ETHAN — On November 7, 2019, Rance and I posted our first summary of the 1960 World Series, sharing stories of the Pirates victory in Game 1. I declared Pirates centerfielder and friend Bill Virdon the player of the game. On December 11, 2019, Rance and I posted our interactions and observations from Game 5. And then we took a break for the holidays.
A lot has happened in the four months since the Game 5 story. With A Year of Playing Catch publishing in September, I had planned on presenting at conferences and getting on the road to make new catch-playing friends as a way of spreading word of the book. I dreamed of throwing out a first pitch for the Royals and signing a glove contract with Wilson, maybe even attempting to set a Guinness World Record or two.
And then Covid-19.
My family is currently healthy and staying at home. My house is filled with learning and teaching of all ages through the wonders of the web. My wife does a brilliant job daily connecting with her students and my daughters are keeping up with their lessons and schoolwork. During the 30-plus days of staying at home, I have learned how to Zoom and watched my 6-year old nephew streak across the screen.
We have enjoyed hosting another college student, the daughter of my college roommate, as her parents are missionaries and she can’t fly home. She is now one of my daughters; we have played catch and wiffle ball. I have lost multiple board games to her and, together, we beat Super Mario Bros on her Nintendo Switch. She’s even put up with initiation by jump scare.
But I have friends who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. They have had to wrestle with how to organize and arrange funerals, making incredibly difficult decisions at the beginning of the grieving process. I have had friends on ventilators describe their horrific experiences in hospitals as they battled the virus. Each day, I live in that paradoxical space of being thankful and anxious, of trying to make wise decisions and wondering what will happen over the course of the next 30 days.
One of the most important things I’m learning is to live in the present tense, to not get lost in the worries of futures unknown. To honestly acknowledge whatever I’m feeling and hold that in tension with my deepest convictions, that God has not abandoned us and can bring good through this time.
On top of it all, as odd as it sounds in the midst of something so serious, I really do miss baseball. With the 30 days of The Scavenger Hunt now finished, I am itching to complete the 1960 World Series with Rance.
When we started listening to the series, I would have ranked the Yankees as my 30th favorite MLB team. The trash-can-banging, sign-stealing scandal has raised the Yankees two spots, now firmly above the Astros and Red Sox.
MLB is currently in discussions with MiLB to contract 42 teams, including the historic Daytona Tortugas, which is a wonderful way not to grow the game. Preventing kids from getting the chance to get to know ballplayers on their way through the system is a truly great idea, MLB.
With a turkey, bacon, and cheese sandwich in hand and a Dr Pepper nearby, it’s on to Game 6.
RANCE — Jack Quinlan gives us the lineups in a very no fuss fashion. Pittsburgh sends Bob Friend to the mound with a 3-2 league in the series. Whitey Ford, who was apparently selected on the morning of the game, was sent to the hill for the Yankees. I don’t understand how Casey Stengel agonized over this decision, even with Ford on three days’ rest to Bob Turley’s five days. Ford pitched a shutout last time up. The Yankees must win this game to extend the series, so they need to accept no limits and pull out all stops. This is the right decision by Stengel, and not the time for second guessing.
Yogi Berra gets the start in left field today, batting fifth, with Elston Howard behind the plate catching Whitey Ford. The Berra and Howard debate continues in the mind of Casey Stengel and in the words of Ethan Bryan and Rance Burger. For the second time, I find myself in agreement with Stengel’s lineup choice here. Howard needs to be catching, especially for Ford. That said, putting Berra out in left field keeps his bat in the lineup, in spite of the potential defensive liability it creates. Offense has been New York’s ticket to victory in its two wins, so Yogi’s offense is what is needed.
The First Inning
R — Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh makes a catching move of his own, starting Hal Smith in lieu of Smoky Burgess. Play-by-play announcer Chuck Thompson notes this in a quick defensive lineup overview, and also notes the man in centerfield for the Pirates, “what a ballplayer” Bill Virdon.
E — What a cool introduction. Simple and straightforward. The very first thing I noticed is the crowd noise reacting to the appearance of the players and the first strike of the game. It’s so good to hear a crowd, to imagine a full stadium, and remember the interactions I’ve had with friends and strangers at a ballpark.
Chuck Thompson is convinced that a foul ball will find its way into the booth during this game. I’ve come close to catching an MLB foul balls once. I was seated in the first row of the upper deck on the third base side at Kauffman Stadium with a couple friends from church. A lefty was at the plate (it might have been Mark Teahan) and laced a liner my direction. We barely had time to react. I stretched out my hand just over the rail and “caught” the ball in my palm just in front of the metal safety rail. As soon as the ball hit the palm, my hand smashed into the rail. Involuntarily, my fingers opened. The ball fell to the lower deck. Embarrassing. But I could see where the seams of the ball hit my hand.
R — Roger Maris put the bat on the ball against 1960 all-star Bob Friend with three foul balls, but a flyout to Virdon in center ended a three-up, three-down first half. Friend was in the midst of 15 seasons with the Pirates at this point in his career. He had the lowest ERA in the National League in 1955, his fifth year in the bigs. Bob Friend pitched more innings (3,480 and 1/3) than any other pitcher in 122 years of Pittsburgh Pirates baseball (I’m tracing the club’s roots to 1887, though they weren’t known as the Pirates until 1891).
It just wouldn’t be a 1960 World Series game without a relief pitcher warming in the bullpen in the first inning. After Whitey Ford gave up a leadoff hit to Bill Virdon, Bob Turley immediately got up and started to get loose.
E — Can you imagine how fans would react if a pitcher started warming up after only one hitter? That’s just crazy. You be you, Casey Stengel.
R — As though he was giving Casey Stengel a cue to calm down, Ford got Dick Groat to ground into a double play. I thought we lived in a world of unnecessary pitching changes in 2020, but Casey Stengel’s hair trigger makes me rethink my grumbling. I wonder what sort of psychological impact these Yankees pitchers have been feeling throughout the series, where any base hit or walk can get your replacement up in the bullpen, seemingly before the runner touches first base.
As Grip’N’Rip Baseball League righthander (and Catch 365 partner/supporter) Chandler Veit (of the aptly-named Sumit’s Hot Yoga Yogis) once explained to me, there is a difference between “getting loose” and “getting hot” for some pitchers. In this case, it seems Turley got loose, but his warm up tosses may have been little more than an insurance policy for Stengel and an incentive for Ford.
In listening to myself announce baseball games, I notice that I tend to say that a relief pitcher is either “getting loose in the Yogis’ bullpen” or “warming in the bullpen,” even though both of those terms are pretty silly descriptions when you stop and think about it. When it’s 95 degrees on artificial turf in August, does a pitcher really need to spend much time warming? If a pitcher is “loose,” will he have any semblance of command of the ball? These are the places my mind goes when the calendar is as mathematically removed from fall baseball as it can possibly be.
E — It is so hot on that field in August. Especially the middle game. And I still remember Justin Skinner’s cleats melting on the turf during the practice day in 2018.
Clemente just missed hitting a home run, pulling it foul, but singled two pitches later, giving the Pirates their second hit in the first inning off of Ford. With Bob Turley still throwing in the bullpen, Dick Stuart worked a full count only to strike out to complete the first inning. Sometimes, good pitchers just need to get through that first inning to settle in.
The Second Inning
R — There is absolutely no way in the world that the Chevrolet commercial featuring a matador speaking in a caricatured Hispanic accent would ever get cleared for broadcast in 2020. Absolutely no way.
E — I have not missed listening to the singing advertisements in between innings. No more GM “my car” commercials, please.
R — The rundown of Mickey Mantle’s line for this World Series is spectacular. In 16 at-bats, Mantle has seven RBIs, seven walks, seven strikeouts and 16 total bases. He’s batting left-handed against the right-handed Friend. This time, Mantle tried to lay down a bunt for a base hit on a two-strike pitch. Bob Friend handled a ball bunted right back at him, and the Mick is retired.
E — Yogi walked on four pitches, the first Yankee to reach base. After a Skowron single, there are runners on the corners with only 1 out and Elston Howard stepping to the plate. Howard is the leading hitter of the series – .462 BA and 1.456 OPS! On a 2 – 2 count, he’s hit by the pitch on his throwing hand. And this is how Howard’s 1960 World Series ends, with a broken finger and a relief-pitcher as a pinch runner.
R — Pitcher Eli Grba comes on to pinch run, so we will wait to see what the corresponding defensive move will be in the bottom of the inning. If I were Casey Stengel, I’d move Berra to catcher and put Hector Lopez in left field, but Chuck Thompson explained that Johnny Blanchard, a third catcher, is warming up in the New York bullpen.
Later, we learn that Grba is the final eligible man on the Yankees’ roster to enter a game in the World Series. Casey Stengel has now used every man on his roster. Insert your go-to grumbling about how everyone these days gets participation trophies.
E — With the bases loaded, the crowd is reacting to every single pitch. Two Pirates now warming up in the bullpen. A fly ball to shallow center and Virdon’s throw keeps Yogi at third. Two outs. Friend is one out away from escaping with no damage. Whitey Ford coming to the plate.
R — There’s activity in the Pirates’ bullpen, where Tom Cheney and Vinegar Bend Mizell are both up. “Mizell and Cheney are warming in the Pirate bullpen in right field,” Thompson said. There it is, “warming in the bullpen.”
Whitey Ford hits a ground ball off the third base side of the mound. Friend knocked down the ball. Friend’s only move was to try to get a force out at home plate, but he didn’t recover the ball in time to gun down Yogi Berra at the plate. Apparently, an aging Yogi Berra could still move quickly enough, and it’s 1-0 Yankees.
Friend strikes out Clete Boyer in short order to end the top half of the second.
E — I barely took a sip of my Dr Pepper and the bottom of the second was over.
Groundout. Single. Force out at second. Line out to center.
The Third Inning
R — Tony Kubek leads off for the Yankees. “You’d have to say he’s got quite a future in baseball,” Thompson said.
Well, not exactly. Kubek did have a long career in baseball, but he was arguably more known as an outspoken broadcaster. The 1957 rookie of the year is exactly one year shy of a 1961 season that would be the apex of his career, but we’ll get more into that in Game 7. Kubek was hit by a pitch and took first base.
Mickey Mantle knocks in his eighth and ninth RBIs of the series with a base hit that scored Tony Kubek and Roger Maris, and the Mick’s absolutely meteoric series continues. I hate intentional walks, but I’d strongly consider doing it to Mantle if I’m Danny Murtaugh with so much at stake.
Yogi Berra hits a base hit that Bill Virdon “juggled” in center field, moving Mantle to third base. That will send Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh out to the mound to get Bob Friend, and that will effectively end the 1960 World Series for Friend.
As noted above, with more than 3,400 innings pitched, no Pirates pitcher is likely to ever sniff Bob Friend’s record for career innings pitched. Only one other pitcher, a man named Wilber Cooper, who pitched from 1912 – 1925, has more than 3,000 innings pitched for the Pirates. Bob Friend was a true workhorse pitcher the likes of which any one franchise in the majors is likely to ever see again.
E — And the pinstriped sluggers of the northeast are feasting on Friend. A pitching change doesn’t make much of a difference; they have taken complete control of this must-win game. I know that Mantle’s having a series, but Bobby Richardson’s shattering records.
R — Tom Cheney, a tall and slender right-hander from Georgia came on in relief of Bob Friend. Tom Cheney is in the midst of a downturn in his career. The Pirates were his second major league team after he started in St. Louis and came to the Pirates in a trade, along with Gino Cimoli. Cheney was unremarkable in this series, but went on to pitch his best baseball with the Washington Senators. In 1962, Cheney threw 228 pitches in a single game, a game that spanned 16 innings of incredible pitching. Six days after that, Cheney gave up two home runs to Mickey Mantle in a loss. The fact that he threw so many pitches in a single game and then lived to pitch again six days later is absolutely unbelievable in 2020.
E — 16 innings is almost half a season for a GRBL starter. And then, 228 pitches and 21 strikeouts. And the complete game W. That’s simply stunning.
R — Bobby Richardson hit a standup triple to drive in Yogi Berra and Johnny Blanchard. A very nice series continues for Richardson, who set a record with 11 RBI in a six-game series with the hit. That record still stands, and Richardson isn’t done yet.
I’m making the most of the time we have left with announcer Chuck Thompson in this series. I’m particularly interested in what he does to keep his audience engaged when the score is lopsided, like this 6 – 0 score for the Yankees in the bottom of the third. He recaps previous at-bats, he offers facts and figures about each batter, and he doesn’t let a lopsided score slow his pace of delivery.
In my experience, the most difficult games to call are the blowouts. It’s much easier to call a close game because any time the ball is hit into play or a pitcher throws a strike, it’s a highlight. In a blowup, one team is getting hits (usually), but there are only so many ways to describe a hammering before making yourself sound like you’re being mean-spirited toward the misfortunes of the losing team. With the way the Yankees have been hitting in their wins, I’ve been learning from Chuck Thompson.
E — And Ford is absolutely dealing. The Pirates responded to the Yankees offensive outburst with a strikeout, ground out, and strikeout.
R — The survivor of a fictional barrage of pretzels from an old episode of “The Simpsons” is firmly in command.
The Fourth Inning
R — Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell came on in relief for Pittsburgh to start the fourth inning, with his club trailing by six runs. The Alabama native had one of the most interesting post-baseball careers of anyone in this World Series, and that’s certainly saying a lot given this collection of influencers and characters.
In this game, Mizell is just six years shy of his election to the Davidson County, North Carolina Board of Commissioners (what we in Missouri would call the county commission). Mizell immediately became the board’s chairman, which means he was more or less the top government official in a county of about 80,000 people.
In 1968, Mizell won 52.4 percent of the votes (almost 85,000) to defeat R.J. Reynolds tobacco executive Smith Bagley to become the U.S. congressman for North Carolina’s 5th District. Mizell would be re-elected in 1960, 1970 and 1972. He took a loss to Democrat Stephen L. Neal in 1974, when Republicans were being ousted from Congress left and right in the midst of the Watergate Scandal.
Remember when we wrote about Richard Nixon earlier in this World Series? Well, he’s back.
Mizell’s official bio in the U.S. House of Representatives archive shows a baseball card photo rather than a portrait, and the top notation is that he reportedly pitched the Republican side to victory over the Democrats in six consecutive Congressional Baseball Games.
I wonder what Vinegar Bend Mizell thought of the Kennedy vs. Nixon debates in 1960, or how closely Mizell followed the campaigns in the midst of playing in the World Series.
Chuck Thompson shared a piece of prose that a New York writer apparently composed in honor of Yogi Berra, one of “many great lines written about this fella.” Thompson recited from memory, as Berra stood in the batter’s box:
“What a wonderful Yogi is Berra,
Built closer to firma than terra.
In the Yanks’ baseball wars, they needed him more
Than the South needed Scarlett O’Hara.”
That’s it. That’s the analysis.
E — That recitation was beautiful. I am so tired of the GM commercials.
The Fifth Inning
R — I have more or less memorized the “value and choice from GM” jingle and advertising. I am pretty much qualified to offer you a great deal on the Buick Special, Oldsmobile F-85, Chevy Corvair and the Pontiac Tempest.
We snap out of the “value and choice from GM” refrain just in time for Bill “Moose” Skowron to rip a ball more than 400 feet into the left-center field gap for a double. Johnny Blanchard showed some warning track power with a flyout to Roberto Clemente in right, allowing the Moose to motor to third base. “Little” Bobby Richardson bats with Fred Green and Clem Labine both warming in the Pirates’ bullpen. We’re treated to a highlight grab at the hot corner by Don Hoak on a screaming line drive. Whitey Ford then grounded out to second base, and the future congressman gets out of the inning with no further damage. It’s still 6 – 0 New York.
E — “A blue-darter” off the bat of Richardson snagged by Hoak. I have never heard a line drive described by that phrase. Hopefully, I can hit a blue darter or two this season in the GRBL. Now that we’re in the second half of the game, it’s back to Gillette blue blade ads and Saratoga Vichy, yellow label. I’ll be humming the Saratoga Vichy melody for the rest of the day, guaranteed.
R — Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Quinlan gets the microphone back as Hal Smith gets Pittsburgh’s first hit since the second inning. Don Hoak is “a prime candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award in the National League,” according to Quinlan, just moments after Hoak made a catch to save a run in the top half of the inning.
Hoak draws the first walk Whitey Ford issues in this game, and Pittsburgh is cooking with two men on.
E — I LOVE how loud the crowd is right now, trying to will the Pirates across the plate.
R — Casey Stengel, still proving to have a hair trigger, went to the mound to talk to Ford, and it’s now all hands on deck in the Yankees bullpen. Two relievers are up, and Quinlan mentions Springfield, Missouri’s own Dale Long running quickly from the dugout to the bullpen. Long was a first baseman, primarily, but he could also play catcher. Huzzah for left-handed catchers.
I would imagine being a reliever for Casey Stengel in the playoffs was a lot like being a volunteer firefighter. Yankees relievers have been tasked to get ready at a moment’s notice. This team would not be fit for relievers who like to keep schedules, especially those whose schedule includes a nap in the early innings.
The panic should be lightened as the Yankees turns a double play, then Pittsburgh sends pinch hitter Rocky Nelson to bat with Hal Smith now on third base.
Nelson, with his peculiar left-handed batting stance, enters in place of Vinegar Bend Mizell. It would be the last time for the North Carolina Republican to ever pitch in a playoff game.
Whitey Ford struck out Rocky Nelson on a curveball, so Casey Stengel can cancel the red alert.
The Sixth Inning
E — Fred Green starts the sixth and only faces 3. Triple, single, single. Another run. Another pitcher.
Listening to a blowout game is getting a little boring, even for this desperate-for-baseball person. I throw in the towel — Game 6 to the Yankees. I took a break from listening and went to the park with my daughter. We set up a tee and she hit me groundballs for 45 minutes, the majority of which I fielded and threw toward a red lawn chair manning first base. The red chair was not a reliable partner. Two throws and it collapsed into a heap.
R — Clete Boyer smashed a triple out to right field off of Fred Green. Keeping it political, outspoken Democrat Tony Kubek hit an RBI single to drive in Boyer to make it 7 – 0. Bobby Richardson also ran for Congress in South Carolina in 1976, but unlike Vinegar Bend Mizell, Richardson was never elected. Kubek and Richardson were very close friends, but Kubek declined to appear at any of Richardson’s campaign events because Kubek disagreed so strongly with the Republican Party at that time.
The source of this information, a book called “October 1964” by David Halberstam, notes that Mickey Mantle actually did show up to help Richardson campaign.
“Mickey Mantle showed up, enjoying himself immensely, going around repeating over a loudspeaker that this was Mickey Mantle and that he would not vote for Bobby Richardson for dog catcher,” Halberstam wrote.
Maybe Richardson should have thought twice when it came to inviting the hard-partying Mick to lend his political endorsement. Or maybe Tony Kubek was a much better judge of political climates than Richardson was.
The hits keep coming as Roger Maris is the third consecutive Yankee to drive a ball into the outfield. Kubek slides headfirst into third base, and it’s runners on the corners with nobody out. Fred Green heads to the showers to complete a World Series experience he certainly would have loved to have forgotten.
Clem Labine struck out Mickey Mantle, in what must have been a high moment in a year full of peaks and valleys for Labine. Clem Labine played for three different teams in 1960. The two-time all-star was traded midseason from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Detroit Tigers. Detroit then released Labine on Aug. 15, after he put up a 5.12 ERA in 14 games. Pittsburgh waned a righty to compliment Roy Face in the bullpen, and signed Labine off the street the following day.
Labine appeared in three blowout losses as a mop man before the regular season ended. My most favorite Clem Labine fact is that he played on back-to-back World Series championship teams, albeit two different teams. Labine was a reliever on the Los Angeles Dodgers, in just their second season since the move from Brooklyn, that won the ’59 World Series.
The Seventh Inning
E — The Pirate pitchers aren’t fooling any of the Yankee sluggers. Another lead-off double, just missing a homer. Richardson follows with a second stand-up triple, another RBI, increasing his WS record-setting lead to 12. And Ford’s still in the game.
R — Here’s a baseball ethics debate. Two players both smash baseballs off the wall. The score is 9-0 in the seventh inning. Your pitcher is batting. First of all, do you leave your starter in the game at this point, or do you take him out of the game in hope that maybe, just maybe, you might be able to squeeze a relief inning out of him two days later. After all, Whitey Ford is pitching brilliantly. In post-series interviews, Mickey Mantle expressed his disagreement with Yankees manager Casey Stengel for leaving Ford in the game at this point.
Or do you do what Casey Stengel did, which is have your pitcher bunt for a suicide squeeze to make the score 10-0? That’s what Stengel did.
Jerk or no jerk? You tell me.
E — I tried to find video footage of the suicide squeeze, but no such luck. Every bounce is going the Yankees way. 10 – 0. The best part of this game, for me, might be Virdon’s catch to end the seventh.
R — West Plains, Missouri’s own Bill Virdon made a “diving, shoestring somersault catch,” that led Jack Quinlan to go on to compliment him as one of the best fielding center fielders “in the game today.” In the days of giant outfields, especially the oddly-shaped and sprawling outfield in Pittsburgh, Bill Virdon must have run like a deer.
Here’s more of me second-guessing Casey Stengel. He just committed to having Whitey Ford bat in the top half of the inning, indicating that he’s committed to Whitey Ford. Why then, would you get two relievers warm in your pen before Ford throws a single pitch in the bottom half of the same inning? Psychologically speaking, pitching for Stengel must have been frustrating, if not damaging.
That said, Whitey Ford didn’t seem too bothered. New York shortstop Tony Kubek made an error that put Gino Cimoli aboard, but the Yankees got the next three outs in 1-2-3 fashion.
The Eighth Inning
E — In this series, the Yankees are hitting .324 as a team going into this game. Wow.
R — Interesting stat. The Pirates hit .276 as a team during the 1960 season, the highest collective batting average of any club in Major League Baseball. The league batting average was .255.
In the modern age, league batting averages have been falling over the past two decades. The modern peak of hitting occurred in 1999, when teams hit .271, and the Texas Rangers led the bigs by hitting .293. The worst team average in 1999 was .252, by the San Diego Padres. Compare that to 2019, when the MLB cumulative batting average was .252, and the trash can-bashing Houston Astros led the way batting .274.
One thing I’ll say about comparing the 1960 Pirates to the 2019 Astros: I don’t hear any drumming in the background of any of these broadcasts.
The Ninth Inning
E — Bill Virdon was mentioned as a hero alongside Roy Face as a lead-in to a commercial for a Gillette razor. No one would ever mention my face as an introduction for a razor company. Here’s a quick summary of the game: The Yankees lead-off hitter, Clete Boyer, had six at bats in nine innings.
R — Gino Cimoli singled for Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth, his team trailing by a dozen runs. Whitey Ford has scattered seven hits, and has gotten all but three of his 25 outs to this point on the infield. Ford promptly got Hal Smith to ground into a double play, and it’s all over. Whitey Ford has two complete game shutout innings in this World Series, a combined 22-0 score in the Yankees’ favor when Ford is pitching, and the first time that Whitey Ford has even won a game as the visiting pitcher.
E — Bring on Game 7. I’m still debating about watching it courtesy of YouTube, or maybe trying to coordinate video with the broadcast call by Quinlan and Thompson.
One final thought. Listening to Ford’s performance, I was reminded of the 2014 World Series and the efforts of a particularly dominant southpaw for the San Francisco Giants. I wonder, if Game 7 is close in the late innings, is there any chance Ford might be asked to pitch on consecutive days?