“Fickle Fate at Forbes” by Graig Kreindler


“Fickle Fate at Forbes” – 38 x 60 in. – Oil on Linen – 2009 – SOLD

Fickle Fate at Forbes

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates had not faced the Yankees since the 1927 World Series, a one-sided match up by all accounts. Touting the legendary ‘Murderer’s Row’ lineup with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri, the Bombers manhandled the Bucs in four straight games. Legend said that the Pirates were psychologically beaten even before the first game began. At Forbes Field, the prolific batting practice home runs by the Yanks simply reminded the Pirates that they had only hit fifty four round trippers over the course of their entire season, six less than Babe Ruth had alone.

By the time 1960 had rolled around, the Pirates were back in the World Series for the first time since their demise in the ’27 contest, and, back facing their old nemesis, the Yankees. New York had no cobwebs to dust off, as they had made it into eight of the last ten World Series, the most recent being in 1958.

Casey Stengel led a powerful New York team, with Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, and emerging stars Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek and Clete Boyer. Also, the Bombers received wonderful play from one of their newest teammates, Roger Maris, who would go onto win the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Their pitching staff boasted such formidable arms as Whitey Ford, Bob Turley, Jim Coates, Ralph Terry and Art Ditmar, who went a combined 59-32 during the regular season. It was generally thought that these men overmatched Pittsburgh in every way, and would most likely sweep the series.

Piloted by Danny Murtaugh, the Pirate team of 1960 topped the National League with a 95-59 record. Shortstop Dick Groat had won both the batting title and the Most Valuable Player award. Equally dominant on the mound was Vernon Law who won the Cy Young with 20-9 record and a 3.08 Earned Run Average. These Bucs had four other pitchers with 10 or more wins, including Harvey Haddix, Wilmer ‘Vinegar Bend’ Mizell, Bob Friend and reliever Elroy Face. Pittsburgh also had two young up-and-coming stars in Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski.

The first game of the series saw over 36,600 people file into Forbes Field in Pittsburgh to see the Art Ditmar face Vernon Law. Though the Yankees struck first with a Maris solo homer in the opening frame, Pittsburgh would fire back with three runs off of spotty defense and multiple hits. Both teams scored again in the fourth, the Yanks once, and the Pirates twice, the latter on a two-run blast by second baseman Mazeroski off of Jim Coates. Pittsburgh added an insurance run in the sixth, and though the Yank’s Howard had a pinch-hit two run homer in the ninth, the hometown crowd left happy after reliever Face closed out the hope of a complete comeback, inducing a double play and giving the Pirates the victory, 6-4.

Game 2 was a complete and utter blowout, with the Yankees demonstrating that their dominance in the past decade had been no fluke. Kubek and veteran Gil McDougald both drove in a run apiece in the third, and pitcher ‘Bullet’ Bob Turley helped his own cause in the fourth by driving home the fleet Richardson for another run. Though Pittsburgh scored in their half of the inning, the game was put out of reach in the top of the fifth with a two-run homer run by Mantle. If the game was out of the Pirates’ reach by that inning, the sixth saw the Yankees enter the stratosphere with seven more runs, three of which coming from another Mantle blast. By the end of the massacre, the Bombers tied the series with a decisive 16-3 rout.

With both teams returning to New York on October 8, Stengel sent his ace Whitey Ford to the mound for the first time in the series, thereby making him unavailable for a seventh game, if needed. The Yankees continued their offensive outburst by jumping on Pirate starter Wilmer Mizell for six runs, four of which came on a Bobby Richardson grand slam to the stands in left. Mantle had another productive game, hitting yet another home run in the fourth inning, followed by a two-run single by Richardson. Ford proved to be too dominant for the Bucs, throwing a masterful two-hit shutout. The Yanks won 10-0.

Though the Pirates had been severely punished by Yankee bats and masterful pitching the previous two contests, Game 4 would see Law make his second start of the series. His opponent was Ralph Terry, who was making his first appearance. Both pitchers hurled shutout ball until the bottom of the fourth, when Yankee Bill ‘Moose’ Skowron hit a solo homer. The very next half inning, Pittsburgh scored three runs off of hits by Law and Bill Virdon. Though the Yanks were able to scratch off another run in the seventh, reliever Face was brought in to hold them from scoring another. With the 3-2 win, Pittsburgh tied the series at two games each.

Game 5 at the Stadium pitted Ditmar against another Buc making his first appearance, Harvey Haddix. The Yankee starter continued his bad luck from Game 1 and was knocked out in the first frame. Off of a fielding error, Pittsburgh was able to score their first run, and then another two from a double by Mazeroski. Clemente singled home Groat in the third, making it 4-1. A Maris homer to deep right field in the third was the only mistake that Haddix made against the Yanks. As he did the day before, Face replaced the starter and closed out Yankee hopes of pulling the upset. The Pirates had the series lead.

With Game 6 back in Pittsburgh, Whitey Ford took the mound for only the second time in the series, and like in his previous start, he was phenomenal. As was the case in his previous start, the southpaw received much help from his offense. Pittsburgh starter Bob Friend was driven from the box in the third inning, bringing Tom Cheney in for relief. He faired no better. The Yanks continued to roll, and by the end of the game, routed the Bucs 12-0, tying the series and forcing a decisive Game 7.

October 13 saw the teams face off in the final game of this strange series, pitting Bob Turley against Vern Law. 36,683 fans jammed Forbes Field on a crisp autumn afternoon, abuzz with either the dream of an improbable finish for their home team, or the nightmare of the Yanks taking another title away from them.

Law made quick work of New York in the opening frame, while Turley struggled with his control, allowing a walk to Skinner and then a two-run homer to Glenn ‘Rocky’ Nelson. With the Pirates jumping out to a quick lead, the heart of the Yankee lineup was unable to touch Law, going down in order once again. With Forrest ‘Smoky’ Burgess singling into right field, Turley was replaced by Bill Stafford, who faired no better. After a walk and two singles, the Pirates gained a quick 4-0 lead. Though the Yankees were able to finally reach base after two outs in the second, Richardson flied out to leftfield to end their half of the inning. With Shantz now in for the Bombers, he was able to retire the Pirate’s heavy hitters in order, unscathed.

New York finally drew blood in the fifth with a solo home run to the opposite field by Skowron, and began a comeback in the next inning. Richardson opened the sixth with a single into centerfield, and then took second when Kubek was walked. After a long conference on the mound with Manager Murtaugh, Face came in once again to relieve, and promptly induced a foul pop-out by Maris. With one away however, Mantle laced a ball past a diving Groat for a single, scoring Richardson and pushing Kubek to third. Berra then slashed a mighty homer down the right field line and into the upper deck, putting the jovial Yankees up 5-4.

The Bombers struck again in the seventh, scoring two more runs off of a series of hits by Skowron, Johnny Blanchard and Boyer, the latter of who doubled into the left field corner. New York had beefed up their lead to 7-4.

With Shantz pitching well, Gino Cimoli was sent in to hit for Face in the Pirate’s eighth, singling to right center. Virdon, up next, hit a bouncer to short, where a seemingly simple play turned ugly. The ball took a bad hop off of the gravel-dirt combination in Forbes’ infield, and hit Kubek in the throat. Calling time, Richardson ran over to give him aid. Both Yankee trainers rushed out of the dugout, with Manager Casey joining soon after. Though the shortstop intended on finishing the game, Joe DeMaestri came in to relieve him. A sure double-play ball, the two outs would have ended the inning and the Pirate threat. The reliable Groat singled to leftfield scoring Cimoli, and putting the tying runs on base. Shantz, who had pitched shutout ball until that point, was removed. Jim Coates came in with the hope of retiring the next two batters. Up next, Clemente topped a slow dribbler towards first, but Skowron and Coates both went for the ball, leaving first open for Roberto, and giving Groat third. After a vicious swing missed at a high fastball, batter Hal Smith hit a three run homer into deep left center off of the same pitch. With Groat, Clemente, and Smith running home triumphantly, the crowd exploded with cheers, as their Bucs were again on top, 9-7. With a dejected Coates leaving, Stengel brought in Terry to retire third baseman Don Hoak, who promptly flew out to left.

In the Yankee ninth, Richardson hit a looper into center for a single. Dale Long batted for DeMaestri and singled to right field, putting Bobby on second. Game 5 starter Haddix was called upon to face the dangerous Maris, who would hit another pop foul that Hal Smith easily caught. Up next, and with shadows of the grandstand encroaching on his body, Mantle singled to right-center, scoring Richardson and moving Long to third. McDougald was sent in to pinch run for the slower Long with Berra coming to the plate. Yogi, hoping to duplicate his feat from the sixth, smashed a ball down the first base line. Nelson made a great stab at the ball, retired Yogi, and only after a brilliant head fake did Mickey dive back safely into first, avoiding the final out and scoring McDougald. Skowron grounded out to Groat at short and Mantle was forced out at second, leaving the score deadlocked at 9-9.

Into the last of the ninth, McDougald took over at third, and Boyer moved to shortstop.
Leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning, Terry returned to the mound to face Bill Mazeroski. With batboy Bobby Recker watching closely, Dick Stuart got on deck to pinch hit for pitcher Haddix, with Virdon in the hole. After one pitched ball, the Pirates second baseman stepped into Terry’s second offering and bashed the slider past the view of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and into the robin’s egg blue of the sky. With Yogi Berra helplessly providing chase, the ball glided over the ivy-covered leftfield wall and into the trees of Schenley Park beyond the brick barrier, winning the game and the World Series for the Pirates – and inciting bedlam in the process.

As Mazeroski jubilantly flew across the bases, batting helmet in hand, the Pirates and Forbes Field erupted, storming the field to celebrate. The Yankees stood in disbelief. The improbable National Leaguers were outscored 55-27, out-hit 91-60, and simply outplayed, but somehow managed to pull out a miraculous victory in one of the greatest games ever played.

It was the first time that a World Series ended on a home run. And exacting revenge from 1927, the Yankees were beaten by the long ball.