Costas, Richardson felt that “his instincts kicked in and he made that wonderful dive back in.”

As with Kubek’s eighth-inning bad hop, no TV instant replay, different angle, or color commentary existed to help a viewer. If it had and events had transpired, we might have seen Nelson attempt a 3-6-3 double play or retire Berra before throwing home to nab McDougald. Dick Groat succinctly crystalized the chaos, observing at the Byham, “I don’t know what Mickey was thinking about, but it sure worked out well for him.” It worked even better for Pittsburgh’s ninth-inning leadoff man.

Part Four on Friday: A Home Run and Its Wake.

CURT SMITH is the author of 18 books, including Voices of The Game, named by Esquire magazine among “The 100 Best Baseball Books Ever Written.” Smith also wrote the most speeches of anyone for President George H.W. Bush. Since 1998, he has been Senior Lecturer of English at the University of Rochester. curtsmith@netacc.net


Curt Smith

CURT SMITH is the author of 18 books, including Voices of The Game, recently named by Esquire magazine among “the 100 Best Baseball Books Ever Written.” His latest is the official Hall of Fame book, Memories from the Microphone. USA Today calls Smith “the leading voice of authority on baseball broadcasting.” He wrote more speeches than anyone for President George H. W. Bush, The New York Times styling his work “the high point of Bush familial eloquence.” Since 1998, Smith has been Senior Lecturer of English at the University of Rochester, teaching Public Speaking and Presidential Rhetoric. curtsmith@netacc.net

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Michael Green
7 months ago

Fascinating stuff! If I remember, Kubek said the play actually affected his neck or back and led to his early retirement at 29. As it turned out, although the ball hit him in the larynx, his voice obviously didn’t suffer–he became one of the best analysts we have seen in baseball.

Barry Kipnis
7 months ago

First WS I followed with interest. I had one of the first color TVs and NBC telecast it in color. Unfortunately, the competing teams had rather drab, virtually colorless uniforms so I at least appreciated the green grass.