Bill Mazeroski

William Stanley Mazeroski (born September 5, 1936), nicknamed "Maz" and "The Glove", is an American former second baseman in Major League Baseball (MLB) who played his entire career for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1956 to 1972. A seven-time All-Star known during his career primarily for his spectacular defensive play, he has come to be better known for perhaps the most memorable home run in baseball history, a dramatic ninth-inning drive in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that beat the favored New York Yankees. It was the first time that the major league season ended with a home run, and remains the only walk-off home run to clinch a World Series championship in Game 7. ESPN ranked the World Series winner at the top of its list of the 100 Greatest Home Runs of All Time, while Sports Illustrated had it eighth in its compilation of the 100 Greatest Moments in Sports History. Mazeroski received the Babe Ruth Award for his play in the Series, during which he batted .320.

Bill Mazeroski
Mazeroski in 2010
Second baseman
Born: (1936-09-05) September 5, 1936
Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 7, 1956, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
Last MLB appearance
October 4, 1972, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Batting average.260
Home runs138
Runs batted in853
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Baseball Hall of Fame
Election methodVeterans Committee

An eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mazeroski was particularly noted for his ability to make the pivot in turning double plays. His 1,706 career double plays remain a major league record for a second baseman, and were the most by any non-first baseman in history until shortstop Omar Vizquel passed him in 2009. Mazeroski led the National League (NL) in double plays eight consecutive years, and recorded over 100 double plays eleven times, both also major league records. His 161 double plays in 1966 remain the major league record for second basemen; when he retired, he held the top three marks in NL history. He led the major leagues in assists a record nine times, and led the NL in putouts five times and in fielding percentage three times. Mazeroski set NL records for career games (2,094), putouts (4,974), assists (6,685) and total chances (11,863) by a second baseman, all of which were later broken by Joe Morgan; his career fielding percentage of .983 ranked second in NL history when he retired, less than a quarter of a point behind Red Schoendienst.

Mazeroski also provided contributions on offense which were not typical for his position; his 138 career home runs and 853 runs batted in (RBI) were the most by any second baseman during the period between 1944 and 1974, with his home run total putting him behind only Rogers Hornsby among NL second basemen when his career ended. His home run production was particularly impressive due to the Pirates playing in cavernous Forbes Field, where the distant reaches in left and center field made it typically the league's most difficult home run stadium until the mid-1960s; Mazeroski hit more than twice as many homers on the road (93) than at home (45) in his career. He closed out his career by helping the Pirates to three consecutive division titles; he and Roberto Clemente were the only members of the 1960 champions who were on the team when they picked up another title in 1971, beating the favored Baltimore Orioles in seven games. Mazeroski later became a coach for the Pirates and the Seattle Mariners. The Pirates organization retired his uniform number in 1987; he is now the only living person so honored. Mazeroski was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Formative years

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia of Polish descent, Mazeroski was the son of Mayme and Louis Mazeroski, who resided in Witch Hazel, Ohio, approximately 70 miles west of Pittsburgh. Louis had been a highly regarded baseball prospect himself—he once had a tryout with the Cleveland Indians—but a severed foot suffered in a coal mine accident ruined his dream as well as his livelihood. Along with his parents and sister Mary, Mazeroski grew up in a small one-room house that was devoid of electricity and indoor plumbing. He often went by the name of Catfish because of a penchant for fishing, not because of any real passion for the sport but to put food on the table.

Louis became prone to alcohol, but he wasn't about to let his son follow a similar path to the coal mines. The two played catch and talked ball regularly. Their favorite drill was played with a tennis ball, which Louis threw against a brick wall and his son fielded with a glove that had been purchased with money earned from digging an outhouse, as family legend had it. The exercise was designed to sharpen hand-eye coordination and ability to quickly adjust to bad bounces, areas in which young Bill excelled as early as elementary school.

Mazeroski was a fan of the Indians as a child. He counted Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller, Ken Keltner and Joe Gordon as his heroes.[1]

Mazeroski attended Warren Consolidated High School in Tiltonsville, Ohio, where he was a multi-sports star, most notably in baseball and basketball. He was a four-year starter with the varsity baseball team, normally as a shortstop or pitcher. In his senior year, he was named to the All-Ohio State basketball.

Mazeroski turned down college scholarship offers from Duquesne, Ohio State and West Virginia to pursue a professional baseball career. In 1954, after several major league teams had courted the infielder, the Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies among them, the 17-year-old finally chose the Pirates, largely because they agreed to accelerate his start in Class A ball unlike the others. Originally a shortstop, Mazeroski was moved to second base after one season in the minors and made his first big league appearance on July 7, 1956, against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York. His first hit was a single off Johnny Antonelli in his first at bat.

Early struggles and rapid ascent

Mazeroski in 1965

Success at the pro level did not come easily for Mazeroski at the outset. In 1955, the 17-year-old made his debut with the Class A Williamsport Grays, where he hit .235 in 93 games. He played exclusively at shortstop, where he was charged with 31 errors. The next spring, Pirates general manager Branch Rickey noticed how well he turned the double play as a second baseman, which prompted his move to the right side of the diamond. Mazeroski moved up to the Triple A Hollywood Stars farm club to begin the 1956 season. While he played 20 errorless games at his new position, the two-level jump proved to be too much at the plate. He was sent back to Williamsport, where he got back on track with a .293 batting average and 11 homers in 114 games.

Mazeroski returned to Hollywood at the outset of the 1956 campaign, only this time things were noticeably different. He hit .305 with an .823 OPS (on-base plus slugging) to earn a promotion to the major leagues midway through the season. At a time when the vast majority of young athletes were required to hone their skills in the minors for several years, Mazeroski got the call at 19 years of age. As expected, the transition was not a seamless one. He made his major league debut on July 7 at the Polo Grounds against the Giants, and singled in his first at bat in the third inning off Johnny Antonelli for his first hit. But for most of the next five weeks, his batting average tumbled below the .200 mark; he hit his first home run on August 16, a 2-run shot off Robin Roberts in the fourth inning, to lead the Pirates to a 4-1 road win over the Phillies. But a few days later, Pirates manager Bobby Bragan dropped him behind the pitcher in the batting order for 10 games. Mazeroski regrouped to hit .243 in 81 games, but later conceded that the drop in the lineup had an adverse effect on his confidence at the plate early in his career.

After Danny Murtaugh replaced Bragan at the helm in early August 1957, Mazeroski and the Pirates showed immediate and steady improvement. "Baseball men are saying that Mazeroski, with his great hands and range and arm, is perhaps the finest young infielder in the business," Sports Illustrated reported in its 1958 preseason analysis. The young Bucs promptly stunned the baseball world with a second-place finish, while Mazeroski blossomed into an All-Star for the first time in his career. His 19 home runs and 69 RBI each ranked second at his position in the major leagues. He also was selected for his first Gold Glove Award. His father Louis died of lung cancer early the next year, but not before he had witnessed his son achieve stardom.

Second to none

Soon Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince began referring to Mazeroski as simply "The Glove", as the perennial Gold Glove candidate set the bar for defense at his position that would still be in place decades later. Houston Astros and future Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan called him "the gold standard" for infield defense.

Mazeroski turned the double play into an art form with Gene Kelly-like footwork, magical hands, sure arm and exceptionally strong legs that survived countless attempts by baserunners to break up the play. Coupled with acute baseball instincts, he displayed unparalleled range in the field, as evidenced by the nine seasons that he led the league in assists per nine innings; recent analytics credit him similarly in total zone runs at the position. Remarkably, Mazeroski was able to accomplish this even though he played nearly half of his games at Forbes Field, whose infield was widely thought to be the worst in the majors because of its alabaster-like surface and many errant hops.

What also made Mazeroski unique was his trademark glove, which wasn't much larger than his right hand. Its compactness allowed for a quicker grip, ball transfer and release, especially on double play attempts. Once broken in, the piece of equipment would see action for several years at a time.

"Maz never really caught the ball, never really closed his glove over it turning the double play," said Pirates shortstop Gene Alley, who assisted Mazeroski on many of his 161 double plays in the 1966 season, still a major league record. "He could tilt his glove at an angle and hold his hand just so. It was a wonder the ball stayed in there. Then it would slide out in his hand just like that. He was the only one I ever saw do it like that."

Five decades after Mazeroski played his final game, he still holds the major league records for second basemen for most double plays in a season (161), most double plays in a career (1,706), most years leading the league in twin killings (eight) and most seasons leading in assists (nine). His 543 assists in 1964 were the most by any second baseman between 1938 and 1983.

Said Dick Groat, Mazeroski's first double-play partner in the big leagues, "He had marvelous range, great instincts and never threw to the wrong base. His release on the double play was phenomenal. When Maz was a kid, I had a couple of years' experience on him. If I would move Maz and tell him to play here or play there, I never had to tell him a second time. Ever."

Mazeroski also was known for extraordinary durability, especially given the physical demands of the second base position and chronic lower body issues later in his career. In a span of 12 seasons (1957-1968), he started 150 or more games seven times and at least 129 in each one. In 1966 and 1967, the iron man was in the field for all except 32 of a possible 2,921+23 innings.

In 1961, Mazeroski recorded 144 double plays, breaking the NL record of 137 shared by Jackie Robinson and Red Schoendienst. On April 28, 1966, Mazeroski became the second NL player to hit 100 home runs as a second baseman when he took Chicago Cubs starter Ferguson Jenkins deep in a 9-6, 10-inning road win. Later that year, he shattered Jerry Priddy's single-season major league record of 150 double plays at second base, which was set with the Detroit Tigers in the 1950 campaign. In 1967, Mazeroski broke Schoendienst's NL record of 1,368 career double plays. On August 19, 1968, in an 8-3 road loss to the Cincinnati Reds, he broke Schoendienst's league record of 1,834 games at second base. In 1969, he broke Frankie Frisch's NL record of 6,026 assists and Billy Herman's league record of 10,815 total chances; in 1970, he broke Nellie Fox's major league record of 1,619 double plays, and Herman's NL record of 4,780 putouts.

In the second game of a doubleheader on June 28, 1970, in the final game played at Forbes Field, Mazeroski fielded a Don Kessinger ground ball near second base and stepped on the bag to force out Willie Smith for the final out in a 4-1 victory over the Cubs. On July 16, he fielded the first batted ball in the history of Three Rivers Stadium, a ground ball off the bat of Ty Cline that opened a 3-2 loss to the Reds. On August 17, 1971, Mazeroski doubled in the second inning of a 6-5 loss to the Houston Astros for his 2,000th career hit. On July 23, 1972 against the Reds, he singled in the first inning of a 3-2 win; it was the last regular-season hit of his career, as he went hitless in his final 30 at bats as his playing time was gradually reduced to occasional pinch hitting.

At the end of his career, Mazeroski ranked fourth in Pirates history in games played (2,163), fifth in home runs (138) and at bats (7,755), sixth in RBI (853) and doubles (294), and seventh in hits (2,016) and total bases (2,848). Modern sabermetrics credit him with 27.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in the 1960s, the most of any major leaguer at his position. Joe Morgan broke Mazeroski's NL record for games at second base on September 28, 1980, his record for putouts in 1981, his record for total chances in 1982 and his record for assists in 1983.

The home run of all home runs

On the heels of a subpar season for Mazeroski and his fourth-place team, the 1960 campaign exceeded the wildest dreams of Pittsburgh sports fans. The Battlin' Bucs, as they would become known, dominated the National League virtually from the start to claim their first pennant since the 1927 season. Meanwhile, Mazeroski was an NL starter in both All-Star Games.

The Pirates seized control of the pennant race in August, when they won 21 of 31 games with Mazeroski in a lead role. He hit .373, drove in 16 runs and had a 26-game errorless streak in the month. The team was rewarded with a trip to the 1960 World Series, where the second baseman forged his legacy against the New York Yankees with a pair of game-winning home runs. The second came on October 13 off reliever Ralph Terry at Forbes Field, the only homer to end a World Series in major league history until 1993.

One of the wildest games in baseball history got wilder yet in the top of the ninth inning, when the Yankees plated two runs to forge a 9-9 deadlock. At that point, Mazeroski admittedly got caught up in the sudden turn of events. It seemed the second baseman had forgotten that he was to lead off the bottom half of the inning, and it wasn't until first base coach Lenny Levy reminded him of that fact that he hurriedly picked up a bat.

At precisely 3:36 p.m. local time, on a 1-0 count, Mazeroski slammed Terry's high fastball just to the left of the 406-foot marker in distant left-center field. "Here's a swing and a high fly ball going deep to left! This may do it!" NBC Radio broadcaster Chuck Thompson told the national audience. "Back to the wall goes (Yogi) Berra ... It is over the fence -- home run! The Pirates win! ... Ladies and gentlemen, Mazeroski has hit a one-nothing pitch over the left field fence at Forbes Field to win the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates!"

"I thought it would go over (the wall). I was hoping it would," Mazeroski told reporters in the jubilant home team clubhouse afterward. "But I was too happy to think. All year we've been a fighting, come-from-behind ballclub. We always felt we could pull it out even after the Yankees tied it in the ninth, but I didn't think I'd be the guy to do it." The legendary homer gave the Pirates their first World Series championship in 35 years and set off a raucous celebration in the Steel City that lasted for days.

"I was almost at second base when (the ball) finally went over," Mazeroski said. "I was running so hard, just trying to make sure I'd get to third. Then it took a moment or two to realize what happened -- it was gone." At that point, Mazeroski finished his sprint around the bases like a giddy schoolboy before he was mobbed at home plate. "You know, all I could think about was, "We beat the Yankeesǃ We beat themǃ We beat the damn Yankeesǃ" he said.

Fourteen-year-old schoolboy Andy Jerpe retrieved the ball amid the cherry trees in Schenley Park, which was adjacent to the ballpark. Mazeroski signed the ball for him in the clubhouse, but the keepsake was lost during a neighborhood game a short time later.[2][3]

The Game 7 homer marked the third game-winning hit for Mazeroski in the series. In the fourth inning of Game 1, with Don Hoak on base, he hit a two-run homer off reliever Jim Coates that cleared the large scoreboard in straight-away left field. The blow extended Pittsburgh's lead to 5–2 and proved to be the difference in a 6–4 victory. In Game 5, Mazeroski rapped a two-run double to left field off Art Ditmar that scored Hoak and Gino Cimoli in the fourth inning. The hit gave his team a 3-0 advantage that held up in a 5-2 triumph. Even though Mazeroski hit .320 with team highs of five RBI, four runs scored and two home runs, Yankees counterpart Bobby Richardson was selected the Most Valuable Player of the series.

A portion of the brick center field wall from Forbes Field still stands as a memorial on the University of Pittsburgh campus in the Oakland District. Locally, the barrier is commonly referred to as "Mazeroski's Wall." Although not the actual section of wall that his famous home run cleared, a nearby plaque in the sidewalk of Roberto Clemente Drive does mark the spot where the ball went over the wall. A Little League Softball field dedicated to Mazeroski lies on the other side.

"Maz" (right) in the Pirates' dugout at McKechnie Field on March 7, 2010 with Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan (left)

In September 2010, a statue of Mazeroski was unveiled outside PNC Park in Pittsburgh, depicting his legendary home run celebration — a runner pose with both arms extended, ball cap in right hand.

Triple plays in film and reality

Mazeroski was the focus of a staged game-ending triple play as part of a cameo appearance in the 1968 hit film The Odd Couple. In the scene, Oscar Madison is distracted from witnessing the play by an annoying phone call from Felix Ungar (immediately after sarcastically predicting to fellow sportswriter Heywood Hale Broun that the Mets still have a chance to win if Mazeroski hits into a triple play). Reportedly, the scene was actually filmed just prior to the start of a regular game at Shea Stadium on June 27, 1967. Maz reported that he was given only 10 minutes to get it done:

"They had a guy out there pitching and he was throwing fastballs. I knew I had to hit a liner to the third baseman. It only took two takes. The first pitch, I hit a line drive that went just foul. The second one, I hit a one-hopper right to third. He caught it, stepped on third, threw to second, threw to first, a triple play. Now that took talent!"[4]

Jack Fisher was the pitcher for the Mets in that scene. In reality, Mazeroski never suffered such an inglorious moment during his playing days, but he did record two triple plays as a fielder, both against the Cincinnati Reds. On April 18, 1966, in the seventh inning of a home game, Vada Pinson struck out during a double steal attempt. Catcher Jesse Gonder threw to third baseman Bob Bailey, who then threw to Mazeroski to retire Tommy Harper off second base, and Mazeroski then threw to first baseman Donn Clendenon to retire Pete Rose off first base; the Pirates went on to win 4-3. And on July 31, 1968, in the second game of a doubleheader, Tommy Helms lined out to shortstop Gene Alley in the fourth inning of a 10-1 Pirates victory; Alley threw to Mazeroski, who then threw to Clendenon, retiring Lee May and Tony Pérez before they could return to their bases.

Hall of Fame selection

Bill Mazeroski's number 9 was retired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987.

Mazeroski became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1978, but initially drew little support before gradually gaining in the voting nearly every year; he ran out of initial eligibility in 1992, having never received 50% of the vote. Skeptics pointed to his shortcomings as a hitter; his .299 on-base percentage remains the lowest of any non-pitcher in the Hall, though his power at the plate brings his on-base plus slugging figure more in line with other defensive stars elected previously, including Rabbit Maranville, Ray Schalk and Luis Aparicio. Newsweek columnist George Will remarked in 1995, "The exclusion of Mazeroski from Cooperstown is a case of simple discrimination against defensive skills."[5] Mazeroski was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

On induction day in Cooperstown, Mazeroski only made it as far into his prepared remarks as thanking the Veterans Committee voters for choosing a player based largely on defensive skills (a rarity) before getting so overcome with emotion that he had to stop. Apologizing to those who "had to come all the way up here to hear this crap," he then sat down to a long and loud standing ovation from the audience and his fellow Hall of Famers.[6]

Other honors

In 1979, Mazeroski was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame.[7]

In 1995, Harrison Central High School in Cadiz, Ohio had a field donated by Mazeroski which later became known as Mazeroski Field. In 2003, Buckeye Local High School in Rayland (which had since absorbed Warren Consolidated) honored him by naming their new baseball field after him, placing a monument behind home plate in recognition.

In 2004, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference saluted Mazeroski by electing him among the inaugural members of their Hall of Fame, alongside Boston Celtic great John Havlicek and Olympic wrestler Bobby Douglas.

Mazeroski was recognized by Major League Baseball by being selected to throw out the first pitch of the Home Run Derby that preceded the 2006 All Star Game at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, receiving a long standing ovation. He also was picked to manage the National League during the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game during the All-Star week celebrations.

Life after baseball

Mazeroski at PNC Park for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1960 World Series

In 1987, Mazeroski ran for the Democratic nomination for County Commissioner in his home of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania but his bid was unsuccessful.[8]

Mazeroski resides in Panama City, Florida and serves as special infield instructor for the Pirates in spring training. He has two sons; Darren is a retired junior college baseball coach, while Dave is an atmospheric scientist.

In 2010, the 50th anniversary of the 1960 World Series, Mazeroski was to be the guest of honor at the first showing of the original television broadcast of Game 7; it was thought to be lost before it was discovered at the home of Bing Crosby, who had been co-owner of the Pirates throughout Mazeroski's career. However, he was unable to attend due to an undisclosed illness that left him hospitalized for several days.

The annual The Bill Mazeroski Golf Tournament is held each spring. Proceeds from the event go to a baseball scholarship that is awarded to a senior graduate of Buckeye Local High School in Warren Township, which is located near his former high school.

Mazeroski was featured in an FSN Pittsburgh commercial that featured former Pirates first baseman Sean Casey.

See also



    1. Sullivan, Tim (July 2, 1986). "Rubbing elbows with stars of the diamond". Stevens Point Journal. p. 21. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
    2. "Former Point Breeze teen still wonders about lost Mazeroski ball". Pittsburgh Tribune. September 19, 2010. Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved September 21, 2010.
    3. Westcott, Rich (2001). Great home runs of the 20th century. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-858-4.
    4. IMDb The Odd Couple Trivia Page
    5. Aubrecht, Michael. "THE PINSTRIPE PRESS : YANKEE KILLER BILL MAZEROSKI". Baseball Almanac, Inc. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
    6. "Mazeroski inducted into HOF". MLB Advanced Media, LP. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
    7. "Bill Mazeroski « National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame and Museum". Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
    8. Cholodofsky, Rick. "Westmoreland Co. officials miffed about mud-slinging". Trib Total Media. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
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