Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Game 7: Exciting World Series Finales (1960)

October 13, 1960
New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

It's hard to believe that this Series lasted seven games. The Yankees collected an impressive total of 55 hits (27 for extra bases) and compiled a team batting average of .338. But the resilient Pirates recovered from blowout losses in Games 2, 3 and 6 to claim their first world championship since 1925. The finale included one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.

The Series had been almost anti-climactic prior to Game 7 with just one lead change in the first six games. The final contest was a see saw battle full of high drama. The Yankees sent Game 2 winner Bob Turlery to the mound against Pirates ace Vern Law, who had collected 20 victories during the regular season. Turley lasted just one inning as the Pirates jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. The Bucs added another pair in the bottom of the second and carried a 4-1 edge into the top of the sixth before a 4-run Yankee outburst left them scrambling to catch up.

The Yankees padded their lead with 2 more runs in the eighth, but the Pirates came storming back in the bottom of the inning. With a runner on first and no outs, center fielder Bill Virdon hit a hard grounder to Tony Kubek at short that looked like a sure double play ball. The ball took a bad hop and hit Kubek in the throat. He collapsed to the ground and started coughing up blood. Rushed to the hospital, Kubek was replaced by journeyman Joe DeMaestri. The freak play opened the door for a 5-run Pirate rally that was capped off by a 3-run homer by catcher Hall Smith.

The Pirates scarcely had no time to gloat as the Yankee bats came to life again in the ninth. Mickey Mantle delivered his second RBI single of the afternoon and Yogi Berra followed with a run-scoring grounder to tie the game. Among the greatest performers in Series history, Berra and Mantle combined for 4 homers and 19 RBIs while collectively hitting .361 in the Series.

With  the game knotted at 9 apiece in the bottom of the ninth, Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski stepped in to face Yankee right-hander Ralph Terry. A lifetime .260 hitter, "Maz" was known more for his sparkling glove work around second base. On this day, he provided one of the most heroic batting feats in Pirate history, lifting Terry's second pitch--a fastball--to deep left field. Yogi Berra sprinted toward the ivy-covered wall, but ran out of room as the ball landed in the seats for a walk-off homer. Mazeroski galloped around the bases waving his helmet and was mobbed by jubilant Pittsburgh fans. It marked the first time a 7-game World Series had ever ended with a home run.  

Asked about what he had thrown to Mazeroski years after the fact, Terry commented: "I don't know what the pitch was. All I know is it was the wrong one." (He would redeem himself in the '62 Fall Classic with a 4-hit Series-clinching victory in Game 7 over the Giants.) Yankee manager Casey Stengel was widely criticized for the loss. Casey, who had celebrated his seventieth birthday during the season, ended up being fired. In Stengel fashion, he commented comically: "I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again."          

In 2013, Mazeroski auctioned off more than 200 items of personal memorabilia, including his Game 7 uniform and cleats. He told reporters that he had been approached after the game by seven or eight different fans all claiming to have caught his home run ball and asking him to pay no less than $50 for it. The 2013 auction netted Mazeroski almost $2 million.  


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