The Glove Club: Bill Mazeroski
He was so good at his position that other players stopped what they were doing to watch him practice. He was an artist whose materials were horse-hide and leather. The keystone was his canvas.
You can’t talk about the great second baseman unless you include the man who did it better and longer than just about anyone else. That was Bill Mazeroski.
With shortstop Dick Groat, Mazeroski turned the double play into his own private possession. Groat was a first-rate shortstop, but even after he moved on to the St. Louis Cardinals, Mazeroski would keep turning double plays with whomever would get him the ball. He is the only second baseman in major league history to have participated in more than 1700 double plays. (Nellie Fox’s 1,619 is second all-time to Maz’s 1,706.)
Winner of eight Gold Gloves, Mazeroski holds more defensive records than any other player in major league history.
He also wasn’t a bad hitter, finishing his 17-year career (all with the Pittsburgh Pirates) with more than 2,000 hits and a .260 lifetime batting average. Of course, it wasn’t his glove but his last at-bat in the 1960 World Series that made Maz a household name. Leading off in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 9-9 Game Seven, Mazeroski sent a Ralph Terry fastball over the left-field fence to make the Pirates world champions and send Casey Stengel, ultimately, to the National League (as the fired New York Yankees’ manager reborn as the inaugural field manager of the expansion New York Mets). It was the first World Series to end with a walk-away home run, and perhaps it was somewhat ironic that it wasn’t one of the Pirates sluggers but their defensive whiz who torpedoed the Yankee juggernaut with one swing. However, it wasn’t Mazeroski’s only display of power. He hit as many as 19 home runs in a season (1958), and finished his career with 138 homers, seventeenth all-time among second basemen … none of whom could match him in the field.
Mazeroski retired 34 games into the 1972 season. He’s fifth in Pirate history in games played (2,163), sixth in career at-bats with the team (7,755), and eighth in career hits (2,016). A seven-time All-Star, Mazeroski was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.