Sixty years ago today, Oct. 13, 1960, perhaps the most famous home run in the history of baseball and most assuredly, the most famous home run in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates took place.
It was Game Seven of the 1960 World Series, and the New York Yankees, who had a watched the Pirates score five times in the bottom of the eighth to take a 9-7 lead, had just scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the game at nine.
Up to the plate stepped Bill Mazeroski, the slick-fielding Pirates second baseman who was batting eighth on this particular day – in 1960 all World Series games were played in the daylight.
Somewhere in Forbes Field sat a 50-year old man – Harry Yaman – who was only at the game because no one else at Heppenstall Steel in the Lawrenceville section of the City wanted to go to the game figuring the Pirates, who lost Game Six to the Yankees 12-0 and had also lost games in the series by scores of 16-3 and 10-0, had no chance at winning the game.
But Harry, who was just a week shy of turning 51, and who hadn’t seen a Pirates World Championship since 1925 when he was the ripe old age of 14, decided why not go and see what happened.
I am not sure what was going through Harry’s mind at that time. But one could only imagine. He had just seen his team three outs from the World Championship blow the game and now an uneasiness must have descended upon Forbes Field in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
But before anyone could completely comprehend what had just happened in the top of the inning, Yankee relief pitcher Ralph Terry, the fifth New York pitcher of the day, threw a ball high to Maz, as he was affectionately known to his teammates and fans.
Then the second pitch came in, and Mazeroski swung and connected. It was a high, deep fly ball to left field. Legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, playing left field on this day, went back on the ball but all Berra could do was look up as it cleared the 406-mark for the series-winning home run.
I can only imagine what it would have been liked at that moment, sitting (or standing) in those stands as that ball cleared the fence. The jubilation a fan must have felt. The sense of pride. The excitement.
As Maz rounded the bases, a few of those jubilant fans joined him in his parade around the bases and it was a sea of humanity by the time he touched home plate giving the Pirates the world title over the heavily favored Yankees.
Harry Yaman wasn’t one of the fans who made his way to the field. But he was one of those fans who was able to say for the rest of his life that he witnessed history.
How do I know this, and why is Harry Yaman important? Well, Harry Yaman is my grandfather, and that is why this date holds an extra special place in my heart. Not just because I am a Pirates fan but because I grew up on tales of how my grandfather was at that game.
And in fact, for the good or bad of it, I owe my Pirates fandom to my grandfather and my dad. They took me to my first game in 1979 – another Pirates championship season – and I went to many games with both of them over the next decade or so as my Pirate fandom grew and grew.
I even bought a brick by the Mazeroski statue at PNC Park to honor my grandfather.
Harry was a Pirates fan well before Oct. 13, 1960, and he lived through some lean years – years that I have also witnessed as a Pirates fans – including a 1952 season that saw the Bucs go 42-112. So it gives me hope that perhaps someday I, too, will get to witness a moment like the Mazeroski home run.
Until then, I will take comfort in knowing that my grandfather got his day to shine as a fan on Oct. 13, 1960.