Thursday, October 13, 2011

We would be remiss if we did not recognize this landmark date in Pittsburgh sports history.

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," were the words with which Pirate's broadcaster Jim "Possum" Woods concluded the radio broadcast of the Bucs' epic 10-9 victory over the Yankees in the 1960 World Series. It happened on this date, Oct. 13, 1960. 

Today is the 51st anniversary of that momentous occasion and, as happens every Oct. 13, people will make a pilgrimage of sorts to gather in Oakland at the site of the Forbes Field wall, listen to a re-broadcast of the game, revel in the history, and cheer on the 1960 Pirates. It's all good fun.

Snicker all you want and accuse Pirates fans of living in the past. Granted, today's Pirates are nothing like the 1960 Pirates, nor are they like the contemporary big-budget Yankees except that both teams are done for the season.

Like Casablanca's Humphrey Bogart (Rick) and Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa Lund) will always have Paris, we Pirates fans will always have 1960.

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 -- the greatest, most dramatic World Series moment ever.

It was the greatest baseball game ever played. And one of the wackiest World Series ever.

"Sufferin' Catfish!! You Can Kiss It Goodbye!!!"

So-o-o-o ... it's fun to join other fans gathering at the still-standing section of the wall over which Maz's homer sailed to celebrate the occasion. The celebration gets bigger and bigger each year, and it's worth checking out if you have the time and can get there.


Check out this fantastic recap of the game at The Green Weenie.
"A Painful Memor for the Yanks -- Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

In 1960, A Series to Remember (or Forget) -- Sean D. Hammill, The New York Times

Whither Rashard?

Rashard Mendenhall
Last season, including the post-season, Rashard Mendenhall had 418 touches (carries plus receptions). 

Neither a speed burner like Chris Johnson nor a power back like Brandon Jacobs, Mendenhall was nevertheless sturdy, steady and generally reliable last year with just two fumbles lost in the regular season (plus that nightmare of a pivotal fumble in the Super Bowl). During the regular season, Mendenhall started every game, broke 11 runs of 20 yards or more and had 13 touchdowns.

Considering for a moment that 300 carries a season for a running back is a lot, isn't it time to consider splitting carries in a rotation of running backs? ... especially since the Steelers seem to have good backups in Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Mewelde Moore (when he returns from his ankle injury).

Isaac Redman
Now in his third season, Rashard is still a young guy, just 24, so this is not to suggest he is in decline. A change of pace during games, however, presumably would keep him fresh and, just as importantly, give defenses a different look. The Steelers have four decent running backs; why not use them?

So much the better if the backup running backs bring different styles to the mix, say a power punch and a speed dynamic* -- but it doesn't really matter. The important thing is to maximize the effectiveness of your backs. That's especially so, if your starter is beat up or coming off an an injury (Mendhall returned to practice yesterday and had full participation).

It appears the coaching staff may be pulling in the reins a bit, anyway. This year, through the four games Mendenhall has played (he sat out last Sunday with a bad hamstring), he is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry on just 58 carries (which averages out to fewer than 15 carries per game, which isn't a whole lot). His lack of success relative to last season may be in part attributed to the offensive line, and possibly because he is not entirely healthy. And he may be carrying a hangover from being hit so much last year.

Now, with the impressive performances of Redman and Dwyer last Sunday, speculation is rampant that Redman will start and get most of the carries. Maybe he will. Coaches being what they are, however, it seems unlikely they will go with a new starter based on one game.

Still, it does appear in any case that the coaches plan to use more of a rotation of running backs, with Redman, Dwyer and Moore getting a higher percentage of carries than we saw last year. Seems like a good idea.

*A mix of power and speed -- remember Jerome Bettis and Eric Pegram? Now that was a good combination that presented an effective change of pace.
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