1960 World Series With Papa

Tom C. Erb

© Copyright 2018 by Tom C. Erb

Photo of poster celebrating Pittsburgh win.

In 1960, at the age of six, I went to the World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series that year against the New York Yankees, led by Bill Mazeroski who became the first player to hit a game-ending home run in the seventh game to win a World Series. I attended the game with my grandfather, who I admired with a similar reverence as he to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It remains one of my most cherished memories, and I’m so blessed to have been a part of it. This memory is so special for me, because my family and I are from the Pittsburgh area.

I was born in New Kensington, PA, located along the Allegheny River about eighteen miles northeast of Pittsburgh. My grandfather worked for Alcoa, a manufacturing plant on the Allegheny riverfront. He loved his family, model trains, Christmas, and baseball, especially his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. He knew every Pirate lineup, seemingly since they came into the National League in 1887, and he knew every inch of Forbes Field like it was his own backyard.

At six years old, I was too young to really understand and appreciate baseball. But I reveled at how my grandfather really enjoyed the game of baseball, and in the fall of 1960 his passion was at an all-time frenzy. My family and I were visiting my grandparents in early October, and my grandfather asked me if I wanted to go to a baseball game. I always loved going to Forbes Field with my grandfather. He always had great seats. I recall the seats were along the third base line—four rows back from the short barrier wall. Knowing how much fun I would have with my grandfather, I said yes. Little did I know, I was about to attend Game One of the 1960 World Series.

Of course, Papa (my nickname for my grandfather) took care of me with tons of souvenirs. He bought me a Pittsburgh Pirates black and gold hard hat with the letter “P” and a 1960 World Series Pennant on a stick. My favorite items were a glove and a bat with Bill Mazeroski’s signature carved into the side. I really don’t recall much about the game itself. However, at six years old, those cool, famous, New York Yankee players—like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle—were larger than life as I sat just four rows away from the field.

In the top of the seventh inning, a batter (I believe it was Yogi Berra) hit a line drive foul towards the third base stands right at my head. Papa reached over and caught it so smoothly that I didn’t even realize it was happening until the fans around us were clapping uncontrollably. I looked around at the other fans in our section and then caught a glimpse of the baseball in his left hand.

Pittsburgh won the game and my Papa was so happy. At the end of the game, he motioned me to sit down in my seat. “Let’s stay and wait ‘til the field is empty,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, as if he were the six-year-old. We just sat there, and he gushed about his love of the Pirates and about why it was important we won the first game of the World Series.

After the stadium had emptied and he was ready to go, my Papa and I made our way out of the stadium. In the tunnel, we stopped and he laughed. “It’s a long drive home,” he said, and he pointed to the restroom sign and ask if I needed to go. I shook my head “no” and he placed the foul ball he had caught into my glove. He then went around the corner and I heard the door close. So, there I was. A six-year-old boy with as much Pittsburgh Pirate paraphernalia as I could manage—hard hat, pennant, bat and glove with the foul ball—alone in the tunnel of abandoned Forbes Field.

I heard a door open, and from around the corner, dressed in nice suits, came none other than the Pittsburgh Pirates players. I got to know them pretty well having sat next to my Papa and having him go over the stats and abilities of each Pirate when they came up to bat or ran out to the field. There they were—second baseman Bill Mazeroski, right fielder Roberto Clemente, shortstop Dick Groats—out of uniform but as recognizable as the day was long. They walked right up to me and Maz (Bill Mazeroski) leaned in and said to me, “Kid you okay?” I was so surprised, I couldn’t speak, and the only thing I could think to do was reach out my glove with the ball in it to him. Maz looked at my glove and asked, “You want me to sign your ball kid?” He reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a pen and signed the ball. He then handed it to Clemente and then to Groat and then to each successive Pittsburgh Pirate player in the tunnel. After each player had signed it, Maz took the ball and laid it back in my glove. Then he said, “Are you waiting here for someone?” I shook my head “yes” and said, “My Papa in using the bathroom.” Mazeroski smiled and winked, and the players all walked away laughing.

As the players went around the corner, I heard the restroom door open and out came my grandfather. He took one look at me and knew something was up, and I reached out my glove to him. His eyes focused on the signed baseball. He grabbed it, and I started to tell him what happened. He turned the ball over and over to see the signatures of the men he idolized so much, the winners of Game One of the 1960 World Series, his Pittsburgh Pirates.

I often think, should I have run into that restroom and drug him out so that he could see his heroes face to face? Over the years, I have reviewed the events of that 1960 World Series game. And I do recall being home in Virginia the following week and hearing that the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series with a dramatic home run in the seventh game. To some baseball historians, that game seven of the 1960 World Series is referred to as the best baseball game ever.

I vividly remember that Papa and I were there, and I know that he sees that game wherever he is. He’s probably playing the game up there in the sky. I have been a lifelong fan of baseball throughout my life, and this memory always leaves a smile on my face. Despite all of the thousands of baseball memories I’ve collected over the years, when I hear the word baseball, I always think about that Pittsburgh Pirates experience I had at age six. I remember sitting next to my grandfather with my Pirates hard hat on and my pennant on a stick, my bat and my glove, watching him watch his heroes play the game that he loved so much. Well Papa, what you didn’t know was I was sitting next to my hero.

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