Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1960 World Series: Confusion, and then Maz

The Teams
National League: Pittsburgh Pirates (95-59) - Fifth World Series (Won in 1909, 1925)
American League: New York Yankees (97-57) - 25th World Series (Won 18 previous times)

What Happened
Depending on what set of games they were watching, baseball fans saw two very different World Series in 1960. If anybody watched just games 2, 3, and 6, they saw a bludgeoning unlike any that had ever been seen in a World Series. Over those three games, the Yankees pounded the helpless Pirate pitchers for 38 runs, setting all sorts of team and individual records over those games. It wasn't just the offense, either, as they got two shutouts from Whitey Ford and only gave up 3 in the other (what a waste of two good pitching performances, by the way; combined score of the two games Ford pitched: 22-0).

If anybody watched just games 1, 4, and 5, they saw an opportunistic Pirate offense scrape together enough runs to take a lead into the seventh inning, then turn the game over to magnificent reliever Roy Face to close it out. Face was a year removed from compiling a truly bizarre 18-1 record as a reliever, but he might have been even better in 1960, even if he didn't go 18-1. He held the leads handed him in the 1960 World Series with little difficulty.

And for the people who watched each of the first six games, the series must have been incredibly confusing. Heading into Game 7, the Yankees had outscored the Pirates 46-17 and out-hit them 79-49, yet the series was tied. The Pirates had won three close games, but there hadn't really been any truly tense games. It was a truly bizarre series.

And then came Game 7.

The game started with the Pirates taking a 4-0 lead after two innings, burning through two Yankee pitchers in the process. They handed a 4-1 lead over to Face in the sixth, and Face promptly blew his first lead of the series. Yogi Berra's three-run home run was the biggest blow, and it made the score 5-4 Yankees.

But things were just getting started

After the Yankees added two more runs off Face in the 8th, that seemed to be all she wrote. The Yankee bats had won out again, and they had finally pounded the Pirates into submission. But the Pirates got five hits in the bottom of the eighth, the biggest a three-run home run by catcher Hal Smith that put Pittsburgh ahead 9-7. The Pirates went from being left for dead to being three outs from a championship. A shocking turn of events.

Now it was the Yankees' turn to face elimination. With one run in in the ninth, they had runners on the corners with one out. Berra smashed a grounder down the first base line that Pirate first baseman
Rocky Nelson snared on a hop. He stepped on first and turned to second, hoping to get the out at second that would end the World Series. Instead Mickey Mantle, who was on first, dove back to the bag, somehow avoiding the tag to get back safely. Meanwhile, Bobby Richardson was coming home with the game-tying run. The Pirates were stunned. They got the double play ball that would have won the World Series, saw it played perfectly, yet were still tied.

They barely had time to register what had happened when second baseman Bill Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth of a tie game. After taking a ball, Mazeroski swung and lifted a fly ball to deep left field. Forbes Field had a pretty deep left field, leading to an ivy-covered wall facing against a small grove of trees, so as Berra (playing left field, not catcher) turned his back to chase the ball, it looked like he was going for a jog through the woods. He looked up expecting to play the ball off the wall, only to watch as it scraped the top of the ivy and bounded into the trees beyond.

Mazeroski sprinted around the bases, hat in hand, waiving his arms. The Pirate fans stormed onto the field in celebration, forcing Mazeroski to navigate a maze of fans while rounding the bases. He finally made it around and stepped on home, the first man to end a World Series with a home run. It had been an odd series, a deceivingly one-sided series. But the magnificent Game 7 made it a series for the ages.

As a sign of how odd the series was, Bobby Richardson was named MVP. In case you weren't paying attention, he played for the Yankees. A member of the losing team was named World Series MVP. The reasons seemed justified at the time - Richardson had a World Series record 12 runs batted in, including a record six in Game 3. But Mantle had 11 runs batted in and outhit and out homered Richardson. Bill Skowron had a series-high 12 hits for the Yankees, and Ford didn't give up a run in two complete-game victories. Almost any Yankee hitter could have been the MVP. Except, of course, that they lost the series. For those who think only the winning team should provide the MVP, it should have been Mazeroski. He led the Pirates in runs, hits, extra-base hits, home runs, and runs batted in. Plus he played his usual outstanding defense at second base. Oh, and he hit the first World Series-ending home run in history. The fact that he wasn't named MVP just shows how confused everybody was about the 1960 World Series.

(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)

New York416 1022129
Pittsburgh 630350 10

The List
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:

15. 1960 - Pittsburgh (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
16. 1952 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-3
17. 1997 - Florida (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-3
18. 1993 - Toronto (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-2
19. 1956 - New York (A) def. Brooklyn (N) 4-3
Numbers 20-29
Numbers 30-39
Numbers 40-49
Numbers 50-59
Numbers 60-69
Numbers 70-79
Numbers 80-89
Numbers 90-99
Numbers 100-107

Game 7s
Simultaneously, I'll rank all the Game 7s. The ones that have appeared in my countdown so far:

3. 1960: Pittsburgh 10, New York (A) 9
5. 1997: Florida 3, Cleveland 2
7. 1946: St. Louis (N) 4, Boston (A) 3
9. 1925: Pittsburgh 9, Washington 7
12. 1979: Pittsburgh 4, Baltimore 1
13. 1955: Brooklyn 2, New York (A) 0
14. 1952: New York (A) 4, Brooklyn 2
15. 1971: Pittsburgh 2, Baltimore 1
16. 1940: Cincinnati 2, Detroit 1
18. 1987: Minnesota 4, St. Louis 2
19. 1958: New York 6, Milwaukee 2
21. 1968: Detroit 4, St. Louis 1
22. 1931: St. Louis (N) 4, Philadelphia (A) 2
23. 1973: Oakland 5, New York (N) 2
24. 2002: Anaheim 4, San Francisco 1
26. 1982: St. Louis 6, Milwaukee 3
28. 1965: Los Angeles (A) 2, Minnesota 0
29. 1964: St. Louis 7, New York (A) 5
30. 1957: Milwaukee 5, New York (A) 0
31. 1967: St. Louis 7, Boston 2
32. 1945: Detroit 9, Chicago (N) 3
33. 1909: Pittsburgh 8, Detroit 0
34. 1934: St. Louis (N) 11, Detroit 0 
35. 1985: Kansas City 11, St. Louis 0
36. 1956: New York (A) 9, Brooklyn 0

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