Maz’s Shot Returns

LOS ANGELES—A piece of recently unearthed video should give Pirates fans something to cheer about again.

Unseen for 50 years, a film of the live TV broadcast of Bill Mazeroski’s walkoff home run in Game Seven of the 1960 World Series was discovered last December in the wine cellar of famed crooner Bing Crosby’s longtime Northern California home. Recently transferred from film to DVD, the game broadcast will be shown on MLB Network in December. Major League Baseball has exclusive rights to the property, which will be made available for individual purchase by the public later this year. Originally, the film was shot in kinescope form—which simply means the live broadcast was filmed off of a television monitor.

Mazeroski’s Pirates defeated the Yankees in that deciding game by a score of 10-9. Despite getting outscored 55-27 in the series, the Bucs edged the Yanks to capture the title in the last game of baseball’s pre-expansion era.

Considered one of the greatest games in baseball history, the Pirates’ 10-9 victory has previously been preserved only in photographs and the official MLB World Series highlight film. No other recording of the seventh game TV broadcast—in whole or in part—is believed to exist. Crosby, a lifelong baseball fan and part-owner of the Pirates for many years, reportedly couldn’t bear to watch the game on TV or in person out of fear of jinxing his favorite team. He headed to Paris with his wife Kathryn instead and listened to the game with their friends Charles and Nonie de Limur.

“We were in this beautiful apartment, listening on shortwave, and when it got close Bing opened a bottle of Scotch and was tapping it against the mantel,” Kathryn Crosby said. “When Mazeroski hit the home run, he tapped it hard; the Scotch flew into the fireplace and started a conflagration. I was screaming and Nonie said, ‘It’s very nice to celebrate things, but couldn’t we be more restrained?’ ”

Crosby had hired a film company to make the kinescope, which he watched upon his return. The landmark film was then stored—unnoticed—in Crosby’s Hillsborough, Calif., home for a half century. Robert Bader, vice president of Bing Crosby Entertainment, found the film canisters while searching through the singer’s personal collection. The tins were innocently marked “1960 World Series”.

Nick Trotta, senior manager of library licensing for MLB, the film was in pristine condition and the resulting quality of the DVD is remarkable, given the film’s age.

One To Remember

To understand the significance of this discovery one has to remember the importance of the game—particularly in Pittsburgh.

Unlike the dynastic Yankees, who broke open a tight pennant race by winning their final 15 games, the Pirates claimed their first pennant in 33 years in 1960 after being one of the worst teams in the majors during the early 1950s.

In the American League, the dynastic Yankees broke open a tight pennant race by winning their final 15 games. New York boasted a lineup full of all-stars and Hall of Famers, including Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Bill Skowron.

In the early 1950’s Pittsburgh was one of the worst teams in baseball history. As the decade progressed the Bucs improved their fortunes. Their 1960 pennant was the organizations’ first in 33 years. Pittsburgh featured Cy Young winner Vernon Law, NL MVP and batting champion Dick Groat, budding superstar Roberto Clemente and defensive stalwarts Bill Virdon and Mazeroski.

The deciding game of the series was played on the afternoon of Oct. 13 at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field and was televised live on NBC. Pirates play-by-play man Bob Prince handled the first half of the game solo and legendary Yankee announcer Mel Allen covered the final innings.

Broadcast in black and white, NBC used a then unusual technique which is now a common practice—a center-field camera aimed over the pitcher’s shoulder in toward home plate. Prior to 1960, most major league telecasts used a main camera positioned above and behind home plate, giving TV watchers a kind of “press box” view.

The Yankees evened the score at 9 in the top of the ninth and Mazeroski led off the bottom of the inning for the Pirates. He took Ralph Terry’s first pitch for a ball. After that pitch, Yankee catcher Johnny Blanchard jogged to the mound for a quick chat with Terry. With Blanchard back behind the plate, the center field camera was zeroed in on the action as Terry went into a full windup.

Mazeroski swung at Terry’s offering and sent a long drive toward the 406 foot sign in left center. Yogi Berra, playing left field for New York, drifted back as if he had a play on the ball. Realizing his only chance was to play a possible carom, Berra reversed course and headed back toward the infield. No matter. Allen can then be heard describing the moment perfectly:

“There’s a drive to deep left field . . . look out now . . that ball is going, going, gone. The World Series is over.”

Soon that game will be back again, straight from Bing Crosby’s wine cellar.