The Glove Club: Bill Virdon
Glancing Back, and Remembering Hal Smith
When Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski blasted the first walk-off home run in World Series history in 1960, his lead-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth was possible because of what happened in the eighth inning … thanks to a reserve catcher named Hal Smith. Continue reading
Career Year: Ralph Terry – 1962
Ralph Terry was probably the most under-appreciated New York Yankees pitcher of the 1960s.
Despite his numbers, he was never considered the ace of the Yankee staff. That acknowledgement always belonged to Whitey Ford while Terry was a Yankee. And even in 1962, when Terry was clearly the best starting pitcher in the American League, he was completely ignored by the baseball writers in the voting for the Cy Young Award.
In that season, he was baseball’s Rodney Dangerfield: he won everything but respect. Continue reading
Career Year: Vern Law – 1960
Vern Law was a lanky right-hander whose fortunes as a pitcher improved steadily throughout the 1950s … just as his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (his only major league team over a 16-year career), clawed its way out of the bottom of the National League standings by the close of the 1950s. Continue reading
Homer Happy: Willie Stargell
He was author of some of the most towering home runs in National League history. According to Don Sutton, Stargell’s strength could wipe away a pitcher’s dignity.
Stargell spent his entire 21-year major league career with the Pirates, making his major league debut in 1962. He hit 11 home runs as a part-time performer in 1963, and 21 home runs as a full-time left fielder in 1964. He would hit at least 20 home runs in 15 out of the next 16 seasons.
During his first eight seasons, the Pirates played in Forbes Field, a park whose dimension were not power-hitter friendly. The fence in left-center field was 457 feet from home plate, and home runs to dead right field had to clear a 20-foot screen that ran to right-center field. No wonder that, during the 1960s, Stargell hit no more than 33 home runs (in 1966).
When the Pirates moved to hitter-friendly Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, Stargell’s home run productivity jumped dramatically. He led the National League with 48 home runs in 1971 and 44 home runs in 1973. He hit 310 of his 475 career home runs from 1970 on.
Stargell’s one advantage during his years in Pittsburgh was the batting order hitting around him. He shared the outfield with two batting champions, Matty Alou and Roberto Clemente, who claimed five batting titles between them during the 1960s. The Pirates’ batting order in the 1960s also included Donn Clendenon, Manny Mota and Bill Mazeroski, as well as Manny Sanguillen, Al Oliver and Richie Hebner in the 1970s – the kind of bats that kept pitchers honest and consistently gave Stargell pitches he could launch.
And “launch” them he did. In its 61 seasons, Forbes Field saw only 16 home runs clear the right field roof. Seven of those home runs belonged to Stargell. Only four times did home runs leave Dodger Stadium, and Stargell owned two of them. He hit the only home run to reach the upper deck of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, a blast estimated at 575 feet. When he retired, Stargell could claim the longest home runs in at least half the National League parks.
Stargell retired after the 1982 season with 475 home runs and 1,540 runs batted in. He was an All-Star seven times and was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1979. He is the Pirates’ career leader in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits. Stargell was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Gene Alley
For more than a decade, Gene Alley provided the ideal complement to Bill Mazeroski, the best second baseman in the National League during the 1960s (and maybe … ever).
Alley was an outstanding shortstop, with excellent range and an accurate throwing arm. Teamed at the keystone with Mazeroski, Alley provided the left half of the league’s most dynamic double play duo.
Alley’s entire major league career came with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was signed by Pittsburgh in 1959 and made his debut with the club in 1963, hitting .216 in 17 games. He was called up midway through the 1964 season, hitting .211, and was the Pirates’ starting shortstop for the next eight seasons.
While it was his glove that earned him his playing time, Alley in his prime could also contribute from the batter’s box. He hit .299 in 1966 with 28 doubles and 43 RBIs, and in 1967 he hit .287 with 25 doubles and 55 RBIs. During his 11 seasons in Pittsburgh, Alley hit for a combined .254.
Alley won the Gold Glove for shortstops in both 1966 and 1967. He was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1967 and 1968.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Harvey Haddix
Left-hander Harvey Haddix will always be remembered best as the pitcher who carried a perfect game into the thirteenth inning in a May 25, 1959 game against the Milwaukee Braves … a game Haddix eventually lost 1-0. Surrounding that game was a solid 14-year career as a starter and reliever for five different teams.
Haddix was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1947 and made seven appearances with the big league club in 1952. In 1953, the 27-year-old rookie went 20-9 for the Cardinals. His 3.06 ERA that season was fourth best in the National League, and his six shutouts led the league. He followed up in 1954 with an 18-13 record (3.57 ERA), and then slipped to 12-16 in 1955.
In May of 1956 the Cardinals sent Haddix to the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-player deal. He was 22-21 in two seasons with Philadelphia, and then was traded to the Cincinnati Reds (for outfielder Wally Post) where he posted an 8-7 record in 1958.
Prior to the 1959 season, Haddix was traded with Smoky Burgess and Don Hoak to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton, John Powers and Frank Thomas. All three players going to Pittsburgh would play major roles in the Pirates’ pennant-winning season of 1960.
Haddix went 12-12 for the Pirates in 1959, including his near-perfect game, which was one of the losses. In 1960, Haddix was 11-10 with a 3.97 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in two games of the 1960 World Series, including the epic seventh game won by the Pirates over the New York Yankees 10-9 on Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Haddix pitched three more seasons for the Pirates, going 22-16 with a 3.99 ERA. During that period, he made the transition from starting pitcher to reliever. He was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles following the 1963 season, and in the next two seasons made 73 appearances for the Orioles, all in relief, going 8-7 with 11 saves and a combined ERA of 2.63. He retired after the 1965 season with a career record of 136-113 and a lifetime ERA of 3.63.
A three-time All-Star, Haddix was one of the best defensive pitchers of his era. He won three consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1958 to 1960.
This Week in 1960s Baseball …
(October 13, 1960) – Today at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski‘s dramatic bottom of the ninth inning home run off Yankee hurler Ralph Terry broke up a 9-9 tie and ended one of the most exciting seven-game World Series ever played.
It had been a World Series of improbabilities, played out as no one could have expected or predicted.
On the one hand you had the New York Yankees, the perennial October players, back in the World Series (their tenth appearance in the last 12 years) after a one-year absence. The Yankees earned their World Series berth by sprinting ahead of the rest of the American League in September, winning their last 15 games.
For the Pirates, it was their first World Series appearance since 1927.
In the first six games of the 1960 World Series, the Yankees were clearly the dominant team (outscoring the Pirates 46-17), but had only three victories to show for it. Whitey Ford pitched shutouts for the Yankees in Game Three and Game Six. Vern Law, the Pirates’ 20-game winner and the eventual Cy Young Award recipient that year, claimed two of the Pirates’ wins, while veteran left-hander Harvey Haddix posted one victory and a save.
Game Seven turned out to be one of the most exciting in World Series history.
Law retired the Yankees in order in the first two innings, while the Pirates scored 2 runs in each of the first two frames. The Yankees finally scored off Law in the fifth inning as Bill Skowron led off the inning with a solo home run to the right field seats. The Yankees scored four more runs in the sixth inning, off the Pirates’ ace reliever Roy Face, who gave up an RBI single to Mickey Mantle and then surrendered Yogi Berra’s three-run homer.
The game stayed 5-4 in favor of the Yankees until the top of the eighth inning, when back-to-back RBI hits by John Blanchard and Clete Boyer raised the Yankees’ lead to 7-4. But in the bottom of the eighth, the Pirates rallied for five runs – on singles by Dick Groat and Roberto Clemente and a three-run homer by Hal Smith – to take a 9-7 lead into the ninth inning.
Bob Friend, an 18-game winner during the regular season, came in to close out the ninth. But he gave up back-to-back singles to Bobby Richardson and Dale Long. So Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh brought in Haddix to pitch to Roger Maris, the American League MVP of 1960. Haddix got Maris to foul out, and then gave up an RBI single to Mantle. Berra grounded out to Rocky Nelson at first, scoring Gil McDougald (pinch running for Long). Skowron grounded out to end the inning with the score tied at nine.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mazeroski led off for the Pirates. On deck was Dick Stuart, the team’s leading home run hitter.
The Yankees’ pitcher was right-hander Terry, a 10-game winner for New York during the regular season. Terry had recorded the last out of the eighth inning, inducing third baseman Don Hoak to fly out. Hoak would be the last Pirate to make an out in the Series. Mazeroski took a strike on Terry’s first pitch, and sent the second one over the left field wall at Forbes Field for a 10-9 Pirate victory.
Mazeroski scores, Pittsburgh erupts.
It ended the 1960 World Series, and Casey Stengel’s career as New York Yankees manager.
It was the first walk-off home run in World Series history.
Glancing Back, and Remembering Ralph Terry
Drama on the diamond seemed to follow Ralph Terry. He pitched in two dramatic World Series seventh games, winning one and losing the other. Those two games are the best-remembered highlights of Terry’s career as a starting pitcher for the New York Yankees and four other major league teams.
Terry was signed by the Yankees in 1953 and made his major league debut at the end of the 1956 season, going 5.2 innings for a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox. He made the Yankees staff for keeps in 1957, but then was traded with Woodie Held, Billy Martin and Bob Martyn to the Kansas City Athletics for Ryne Duren, Jim Pisoni and Harry Simpson. Terry had a combined record of 5-12 as a starter with a 3.33 ERA. In 1958, he was 11-13 for the A’s with a 4.24 ERA. He led the team in games started (33) and innings pitched (216.2).
Two months into the 1959 season, Terry was returned to the Yankees. He and Hector Lopez were sent to New York for Johnny Kucks, Jerry Lumpe and Tom Sturdivant. He had a combined record of 5-11 for 1959 with a 3.39 ERA.
Terry began to hit his stride with Casey Stengel’s Yankees. He went 10-8 in 1960 with a 3.40 ERA. In the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he lost Game 4 to Vern Law 3-2, and then was the loser in relief in the seventh game, giving up Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
In 1961, Whitey Ford’s 25-4 record earned him the Cy Young award, but Terry also had an outstanding season for the Yankees, going 16-3 with a 3.15 ERA. In the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, he lost Game 2 to the Reds’ ace, Joey Jay, the Yankees’ only loss in the five-game series.
Terry’s 1962 season was the best of his career. He went 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA. He led the American League in victories, games started (39) and innings pitched (298.2), as well as in home runs allowed (40). He also had a career-best 176 strikeouts. In the 1962 World Series against the San Francisco Giants, Terry kept his 1962 mojo going. He lost Game 2 by a score of 2-0 to San Francisco ace Jack Sanford and off a first inning home run by Willie McCovey. But Terry came back and beat Sanford 5-3 in the fifth game, and then Terry won the seventh game in dramatic fashion by a 1-0 score, again outdueling Sanford. The Giants had Willie Mays and Matty Alou in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when McCovey hit a blistering line drive that was snared by second baseman Bobby Richardson, retiring any ghosts from the 1960 World Series.
In 1963, Terry had a 17-15 campaign with a 3.22 ERA. He again led the American League in games started (37), but he also led in complete games (18) and pitched 268 innings. But Terry’s workload started to show in his performance. His 1964 record slipped to 7-11 with a 4.54 ERA, as arm problems limited him to 14 starts and 115 innings pitched.
In October 1964, the Yankees shipped Terry to the Cleveland Indians to complete a deal that earlier had brought Pedro Ramos to New York. Terry had a good year for a lackluster Cleveland team, going 11-6 with a 3.69 ERA. Despite continuing arm problems, he managed 26 starts for the Indians, and pitched 165.2 innings. But he had little left. Just before the start of the 1966 season, the Indians traded Terry to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher John O’Donohue. He won only one game for the A’s, and was acquired in August by the New York Mets. Terry was 0-1 for the Mets in 11 appearances, and he retired after being released by the Mets in 1967.
Terry was a member of the 1962 American League All-Star team. In 12 big league seasons, he compiled a record of 107-99 with 75 complete games and 20 shutouts. His career ERA was 3.62.
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.