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Re-Creating Pittsburgh's World Series Moment

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

The Pittsburgh Pirates recently wrapped up their 18th consecutive losing season. So Pirates fans are again looking to the past to warm their sporting hearts. Once a year, they gather at the University of Pittsburgh, which now stands on the site of the Pirates old stadium, to relive the team's greatest moment.

Erika Beras reports.

ERIKA BERAS: Every year, Herb Soltman buys a planner, flips to October 13th and writes: Noon, Game 7. He's been organizing this event for years.

HERB SOLTMAN: We're here to celebrate 50 years of baseball history in Pittsburgh - the 1960 victory of the Pirates over the Yankees.

BERAS: Yesterday was October 13th and the 50th anniversary of the Pirates' World Series win. Hundreds of people came, wearing Pirates hats and shirts. They brought their old ticket stubs, their kids and their autographed baseballs. It started in the '80s with one guy and his cassette tape. At noon, they start playing a recording of game seven of the 1960 World Series in real time. Rex Berkowski(ph) comes to the celebration every year.

REX BERKOWSKI: It's just like an annual family event, almost a reunion of Pirate fans and people who have the memory of that era or people who have heard of that era.

BERAS: Herb Soltman knows the last stretch of the final World Series game well. Not only does he relive it every year, he was actually there.

SOLTMAN: The game, of course, was very exciting and yelling and screaming and everybody's going - getting all the highs and lows, the highs when the Pirates were winning, the lows when the Yankees would go ahead. And then the Yankees tied it - the game at 9-9 in the top of the ninth.

BERAS: That's when second baseman Bill Mazeroski...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BERAS: ...hit a homerun that won it all.

SOLTMAN: It's my extreme, extreme pleasure and thrill to introduce Bill Mazeroski.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BERAS: Bill Mazeroski is now 74, with white hair and a thicker waistline. His smile is shy and boyish. He's been getting slaps on the back for 50 years, but he still seemed shocked at all of the attention.

BILL MAZEROSKI: You know, I never thought about it. I just thought it was a hit to win the ball game and then that it'd be forgotten about next year and we have to start all over again, and here we are 50 years later still talking about it.

BERAS: When he walked through the crowd, people thanked him.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BERAS: They shook his hand. They took off their hats. Their eyes widened, and their hands hovered over their hearts.

To them, it was more than just a game. Pittsburgh had a reputation as a smoky city. The Pirates hadn't won a World Series in decades. And then, there was the 1960 season. There was a momentum building.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CHUCK THOMPSON: ...on top of the ninth inning.

BERAS: Fifty years later, listening to the recording, the momentum is still there. It's like the game is actually happening now. There are cheers. There are groans.

By the end of the eighth inning, after listening to a tight game, people are standing, waiting for the final play.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

THOMPSON: Art Ditmar throws. Here's a swing and a high fly ball going...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

BERAS: For NPR News, I'm Erika Beras in Pittsburgh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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