In my humble opinion, the seventh game of the 1960 World Series was and still is the greatest baseball game of all time. I still remember that game. I was a twelve-year-old little league pitcher and center fielder living in a small town in North Eastern Pennsylvania. Naturally, I was rooting with all my heart for the Pirates but I didn’t give them much of a chance against the mighty Yankees.
Let’s face it, the Pirates were a joke, the worst team in baseball for a generation- The perennial cellar rats. They had only one winning season between the end of WWII and 1958. In case you didn’t know the 1951 movie Angels in the outfield starring Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, in which unseen angels show up just at the right time to rescue a hopeless bunch of baseball bumblers, was unashamedly based on or inspired by the woeful Pirates.
Joe Garagiola, a one time catcher for the Pirates once said, “In an eight-team league, we should have finished ninth.”
1927 was the last time the Pirates were in a world series and guess who they played? If you guessed the Yankees you guessed right. With the famous “Murderer’s row,” the Yankees swept the Pirates 4-0. That was the first time the American League had swept a team from the National league.
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In 1960 nobody gave the Pirates a fighting chance but most of the country was rooting for them. Isn’t that the way we Americans are – always rooting for the underdog? Remember the first “Super Bowl” when Broadway Joe Namath guaranteed that the AFL Jets (18-0 underdogs) would defeat the 15-1 Colts? The entire nation was rooting for Joe and the Jets who came out on top 16-7 and made Joe Namath a household name.
Then in the 1980 winter Olympics, there was the United States men’s Olympic hockey team who weren’t given a snowball’s chance on top of a sizzling hood of a car in Palm springs in the middle of July. In many respects, they had a better chance of defeating the Russians than the lowly Pirates had of beating the Yankees.
Maybe we love the underdog so much because that is the way this nation began. It would be interesting to know, if the Las Vegas odd makers were around back then, what odds they would have given the thirteen colonies of defeating the mighty British Empire.
The Pirates were the home team playing at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. They hadn’t won a championship in 35 years. The Yankees had won seven of the last eleven world series. Talk about drama. The Yankees were top heavy with power with Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, Moose Skowron and Yogi Berra. Mantle had been the 1956 Triple Crown Winner. Maris would go on to surpass Babe Ruth’s home run record by slugging 61 home runs in a season. (he hit a home run in his first at bat against Vernon Law in game one.) Skowron had finished his career with 222 home runs. Yogi Berra had 358 career home runs and 1430 runs batted in. In addition to their battery, they had Whitey Ford a future Hall of Fame pitcher.
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