PITTSBURGH – For one shining day, Bill Mazeroski and the Pittsburgh Pirates were going like '60 again.
The ballpark was missing. So were the New York Yankees, not that they were needed. Mazeroski and nearly a dozen former Pirates teammates were there, reliving the vivid memories of the day that stands above all others in Pirates history.
Several thousand Pirates rooters gathered Wednesday at the spot where Forbes Field stood on Oct. 13, 1960, the day Mazeroski's historic homer in the ninth inning gave the underdog Pirates a 10-9 victory over the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.
That come-from-behind victory over the Mickey Mantle-led Yankees — the Pirates trailed 7-4 in the eighth inning — is considered to be one of baseball's classic games.
Mazeroski and teammates including Vern Law, Bob Friend, Bill Virdon, Dick Groat, Hal Smith, Joe Gibbon, George Witt, Bob Oldis and Joe Christopher posed for pictures, signed autographs and took part in a ceremony unveiling a sidewalk plaque commemorating the only home run to end a World Series Game 7. Vera Clemente, the wife of the late Roberto Clemente, and son Luis also attended the annual celebration.
Even the weather conditions — blue skies, warm temperatures, the trees fast turning from summer to autumn — were nearly identical to what they were on Thursday, Oct. 13, 1960.
Forbes Field was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the Pitt Law School, but fans gather at the ballpark's lone remnant — the center-field wall — each Oct. 13 to listen to a replay of the NBC Radio broadcast. The tradition began in 1985 when fan Saul Finkelstein, who has since died, took a portable tape player with him to the center field wall and replayed the game. As he kept up the tradition, others began joining him.
Pirates players occasionally showed up to mark the occasion, but this was the first time so many attended in the same year.
"This is just unbelievable, unbelievable," said Hal Smith, whose three-run homer in the eighth briefly put the Pirates ahead 9-7. "We never dreamed of anything like this back then."
The fans, some of whom attended Game 7, cheered the first-inning home run by Rocky Nelson as vocally as they did that day. They also counted down to 3:36 p.m., the precise moment Mazeroski's drive off Ralph Terry flew over the 406-foot marker in left field.
"It just gets bigger and bigger," Mazeroski said of the home run that helped make him a Hall of Famer.
A statue depicting Mazeroski joyfully rounding second base, batting helmet in hand, after homering in Game 7 was unveiled last month at PNC Park, along a street known as Mazeroski Way.
"It was a monumental home run," reliever Roy Face said.
The '60 Series is remembered not only for its ending, but for how the Pirates overcame losses of 16-3, 10-0 and 12-0 to win it. The Yankees set numerous offensive records, including second baseman Bobby Richardson's 12 RBIs, while outscoring the Pirates 55-27, yet lost every close game in the Series.
Also recalled by the fans was how Mazeroski won Game 1 with a two-run homer, a drive he said helped him relax for the rest of the Series, and how he grounded into a rally-killing double play during his next-to-last at-bat in Game 7.
As the players and fans reminisced, they discussed the salaries of the day — $25,000 was good money — and how even a moderate downturn in production would result in a pay cut the following season. Both New York and Pennsylvania taxed the World Series' winners shares of $8,500 each, with Smith recalling, "We ended up with six-something. But that was good money back then."
The players listened to the first five innings of the game before being whisked off to attend a black tie charity dinner in their honor at PNC Park, where current-era fans have yet to witness a winning season, much less a championship, in its 10 seasons of existence.
"it's nice to be back here — Pittsburgh is a good town and we hope they can start winning again," said Virdon, a former Pirates player, manager and coach.
Some of the '60 Pirates will return to Pittsburgh on Nov. 13 for a theater showing of the newly discovered film of NBC's Game 7 telecast, a copy of which was not thought to have existed. The film was made at the time for the late Bing Crosby, the famed entertainer who long owned a small share of the Pirates. After viewing it, he stored it with other tapes and films of his career in his wine cellar, thus preserving the film in a like-new state.
The Game 7 film will be telecast on the MLB Network on Dec. 15, with interviews taped at the November showing included.