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Arts, Sports & Culture

Bucs Fans Celebrate 54th Anniversary Of Mazeroski's 1960 World Series Winning Home Run

If Bill Mazeroski hadn’t hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning of the 1960 World Series, Irene Abel may never have met her husband.

“I was working in downtown Pittsburgh,” Abel said. “When the Pirates won the World Series, everyone stopped working and threw their computer tapes and all their paper and everything out the window, closed the office and walked out. It was 3:36pm.”

She called up a couple of girlfriends and asked them to find some guys with a car to pick them up and take them out on the town to celebrate.

“Enos Abel was one of the guys,” Irene Abel remembered. “He was the driver of the car, and he didn’t want to pick me up because he said they had too many people in the car.”

Irene Abel was joined by her son, daughter and granddaughter on Monday as she and dozens of others commemorated Mazeroski’s legendary homerun, which ESPN.com lists as the “greatest home run of all time.”

Mazeroski was the first hitter to face the Yankees’ Ralph Terry in the bottom of the ninth. The score was tied 9-9, and with one ball and no strikes, Mazeroski hit a season-ending home run over the wall at Forbes Field in Oakland.

“It was incredible. After the game it was sheer bedlam,” said Herb Soltman, one of the organizers of Monday’s event. “People were shaking hands and hugging and yelling and screaming and kissing and it didn’t matter who they did it with, they were just happy the Pirates won. It was such an incredible day. It was pure elation.”

Soltman said the tradition of gathering at the old Forbes Field wall in Schenley Plaza was started by his late friend Saul Finkelstein. According to Soltman, back on Oct. 13, 1985 Finkelstein was having a bad day, and thought perhaps reliving some former Pirates glory would cheer him up (the Pirates had gone 57-104 that year). Finkelstein took his tape player, a recording of that 1960 game and his lunch and sat by the wall to listen to the game. The next year, he invited some friends, and a tradition was born.

For the past nine years, Soltman and his “Game 7 Gang” have worked with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to host the event, which now includes not only the radio broadcast but also hot dogs and cold drinks from The Porch.

Around 75 people braved Monday’s cool, wet weather to listen to the game. Soltman said it was smaller than the usual crowd which numbers closer to 200 in nice weather. He said more than 1,000 people had gathered for the 50th anniversary celebration in 2010.

Rege Ricketts is a lifelong Lawrenceville resident and was 13 years old in 1960. He said he was working as a “safety patrol boy,” known today as a crossing guard, with his friend from school. Around the time elementary school got out, the boys knew the game was wrapping up, and they waited impatiently for the last little girl to cross the street.

When she was out of the crosswalk, said Ricketts, “He ran in his home and I ran in my home, and when I opened the door my mother was standing by the ironing board and she said, ‘Rege, Maz hit a home run, we won!’”

John Leichliter also remembered that day. He grew up in Donora in Washington County, and went home from school for lunch every day.

“I went home and I begged my mom ‘Call me off, please call me off,’” Leichliter said. “I never missed school at all. I had a good mom. She called me off, so I got to stay home and watch (the game) on channel 11.”

Leichliter said Mazeroski was his favorite player at the time, but only by coincidence. When he bought his first pack of baseball cards in 1957, Mazeroski’s rookie card was the first Pirates card in his collection.

Leichliter has been collecting Pirates baseball cards and memorabilia ever since, and brought just a small portion of his collection to share with his fellow Pirates fans at Monday’s event.

No other World Series Game 7 has ever been ended with a home run, but Leichliter said it’s not just the uniqueness of the hit that made the game special.

“We were such big underdogs to (the Yankees),” Leichliter said. “They had finished the 1960 season winning 16 or 17 games in a row. Nobody gave us any chance, and it was the first (World Series the Pirates) had won in 35 years, and the first one they’d played in in 33 years.”