’60 Series gets star treatment
The story of the Pirates’ epic 1960 World Series victory over the New York Yankees — capped by Bill Mazeroski’s ninth inning home run in the deciding game — has been told, re-told and celebrated the last several months. But something different happened Saturday night. People finally got to watch it.
In a tale almost as improbable as the on-field dramatics, a journey from Bing Crosby’s wine cellar in California ended at the downtown Byham Theater. There, the NBC telecast of Game 7 was shown for the first time since the game was played exactly a half-century plus one month ago.
A full house of about 1,000 filled the venerable theater for what will be a program hosted by Bob Costas and aired on the MLB Network on Dec. 15. They cheered and jeered and went bonkers as those who jammed into Forbes Field did on Oct. 13, 1960, as if they were seeing the Pirates’ 10-9 victory for the first time.
Which, except for a handful of fans who were at the game, they were.
The only downer for the Pirates and their fans was that Mazeroski, of all people, missed the event because of a kidney stone attack that put him in the hospital. But the club still was well-represented. Elroy Face, Bob Friend, Vern Law, Dick Groat, Hal Smith, Bob Oldis, Joe Christopher and Bill Virdon were on hand, along with Roberto Clemente’s widow, Vera.
Seated in big, cushy chairs on stage as a screen behind them showed the action, Groat, the shortstop and captain, and centerfielder Virdon joined Costas as part of a panel that talked about the game and told some tales. Also with them was Series most valuable player Bobby Richardson, the Yankees second baseman who remains the only MVP from a losing team.
Asked what it was like to see the game, Virdon said, “I’m glad I was there.”
Richardson, on the impact of Mazeroski’s home run, said, “All of a sudden it was over and we were out of it.”
Crosby, the legendary crooner, was part of a four-man syndicate headed by John Galbreath that bought the Pirates in 1946 and knew mostly failure until the magical 1960 season. Crosby was so emotionally involved that he left the country to avoid jinxing his team. He and his wife, Kathryn, listened to the game with friends on shortwave radio with friends in Paris.
But prior to leaving, Crosby had a company record the telecast in kinescope, an early recording method. After returning to the States and viewing the game, he put the two reels in a wine cellar he had converted into a vault at his Hillsborough, Calif., home. The 16-millimeter film was discovered in mint condition in December and transferred to DVD. It had never aired since the original telecast.
“This story is unbelievable,” said actor Michael Keaton, a lifelong Pirates fan who grew up in Robinson Township. “They ought to make a movie of it.”
Keaton, who taped an introduction, was part of a crowd that included former Steelers great Franco Harris, Pirates owner Bob Nutting and team president Frank Coonelly.
The telecast was strictly no-frills: Black and white, minimal graphics (the term probably hadn’t been invented yet), just two announcers who each did half the game – the Pirates’ Bob Prince and the Yankees’ Mel Allen, whose call of Maz’s home run was drowned out by the roar inside the theater. Except for the commercials, nothing was left out.
Costas played emcee with his usual mix of wry wit and appropriate reverence. He doesn’t interview as much as he converses, engaging with several ex-players in the audience as well as the panel. There were great stories and lots of laughs. The Pirates won again.