Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In Case There Was Any Doubt …

There was never really any doubt, but to put things in perspective … to gauge briefly how irrelevant the Pirates have become in the pantheon of baseball's mega-market demi-gods … to understand the 30,000-foot view view of our pathetic, ant-like existence here in fly-over land … well, all you have to do is check out the following headline and sub-head from today's edition of the New York Post:



by GEORGE A. KING III, New York Post

June 24, 2008 -- They have done what was required against the dregs of Bud Selig's world, taking seven of nine from the awful Astros, putrid Padres and rancid Reds.

And while the pitiful Pirates are on the docket for the next three games beginning tonight in Pittsburgh, there is a stretch of games lurking behind the Pirates that will tell us much more about the Yankees than the Astros, Padres, Reds and Pirates can.


Well, okay, so we're not the Yankees, and we never will be. But, like Casablanca's Humphrey Bogart (Rick) and Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund) will always have Paris, we will always have 1960.

Sigh. Talk about living in the past. Sheesh.

Still, if you're going to have one landmark, highlight-of-highlights moment, Maz's homer is a great one to have; arguably the greatest, most dramatic World Series moment ever.

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Recent History Over-rides Old

By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette

"There are all kinds of reasons for the Pirates to be freaked out in facing the New York Yankees tonight at PNC Park, and they go well beyond the historic implications of this first meeting on Pittsburgh soil since Bill Mazeroski was waving his cap in 1960.

"To start, there is recent history: The Pirates lost all six interleague meetings in Yankee Stadium, three in 2005 and three more last year, and one of those was sick enough to turn an umpire's stomach."

A Painful Memory for the Yanks

by Mike Vaccarro, New York Post

"In the first six games (of the 1960 World Series), the Yankees won three games by a total score of 38-3; but the Pirates also won three, those by a maddening score of 14-8.

"Then, of course, came the one word that continues to haunt just about every Yankee fan over the age of 55 or so: Mazeroski.

"Actually, Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning blast capped what may well have been the greatest World Series game of all time, a 10-9 epic in which the Yankees trailed 4-0 after two innings, led 7-4 after seven innings, trailed 9-7 heading into the ninth and ultimately tied, 9-9, after a Yogi Berra RBI groundout that nearly trapped Mickey Mantle off first for the series-ending out.

"In a talk-radio world, they might still be talking about that one, because of all the twists and turns, all the iffy managerial decisions (in addition to everything else, it was Casey Stengel's last game as Yankees manager, and his performance in this game helped push that decision along). In 1960, it was enough to know that the game made Mickey Mantle, hero to millions, cry.

"I don't ever remember crying after any other game I ever played," Mickey Mantle said in a 1985 interview published in The Post, the 25th anniversary of that epic, awful Series, "but I cried my eyes out in Pittsburgh. Thinking about it today, I still want to cry."


In 1960, a Series to Remember (or Forget)

By Sean D. Hammill, The New York Times

Coming into the 1960 Series, the Pirates were widely seen as the sacrificial lamb on the altar of a Yankee dynasty that was in the process of winning 10 of 16 World Series from 1947 to 1962.

“The sportswriters, especially those guys from New York, never gave us a chance,” said Bill Virdon, the Pirates’ fleet-footed center fielder on the 1960 team. “They didn’t bother to look at how we got there.”

While the Yankees, led by Mantle, Moose Skowron and the newly acquired Roger Maris, lighted up the American League, hitting a league-record 193 homers and winning 97 games, the Pirates were winning 95 games the hard way.

“This was a team that came from behind from the seventh inning on 40 times during the season,” said Groat, the Pirates’ shortstop and the 1960 league most valuable player. “We just didn’t think we could lose. And we just rode that into the World Series.”

The Yankees won Games 2, 3 and 6 by scores of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0, while the Pirates eked out their wins by 6-4, 3-2 and 5-2, setting up the Game 7 slugfest.

As Mazeroski tells it, when he led off the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied, 9-9, his goal was simply “to hit it hard, get on and get us started.”

Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry's first pitch, a fastball, was a ball, high in the zone. His next pitch was down a bit lower — right in Mazeroski’s power zone.

“He said it was a breaking ball, but it didn’t break too much,” Mazeroski said. “And this one came in chest high.”

It left the ballpark, soaring over Yankees left fielder Yogi Berra and the 406-foot sign, into the grass and woods behind the 12-foot wall, sending the Yankees into despair, the Pirates into euphoria, and turning Mazeroski into Pittsburgh’s hero. “Somehow, it just did something to the city,” Mazeroski said, “and they just can’t forget it."