Sunday, October 12, 2008

October 13, 1960 Redux

There's not much left of old Forbes Field but the memories.

Pitt's Posvar Hall currently occupies the former infield. Roberto Clemente Drive now bisects the site and runs about 10 feet under what used to be the playing surface of the outfield. Home plate remains in almost its exact original location, but it is now encased in glass on the first-floor walkway of Posvar Hall.

A small patch of red brick still stands, the old left field wall of Oakland's ballyard, right beside Mazeroski Field, a Little league diamond. The wall has "457" painted on it. That's how deep left center was. It was so unreachable that they parked the batting cage in its niche. There's an old flagpole there, too.

The late Saul Finkelstein showed up alone to listen to a cassette tape of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series at that spot in 1985 and started a tradition. Before long, people gathered to relive the game that's become woven into a Pittsburgh meme, spread more by memory and word of mouth than by the world wide web.

Now a couple hundred folk bring lawn chairs and coolers to celebrate the day Maz cut the mighty Yankees down, a David and Goliath tale that still resonates with the locals. Pay attention, Neal Huntington, if you want to find out what makes Pirate fans' hearts tick.

There will be all kind of people there - curious college kids, fans that were at the game, or watched on TV, or heard the radio broadcast. Believe it or not, almost everybody in Pittsburgh followed the team back in the day, and proudly. Fans that were born too late come to catch the day Pittsburgh become the center of the baseball universe. And, of course, there will be old Bucs galore.

Everyone's eyes still get a little misty when they listen to the recording of NBC broadcasters Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan calling every pitch of Game 7. They hang on every play, from the bad hop off of Tony Kubek's throat to Hal Smith's big blast. But especially, they wait for Maz's at bat in the ninth against Ralph Terry.

It never fails to get a rowdy explosion of cheers from the assembly, almost like they were experiencing the actual game. It's awesome.

GW was last there in 2006 (yah, sneaked outta work again. GW's lucky to have understanding bosses.) The mayor, Bobby O'Connor, who was a great baseball fan and all-around sportsman, had just been admitted to the hospital then, sadly never to return. In fact, he was a coach for one of the JCC baseball teams that played at Frick Field.

But his wife Judy and son Corey were there in his stead, along with state Senator Jimmy Ferlo and an assortment of other political suits. Steve Blass, Manny Sanguillen, Bob Friend, and Bobby Del Greco were there, with a couple of other Pirates GW missed; we think Grant Jackson showed up, too. It was baseball Vahalla.

But GW digresses (and not for the first or last time, either.) This year's shindig, in conjuction with the City's 250th anniversary, is gonna be a blowout.

Starting at 12:30 Monday, Pitt will serve free hot dogs and other munchies. At the flagpole by the wall, members of the Game 7 Gang and Forbes Field Wall Working Group will raise a new 12-by-6 Forbes Field pennant. Then they'll turn on the tape.

To while away the boring moments - and there weren't many in that game, believe me - there will be a tent set up in Schenley Plaza with Pirate and Homestead Gray pictures and memorabilia for you to graze through. Maybe you can look for the plaque on Clemente Drive that marks the spot where Maz's ball landed.

But don't forget why you're there. Make sure you're within earshot of the wall by 3:36 PM, the time when Maz hit the homer that Pittsburgh will never forget. Forbes Field may only be a memory, but sometimes that's enough. Nothing that you remember is ever truly gone.


Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls said...

The girlfriend and I just got back from the celebration. Awesome! A lot of fun. Neil Huntington and Frank Coonely should have been there. I dunno, maybe they were. Pirates fans are still passionate.

Ron Ieraci said...

Hey, Joey Porter, glad to hear from ya. Guys, take a visit to Joey Porter's Pit Bulls: and catch a read of a great Steeler blog and more - some sports, some politicking, and some Pittsburgh. Hey, even GW knows that baseball doesn't last all year.
And yah, it's always a nice event, JP, even if it's getting to become a little high-maintenance now. Fortunately, there's always room for another folding chair and six-pack by the boom box for those there for the party instead of the "Seen" column.