The World Series has produced many moments of incredible drama, but only in 1960 has the Fall Classic ended with a Game 7 home run. That World Series was among the wildest in baseball history as the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates, 55-27, and second baseman Bobby Richardson won the Most Valuable Player award. It came in a losing cause, though, as Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski authored an incredible conclusion to an unforgettable series.

The Pirates were huge underdogs against the dynastic New York Yankees, who had captured 16 World Series titles since Pittsburgh’s last title in 1925. While the Yankees occupied baseball’s penthouse, the Pirates languished in its basement. The perennial doormats were so downtrodden that Hollywood cast them as a major league team in need of divine intervention in the 1951 movie, “Angels in the Outfield.”

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There was an inkling that 1960 might be different, however, after the Pirates trounced the Cincinnati Reds, 13-0, in their home opener, which included a Mazeroski home run to left-center field at Forbes Field. Throughout a magical, pennant-winning season, the Pirates demonstrated tremendous resilience. They won 21 of their 95 victories in their final at-bat, including a dozen with two outs. Pittsburgh native Dick Groat captured the National League Most Valuable Player Award with a league-leading .325 batting average,  pitcher Vernon Law won the National League Cy Young Award and phenom Roberto Clemente made the first of his 15 All-Star Game appearances.

Through the first six games of the 1960 World Series, the Bronx Bombers lived up to their nickname by outscoring the Pirates, 46-17. But while New York routed Pittsburgh by scores of 16-3 (Game 2), 10-0 (Game 3) and 12-0 (Game 6), the Pirates won the closer games: 6-4 (Game 1), 3-2 (Game 4) and 5-2 (Game 5).

The 36,683 fans who filled Forbes Field for Game 7 on the afternoon of Thursday, October 13, 1960, basked in unseasonably warm temperatures and a fast start by the Pirates, who jumped to a 4-0 lead after two innings. Law blanked the Yankees until Bill Skowron’s fifth-inning home run. When the first two batters reached base in the sixth inning, Law was relieved by Roy Face, who had been stellar in saving all three of Pittsburgh’s victories in the series. He wouldn’t record a fourth.

After Yankees superstar Mickey Mantle singled to make the score 4-2, Yogi Berra blasted a three-run homer to put the Yankees ahead. New York plated two more runs in the eighth inning to make the score 7-4 and push the Pirates to the brink.

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A Wild Eighth Inning Puts Pittsburgh Ahead

Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski rounds third after hitting the home run that beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series, 10-9.

Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski rounds third after hitting the home run that beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series, 10-9.

With the Yankees six outs away from yet another title, the Pirates came to the plate against New York hurler Bobby Shantz, who had faced the minimum 15 batters since entering in the third inning.

After pinch-hitter Gino Cimoli opened the inning with a single, Pittsburgh center fielder Bill Virdon hit what looked like a sure double-play ball. While Pirates fans held their collective breath, Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek lost his when Virdon’s grounder struck a rock and lunged at his jugular. Kubek clutched his windpipe and staggered to the ground like a prizefighter with blood seeping from the corners of his mouth. Instead of turning two for a double play, Kubek left for the hospital with bruised vocal cords.

Pirates fans, however, were in full throat as Groat followed with a run-scoring single to slice the Yankees lead to two. Four batters later, defensive replacement Hal Smith blasted a three-run home run over Berra’s head in left field that put the Pirates ahead 9-7.

Needing just three outs to win the title, Pirates reliever Bob Friend took the mound, although he had allowed eight runs in the six innings he had pitched in the series. Friend continued his recent trend by relinquishing consecutive singles.

Pittsburgh manager Danny Murtaugh relieved Friend with Harvey Haddix to face the heart of New York’s lineup. After a Roger Maris pop-up, Mantle hit a run-scoring single, and Berra followed with a fielder’s choice to tie the score at nine. As the Yankees sent the game to the bottom of the ninth all knotted up, groans emanated from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newsroom, not just because of the hometown team’s changing fortunes, but the need to switch headlines for the fourth time. A fifth alteration would soon be needed.

Bill Mazeroski Hits Most Dramatic Home Run in World Series History

Bill Mazeroski celebrates in the locker room after his epic home run in the 1960 World Series.

Bill Mazeroski celebrates in the locker room after his epic home run in the 1960 World Series.

Although Yankees lefthander Whitey Ford held a consecutive scoreless inning streak that would eventually break Babe Ruth’s World Series record, New York manager Casey Stengel had pitched him a full nine innings in the 12-0 Game 6 rout. Instead of using the future Hall of Famer, Stengel trotted 24-year-old Ralph Terry out to the mound.

Known more for his glove than his bat, Mazeroski, another future Hall of Famer, stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The 24-year-old averaged only 10 home runs a year in his five seasons in the major leagues, but he launched Terry’s second pitch into the Steel City sky on a similar trajectory to the homer he had hit in his first Forbes Field at-bat six months earlier. Berra and Mantle raced toward the 406-foot mark in left-center and watched the baseball sail over the ivy-covered brick wall and disappear into the green foliage of Schenley Park.

As Berra’s shoulders slumped in disappointment, Mazeroski celebrated the series-winning home run and Pittsburgh’s first World Series title in 35 years. The hero skipped around the bases while whirling his batting helmet in his right hand. “I knew I hit it good, but I wasn’t sure it was going to go out,” Mazeroski later recalled. “When the umpire gave the home run signal, well, I don’t think I touched the ground all the way around from second base.”

Delirious Pirates fans stormed the field and joined the celebration at home plate. It was a magical conclusion to an enchanted year for the team dubbed “Destiny’s Darling” by New York Times sportswriter Arthur Daley. Game 7 also made history in that none of the 77 batters who came to the plate struck out, making it the only postseason game devoid of strikeouts.

While Mantle wiped away tears in the Yankees clubhouse, Maris sat in front of his locker with an unopened can of beer instead of the customary bottle of champagne that capped many Yankees seasons. He shook his head and muttered, “What happened to us, for cryin’ out loud, what happened?” Walking by in only a towel, Berra replied, “We just got beat, Roger, by the damnedest baseball team that me or you or anybody else ever played against.”

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Christopher Klein

www.history.com

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