1960 World Series Game 7 a ‘life-changing experience’ for players
The 1960 Pirates took an unconventional route to Game 7 of the World Series against the powerful New York Yankees.
When they won, the games were close. When they didn’t, the contests were laughers: The Pirates’ losses were by scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0.
But manager Danny Murtaugh’s club also had a short memory.
“There’s no second-guessing when you get your (butt) kicked,” team captain Dick Groat said. “We were just beaten badly.”
Three pitchers in particular had success against New York in the series. Vern Law and Harvey Haddix won two games apiece and Elroy Face saved three games.
While Groat acknowledged the success of those pitchers, he did not dismiss the contributions of the arms who were knocked around by the American League champions.
“You don’t win a pennant without the entire pitching staff doing a good job,” Groat said. “They had a tough time keeping the ball down against the Yankees.”
Skewed statistics aside, the Pirates and Yankees met 50 years ago today to decide the World Series at venerable Forbes Field. It remains a game for the ages.
Law, the right-hander who went 20-9 during the regular season, started for the Pirates. He had been pitching on an injured ankle throughout the series.
“I couldn’t push off the ankle and tried to make up for it with arm speed,” said Law, who developed a slight tear of his rotator cuff as a result, only experiencing discomfort on the drive home from the ballpark later that day.
Law said he felt fine, though, when he took the ball for the decisive contest and was staked to an early 4-0 lead. After Bill Skowron’s homer in the fifth inning cut the advantage to 4-1, Law found trouble in the sixth. Bobby Richardson led off with a single and Tony Kubek walked. Murtaugh replaced Law with his relief ace, Face.
“I didn’t feel like I had a problem,” Law said. “But Murtaugh took me out and I think he regretted that decision because all heck broke loose after that.”
Face was ineffective, allowing four runs and six hits in three innings. He left the game with the Pirates trailing, 7-4, going into the bottom of the eighth.
That inning almost clinched the World Series.
Gino Cimoli, batting for Face, singled against Yankees left-hander Bobby Shantz. Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon stepped up and promptly hit was looked like a sure double-play ball to Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek.
“When I hit it, I said ‘Oh, no,'” Virdon said. But the Forbes Field infield was unkind, as the ball came up and hit Kubek in the throat. As a result, the Pirates had two on and none out.
Groat and Roberto Clemente hit RBI singles to cut the Yankees lead to 7-6. Then, catcher Hal Smith hit a three-run homer off Jim Coates. The Pirates had a two-run lead three outs from the world championship.
Murtaugh had two pitchers warming up in the bullpen with the ninth inning in wait, Bob Friend and Haddix. Friend got the call.
“We were both ready,” Friend said. “Murtaugh was hoping I could shut them down.”
Murtaugh’s faith in Friend was in deference to the right-hander’s 18-12 record during the regular season and not his two losses already in the Series. Friend said he could handle Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris — “But the Yankees were a smart-hitting group” — then, found problems with singles hitters Richardson and Kubek, allowing back-to-back safeties to start the inning.
“I was a sinker-ball pitcher and they were taking me to the opposite field,” Friend said.
Friend was quickly replaced by Haddix, who retired the side after the Yankees had scored twice to forge a 9-9 tie.
All of which led to Bill Mazeroski’s series-winning home run off Ralph Terry, an event that Law and Friend called a “life-changing experience.”
“Anybody and everybody would like to hit a home run to win the World Series,” Virdon said. “But if we couldn’t do it, we were glad that Maz did.”
While the game has made its mark on baseball history, it’s not without an odd twist.
“The unique thing is that not one person struck out in the entire game,” Groat said. “It was a 10-9 game played in a little over two-and-a-half hours.”
Unconventional, just like the 1960 Pirates.