1960 World Series – Game #3

President Herbert Hoover throws out a first pitch.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress

RANCE — Chuck Thompson opened the broadcast by reviewing the 16 – 3 Yankees win in Game 2, and brought up how much the series’ move to New York favors the Yankees. Like any good broadcaster will do, he told us not to count out Pittsburgh.

Yankee Stadium, the one built in 1923, held almost 70,000 people and was twice the size of Forbes Field. The triple-decker structure was “synonymous with the Fall Classic.” We learn that Casey Stengel hit the first ever World Series home run at this Yankee Stadium, as a member of the New York Giants in 1923.

Chuck Thompson makes a point in the pregame that still holds up in today’s broadcasts. Analysts spend too much time crunching numbers and examining records in big games, and lose sight of the just-plain people stories.

“I know not what it is, but there is something about the World Series that sends almost everyone — baseball, radio, television, newspaper people scurrying to the record book,” Thompson said.

I think I kind of know what it is. Crunching numbers is easier for most baseball analysts than psychology. It’s hard sometimes to build up trust with people to get them to tell you really good stories, but the human element of baseball is everything that makes it great.

Not once in this 1960 World Series will anyone mention a spin rate or a launch angle, and we won’t hear about players watching footage of opposing pitchers on their tablets in the dugout. I like that.

Thompson went on to statistically prove that the teams that suffered the “worst shellacking” in each of the last four World Series went on to win, which favors the Pirates, and that each of the last six World Series were finalized with a visiting team winning on the road, which favors New York.

It all seemed like a way for Chuck Thompson to politely tell every record book thumper and number cruncher to go screw themselves. I’m really beginning to like listening to this guy.

Speaking of people stories, Pittsburgh captain Dick Groat apparently relayed a funny tale to Thompson before the game.

“We simply have to win the series now and get the big share of the money,” Groat said.

I thought, “Wow, a professional athlete wants to get paid. That’s a narrative that’s still prevalent in 2019,” but then Chuck Thompson delivered the punchline to his setup in continuing to quote Groat

“We brought all of our wives to New York, and while we worked out at Yankee Stadium yesterday, they visited the stores and had the bills ready when we returned to the hotel, and a ballplayer doesn’t need much more of an incentive than that,” Groat said.

I have a similar narrative I use when my wife complains about how much time I spend at U.S. Baseball Park on Sundays in the fall, when I’m calling Grip’N’Rip tripleheaders. I tell her I’m out there hustling for Christmas money, and a starving journalist doesn’t need much more of an incentive than that.

ETHAN — It is raining, my body is still recovering from a ridiculous calf injury sustained on a ground-ball-dodging sprint to second base, and my wife is finally re-learning how to walk after spending the last 13 weeks on a knee scooter with a broken foot. She makes a cane look good.

The news is obsessed with all things pertaining to the Impeachment Hearings. The baseball world is obsessed with the sign-stealing trickeries of the Houston Astros. Finger pointing abounds.

Our consumer culture is ramping up for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and if you have anything left over, Giving Tuesday. The movie about Mr. Rogers cannot come out soon enough.  

I’m seated (publicly trying to hide) at the last table in a coffee shop, listening to Game 3 while jotting down thoughts for a speech, “The Power of Playing Catch.” At the table next to me are two elderly ladies. One of their phones rings, playing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and my interest is piqued.

“Nice ringtone,” I commented.

“I’m so ready for Spring Training,” she replied.

“I write stories about baseball.”

“Those are some of my very favorite stories.”

The First Inning

R — Bill Virdon is 1-for-8 with an RBI, coming off a season where he hit .265. Make that 1-for-9 with a short groundout to Whitey Ford. Virdon’s numbers sound pedestrian, but you have to keep in mind that this was a time in baseball where pitchers were a little more favored that we are used to today. The 1960 Pirates collectively hit around .275, and the National League batting average was .255. Hits were fewer and more precious in 1960 than they are in 2019.

“For many of the Pirates, this is the first game they have played at Yankee Stadium,” Jack Quinlan told the radio audience.

Yankee Stadium had a capacity of around 70,000, which is about twice the size of the crowds that took in Game 1 and Game 2 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Playing in a stadium with so many seats — and to have them all full — must have been a surreal feeling for many of the Pirates.

Pirates pitcher Vinegar Bend Mizell experienced a career revitalization when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Pirates in the middle of the season. Wilmer Mizell was born in Vinegar Bend, Alabama. He spent his formidable years in Mississippi.

“As soon as he put on the Pirate uniform this year, he became a standout,” Quinlan said of the future Congressman. Mizell was once billed as “the left-handed Dizzy Dean.”

E — Shane texted me lessons on how to hold and throw a forkball. Maybe adding a quirky off-speed pitch is exactly what I need to try and get on the mound for the 5th season of the Grip’N’Rip league. As I listened to Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan, I tried to stretch out my index and middle fingers around a baseball.

Cerv started off the bottom of the first with a single. Maris blasted a line drive to right requiring Clemente to make an incredible play just to record an out. Mantle singled Cerv to third and Skowron singled in the first run of the game. McDougald walked to load the bases with Howard coming to the plate.

And there’s a pitching change. Because it wouldn’t be the World Series without a first inning pitching change.

R — Today is not a standout day for Vinegar Bend. Roberto Clemente made a spectacular catch in right field to rob Roger Maris of a hit, and you can hear the New York crowd voice its displeasure with Clemente’s catch. It seems like the crowd noise is louder, or at least more on top of the microphones in this game.

You can hear the energy of the crowd when Mizell gave up his third hit of the first inning, an RBI single by first baseman Bill “Moose” Skowron. Gil McDougald then walked on four consecutive pitches to load the bases with one out for Elston Howard. That brought up the game’s first mound visit. Danny Murtaugh headed out to pull Mizell. His start officially lasted one third of an inning, and it’s 1 – 0 with the bases juiced.

I felt sorry for Yankees pitcher Art Ditmar in Game 1. My heart is broken for Vinegar Bend Mizell. I can’t imagine how he felt to have the chance to pitch against the Yankees in the World Series only to get a single out before his unceremonious dismissal.

Chuck Thompson gave a great explanation of how the layout of Yankee Stadium made it impossible for the radio announcers to identify who is warming in the bullpens. That’s got to be incredibly frustrating. Evidently, the recessed bullpens in this park were built with maximized use of real estate in mind, but without much thought to the work that occurs in the press box. The park’s configuration must have been difficult on the official scorers, the broadcasters and the beat reporters. This was back in a day where all teams had beat reporters — lots of them. In the previous two games, Thompson was on top of all bullpen activity during the innings he called, always keeping us updated on movement of any kind as it related to relief pitching.

E — Howard gets an RBI with an infield hit up the third base line and the bases are still loaded, Yankees up 2 – 0. Two days after scoring 16 runs, the Yankees bats have not cooled at all.

Bobby Richardson, “one of the smallest men in baseball,” who sounds exactly like José Altuve, connected on a full count against Labine. A grand slam put the Yankees up 6 – 0.

R — Clem Labine helped me not feel so bad for Vinegar Bend Mizell anymore. Bobby Richardson hit a “man alive did he bust that one,” home run to left field. We are still in the first inning and the Pirates sound punchless.

Danny Murtaugh is back out of the dugout after Clem Labine gives up his fourth hit of the inning, and Fred Green takes the “long, long stroll” from the bullpen. This is Pittsburgh’s second reliever of the first inning of the game — and I think that says all any baseball fan needs to know about how well this is going for the Pirates. Fred Green allowed four runs in Game 2 in a single inning of work, so this may be a little bit like throwing Coleman fuel on an already raging campfire.

E — Only 25 outs to go for the Pirates.

R — Mercifully, Green is able to get an out and end the inning with New York up 6 – 0.

That’s two instances in three games where a starting pitcher logs one out before he gets the gate and heads to the showers.

E — The eleventh Yankees man to bat in the inning, Roger Maris, faced the third Pirates pitcher of the inning and earned the “That Guy” title from Bob Turley in the second game, making two outs in the same inning.

Last season, Adam Ottavino boldly stated he could “strike out Babe Ruth every time.” And then he signed with the Yankees in the off-season, which became the inspiration for this brilliant commercial.

I am not certain even he would want to pitch against this line-up.

Thirty minutes of Yankees’ hitters later, I gave up on the forkball. I do not think God originally intended for my fingers to go sideways.

The Second Inning

E — My favorite definition of “story” comes from Donald Miller’s A Thousand Miles in a Million Years. Story is “a character who wants something and has to overcome obstacles to get it.”

Obstacles increase almost exponentially the nearer the character gets to whatever it is they desire. Frodo and Sam are surrounded by tens of thousands of orcs and the ever-watchful eye as they approach the foot of Mt. Doom in Mordor. The Goonies are held hostage by the Fratellis with the treasure all around them on One-Eyed Willie’s boat before Sloth saves the day. Ray Kinsella faces foreclosure from the bank and his brother-in-law, before Doc Graham saves Karen from choking and opening Mark’s eyes to the possibilities of all the coming people.

The story of the 1960 World Series is the Pirates, who haven’t won the last game of the season for three decades, having to overcome the team that seemingly has won the last game each year for the last decade in order to obtain the championship. The future hall-of-famer laced lineup out of New York is relentless.

Mantle singled for the second time in the game and advanced to second on a wild pitch. There’s a reference made to Mantle trying to steal the catcher’s signs and I’m not going to say anything about the Astros, because relaying signs from second is part of the game. Pitching is all about throwing off the hitter’s timing. It makes a significant difference knowing what’s coming.

I remember the one time my assistant coach successfully stole signs. He was at first base and the pitcher only had two pitches, a fastball and a curve. Depending on which sign was put down, he’d say either your first or last name. “C’mon Bryan, you got this!” Curve. I waited for it and hit a screaming line drive, but foul. I ended up flying out on a fastball.

R — The Pirates are using journeyman catcher Hal Smith behind the plate instead of Smoky Burgess in this game. Hal Smith gunned down Mickey Mantle trying to steal third base.

Smith was signed by the Yankees in 1949, but bounced around the minors. He was in the St. Louis Cardinals system briefly before he finally managed to make the bigs with Baltimore in 1955.

Hal Smith worked as a house painter in the offseason.

Pittsburgh was the third of Smith’s five Major League stops.

It’s interesting how Yankees manager Casey Stengel is grappling between Yogi Berra, a hall-of-famer, and Elston Howard, a guy who should be a hall-of-famer, at the catcher spot, while Danny Murtaugh is choosing between two journeymen who each played for five different clubs: Smoky Burgess and Hal Smith.

The Third Inning

R — Whitey Ford threw another 1-2-3 inning, including a slow grounder back to the pitcher’s mound that caused Ford to make a difficult grab and throw to Moose Skowron at first base. Shortstop Tony Kubek made a backhanded grab on a sinking liner off the bat of Fred Green to end the inning. The Pirates have yet to have a baserunner. Announcer Jack Quinlan referred to Ford facing the minimum of nine batters three different times on the broadcast, which undoubtedly unnerved superstitious Yankees fans, or uptight persons in general.

E — It is noted that the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams, threw out the first pitch for this game effectively announcing his retirement from the game after 19 seasons. Fierce rivals during the season, yet the Yankees provided a fitting tribute to the Red Sox slugger who, at the age of 41, hit .316 in his final season. His career on-base percentage (.482) is still an MLB record.

I still dream of throwing out a first pitch for the Royals. I just learned that the official title of the Catch 365 book is “A Year of Playing Catch: What a Simple Experiment Taught Me about Life.” I think throwing out a first pitch for the Royals would be a great way to launch the book. Surely no one else is lined up for the Tuesday night game in early September.  

R — Quinlan mentioned that the two managers have not named starting pitchers for Game 4, which is happening Oct. 9, the very next day. Quinlan speculated that we are going to see Ralph Terry for the Yankees against Harvey Haddix for the Pirates. This refusal to name a starter by both managers amazes me, and it must have driven gamblers of the day absolutely bonkers.

The crowd noise comes back to steal the show in the bottom of the inning when Bobby Richardson bats, as the Yankees fans applaud “Little Bobby” for his grand slam homer earlier in the game. The crowd microphone is really on point, and you can clearly hear the cheers. I realize that the audio Ethan and I are listening to has been digitally restored, but it must have been a wonderful listening experience for listeners at home to hear the ovation for Richardson.

The Fourth Inning

E — The first hit of the game for the Pirates goes to Bill Virdon, a lead-off double, just missing a home run over the head of Roger Maris. But the Pirates couldn’t do anything else and stranded Virdon at second.

R — Whitey Ford has thrown his first pitches to the last three consecutive batters for balls. This is one of my favorite tangents to go on during a broadcast where I’m not sure what else to talk about. I really, truly do feel that the first-pitch strike is one of the most underrated statistics in all of baseball, and when a pitcher throws the majority of his first pitches for strikes, he’s in for a quality start and a really good outing.

Whitey Ford threw a strike alright, a strike that Bill Virdon pummeled off the outfield wall for a double. My friend from King’s Way United Methodist Church broke up Ford’s perfect game in the fourth, so Jack Quinlan loses that storyline.

Ford makes another great defensive play, this time to the third base side, followed by a tough turn and throw to get the ball to Moose Skowron in time to retire Dick Groat. Based on Quinlan’s descriptions of the action, I’m visualizing the Ford is pitching well, but not overpowering. New York is making great defense plays, Ford himself included. It’s somewhat odd to talk about defensive baseball in a 6 – 0 game, but the flavor has shifted since the offensive explosion of the first inning. Ford and Fred Green, both left-handers are dueling now, though Green entered the game with a hefty deficit.

E — In the bottom half of the inning, former President Herbert Hoover entered the stadium to a standing ovation while Roger Maris was at the plate.

By age 9, Hoover was an orphan. He was raised by relatives in Iowa and Oregon where he completely surrounded himself with all things baseball. In 1884, at the age of 10, he started playing sandlot games and went on to play collegiately as the shortstop for Stanford University until a dislocated finger ended his playing career.

While President, Hoover threw out the traditional first pitch all four years on the opening days of the Washington Senators.

“The greatest moral training, except for religious faith, comes from sportsmanship,” Hoover wrote. “And baseball has had a greater impact on our American life than any other American sports institution.”

“I want more runs in baseball games,” he said in a speech at the 1940 Baseball Writers’ Annual Banquet. “When you were raised on a sandlot where the scores ran 23 to 61, you yearn for something more than a 5 to 2 score. You know as well as I do that the excitement, temperature and decibels of any big game today rise instantly when there is someone on base. It reaches ecstasy when somebody makes a run.”

Four months before his death, Hoover composed this message after receiving a pass for all major-league games: “That pass tells me it’s spring again! And I shall tell my doctors a ball game has more curative powers than their medicines.” I completely agree.

Hoover would not have been a fan of the strikeout-dominant games of recent years. “I protest that we fans are being emotionally starved and frustrated by long periods of perfect performance of these batteries. Moreover, when there are nothing but strikes and balls going on, you relapse into your worries over the Bank of England, or something else.”

The day after this game, Joe Garagiola interviewed Yogi Berra, who was inserted into the game as a late-inning defensive replacement.

“You amaze me Yogi, you’ve now become such a world figure that you drew more applause yesterday than either Prime Minister Nehru or Herbert Hoover.”

To which Berra replied, “I’m a better hitter.”

Hoover’s long-time friend Neil MacNeil said, “If there were any game being televised either in the afternoon or evening, you could bet he’d be watching.”

And Mantle responds to the President’s presence with another home run, tying the major league record, increasing the Yankees lead to 8 – 0.

Surely Hoover was delighted by the blast from the Yankees slugger.

I have no political aspirations whatsoever. That said, if I was ever elected President, I would make MLB’s Opening Day a national holiday, creating opportunities across the country for playing catch, sandlot games, and affordable ticket prices at all stadiums.

R — The duel unravels for Green shortly after I wrote about defense. This game is an unfortunate chapter in the up-and-down career of Fred Green.

Mickey Mantle crushed a homer into left field to score two more runs, and the Yankees lead 8 – 0. Mantle now has three bombs in this World Series, and is 3-for-3 in this game.

“When he hits them, they are really kissed,” Quinlan said of Mantle’s “two-run wallop.”

Green, a New Jersey native, allowed 11 hits and 10 runs in four innings of work in the 1960 World Series. Since we know Pittsburgh ended up winning, I wonder about the duality of thought that Green must have experienced. On one hand, he played in a World Series and his team won.

On the other hand, he personally did not have his best days.

Green’s widow, Mona Green, spoke of this conflict of thinking after her husband died. “Fred’s biggest thrill was playing in a World Series, although he didn’t pitch well. But the fact that the club won the Series delighted him very much,” Mona Green said in an interview for the book “Sweet ’60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates,” an excerpt from which was published on the Society for American Baseball Research website.

“Although he appeared to be throwing batting practice for Yankees hitters during the World Series, Green was named to The Sporting News’ 1960 All-Star rookie team,” the SABR piece reads.

In Green’s defense, he was pitching against Mickey Mantle. He pointed out that fact himself in a 1961 piece in the Pittsburgh Gazette.

“Sure, I did some thinking during the offseason about the way the Yankees hit me, ‘specially the two home runs by Mantle, but after all, we did win,” Green said. “I was trying to pitch Mantle in close with fastballs, but I got them just a bit too good where he could get his leverage on the swing. Gosh, if any pitcher would throw the ball to me where I threw them to Mantle, I could hit homers, too. I’m not proud of those pitches.”

I want very badly for a pitcher in 2020 to say he threw a pitch that was “too good” to a batter who took him for a home run. Baseball Twitter would lose its mind.

Nellie King, a former teammate of Green’s who had a broadcasting career, summed up Green’s life in the wake of his death in 1996.

“He was a journeyman … a good, friendly guy who had to work like hell to get where he was, but there are great players who never played on a championship team. He did.”

E — Red Witt, the fourth Pirates’ pitcher of the day, enters the game.

Howard singled to load the bases, and Richardson’s stepped to the plate with another chance to hit a grand slam. A single drives in two more. 10 – 0. And Richardson now holds the single-game RBI record that Mantle tied in Game 2.

The Fifth Inning

E — Whitey Ford continues to deal. The few good swings the Pirates get, his defense back him up. Only 1 baserunner allowed through 5 innings. Incredible.

Mantle collected his 4th hit of the game, this one left-handed, a ground-rule double. He just missed clearing the house again.

The Sixth Inning

R — For many years, all I knew of Whitey Ford was from an episode of The Simpsons. The Simpsons, as Ethan said, do baseball pretty well. One of the highlights of meeting Ozzie Smith, one of my childhood heroes, and interviewing him was asking him about his role on an episode called “Homer at the Bat,” which featured nine Major League all-stars.

The Simpsons do baseball in plenty of other episodes. For instance, the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, are named from an episode of The Simpsons when the Springfield club relocates to New Mexico. The Isotopes are the real-life continuation of a joke from a cartoon show.

On an older episode of the show, Marge Simpson starts her own business as the owner/operator of a Pretzel Wagon franchise — the American dream if ever there was one. To bolster business, Marge sponsors “Free Pretzel Day” at Springfield Memorial Stadium, an effort to convince baseball fans of her slogan, “One bite and you’ll be hooked.”

Before any bites are taken, the Springfield Isotopes announce the winner of a drawing for a 1997 Pontiac Astrowagon, and the winner is the occupant of Seat No. 0001, C. Montgomery Burns.

Mr. Burns is the billionaire owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant and regularly plays the role of the old money, big business villain throughout the series. Needless to say, Isotopes fans were not pleased with what appeared to be the result of a crooked contest complete with Mr. Burns driving the Astrowagon off the field.

“And the fans do not like this one bit,” an overly cheesy-voiced play-by-play announcer says.

“And here come the pretzels.”

Here’s the brief cameo for the left-handed Yankees hurler.

“Hall-of-famer Whitey Ford now on the field, pleading with the crowd for… for some kind of sanity,” the equally cheesy-voiced color commentator says.

“Uh-oh, and a barrage of pretzels now knocking Whitey unconscious,” the play-by-play man calls.

“Wow this is a… this is a black day for baseball,” the color man says.

Later that day, Bart and Homer Simpson attempt to offer some encouraging words to Marge, because no one tasted the pretzels.

Bart: Oh, cheer up, Mom. You can’t buy publicity like that. Thousands and thousands of people saw your pretzels injuring Whitey Ford.

Homer: You can call them Whitey-Whackers.

I’m not sure a barrage of pretzels could have hindered Whitey Ford in Game 3 of the 1960 World Series. He is throwing an absolute gem.

E — Compared to the first half of the game, the last four innings positively flew by. No longer attempting to break my fingers on the forkball, I spent the majority of the time custom designing gloves on the 44 Pro Gloves site.

The Seventh Inning

E — The Pirates finally started to get to Whitey, with a single followed by a walk. Two base runners on, a brew is stirring, as one of my baseball Twitter friend’s likes to say. But a 1-4-3 double play ends the rally.

In the bottom half of the 7th, Mantle strikes out looking. It’s the first time he’s made an out at the plate in this game.

The Eighth Inning

R — Herbert Hoover’s appearance at the game happened at a pivotal time in the history of the White House. On Saturday, Oct. 8, 1960, the day this Game 3 is taking place, we are exactly one more month away from the 1960 presidential election.

The night before the game, on Oct. 7, a debate between candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy aired on television and radio stations across the country. This was not the famous debate in which Nixon had been sick and looked physically terrible on camera. This was the debate after that historical debate, which had happened back on Sept. 26. An estimated 70 million people watched the first debate on television.

Nixon and Kennedy actually debated each other four times (How can you have a best-of series with an even number of contests?). Two of those debates, the middle two, occurred during the 1960 World Series. The one referenced above occurred on an off day, when the two clubs were traveling from Pittsburgh to New York. It had about 50 million viewers. However, debate No. 3 will happen the same day of what will turn out to be a very exciting World Series baseball game.

I’ll get to that when the time comes.

The Ninth Inning

E — Hoover departed in the top of the 9th inning. I can’t say I blame him. Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru also left right after Hoover; significant applause was heard on the radio.

Virdon grounded out on the first pitch of the ninth. It took him three games to swing at a first pitch.

With two outs in the 9th, Clemente gets the Pirates fourth hit of the game.

Stuart followed Clemente’s single and Yankees shortstop Kubek erred, putting two on. Cimolli struck out to end the game, preserving the shutout.

The Yankees won 10 – 0 and now lead the series 2 – 1 with the next two games in New York.

The Pirates are facing quite the enormous obstacle.

R — Pittsburgh has been outscored 30 – 9 in three games, and 26 – 3 over the last two games.

Never have I ever claimed to be an expert on baseball, but I know that you are in serious trouble if you concede an average of 10 runs per game. New York, as most teams do in a shutout, sounded as though it played outstanding defense behind Whitey Ford all day.

As Ethan, Casey Stengel, and I debated what to do with Elston Howard and Yogi Berra catching, playing left field or sitting on the bench, Bob Cerv played a nice game in left field and had two hits and a run scored.

Ford finished a complete game four-hitter with three strikeouts against one walk.Chuck Thompson notes that Pittsburgh only had two major losing streaks during the 1960 season, losing four consecutive games on two occasions. Both times, pitcher Vernon Law acted as a skid stopper and pitched the Pirates out of the losing streak. It appears Danny Murtaugh may turn to the skid stopper for Game 4, a day earlier than originally forecast.