A World-Class Celebration

Yesterday was a special day for fans of Pittsburgh sports.  The world turned its eyes to Pittsburgh as the city celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Pirates’ 1960 World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  More than a dozen Pirates alumni came to Pittsburgh to be part of the festivities, which kicked off yesterday morning in Schenley Plaza.  A sidewalk plaque honoring Bill Mazeroski, who hit the game-winning home run, was unveiled near the Forbes Field wall by Richard Reed of the Parks Conservancy and Frank Coonelly of the Pirates.  Then it was over to the wall for a special program by the Game 7 Gang, who introduced players to the thousand or so people who turned out to listen to the radio broadcast of the game. 

Following the broadcast, the players made their way to PNC Park for a 1960 Victory Gala in their honor.  The event, which benefited the Parks Conservancy and Pirates Charities, raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars and provided Pirate fans with an evening full of memories.  Among the special treats was a sneak preview of the recently-unearthed video footage of Game 7, including postgame interviews with the ecstatic players and staff.  Thanks so much to Major League Baseball for providing this footage; we can’t wait to see the full game when it’s broadcast on the MLB Network in December!

Some photos from the day are below.  You can also see more news coverage and photos at the following links:

- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: A half-century later, it’s still the Pirates’ day
– Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Game 7 ‘still feels like it happened yesterday’
– USA TODAY: Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski: 50 years later, shot still echoes
– Yahoo! Sports: Pittsburgh celebrates 1960 World Series victory
– Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: 1960 Victory Gala Photos
– Whirl Magazine: Victory Gala Photos

A close-up look at the sidewalk plaque.

Sidewalk plaque

Bill Mazeroski signs autographs at Schenley Plaza.

Bill Mazeroski

Richard Reed, Executive Vice President of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Bill Mazeroski, and Frank Coonelly, President of the Pittsburgh Pirates, at the plaque unveiling.

Plaque unveiling

A representative from Councilman Shields’ office proclaims it 1960 World Series Day in the City of Pittsburgh.

Council proclamation

“Raise your hand if you actually went to Game 7!”

Game 7 attendees

The 1960 players gather at the Forbes Field wall before the Game 7 Gang introduces them to fans.

Alumni

We got some fun photos of some of the players as they greeted the crowd.  First up, Bob Friend:

Bob Friend

Dick Groat:

Dick Groat

Vernon Law:

Vernon Law

Bill Mazeroski:

Bill Mazeroski

Bob Oldis:

Bob Oldis

Hal Smith:

Hal Smith

Several couples attending the celebration met on the day of the game and were celebrating their own special anniversaries.

Couples

Folks turned out in their Pirates gear and with many souvenirs:

Pirate gear

The amount of Pirates memorabilia on display at this event every year is pretty astonishing.

Pirate memorabilia

The nighttime gala took place on the field at PNC Park.  At right is Parks Conservancy President and CEO Meg Cheever, who shared that her favorite part of the 1960 pep rally ticket was the phrase “Everybody welcome.”  Because, as she said, isn’t that what parks are all about?

PNC Park

The players watch themselves being interviewed by Bob Prince on the postgame show of the 1960 World Series.

Pirate alumni

Photos by Mary Jane Bent and Melissa McMasters.

1960 World Series Memories

We caught up with a few people at yesterday’s 1960 World Series celebration and asked them to share their memories of the Series-winning home run and Forbes Field.  You can see the videos below, along with a few stories shared by Herb Soltman, leader of the Game 7 Gang.



A Home Run for Pittsburgh

Following is the Parks Conservancy’s essay that appeared in the program for the 1960 Victory Gala held last night at PNC Park.  The Pirates shared some great images with us for the piece, so we thought we’d share them with you too.  Click the images to see larger versions.

When Bill Mazeroski hit that pitch from Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry, the baseball soared over left-fielder Yogi Berra’s head, cleared the wall of Forbes Field, and landed in the area known as Schenley Plaza.  Back then, Schenley Plaza was a large parking lot, situated between Forbes Field, the Carnegie Library, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.  But 50 years before that legendary home run ball landed there, Schenley Plaza was the grand entrance to Schenley Park.

Forbes Field Lights

Schenley Plaza under the Forbes Field lights, circa 1940s

And a few hours later, it was to Schenley Park that an overwhelmed Maz and his wife Milene retreated, as the raucous celebration he had sparked continued throughout Pittsburgh.  “There wasn’t a soul around—just a squirrel or two. That was so relaxing,” Maz would remember years later.

Pittsburgh’s urban parks—like those in many other cities—were created during this country’s greatest era of industrial growth to provide just those qualities that Bill and Milene found in Schenley Park that special evening.  They were places for relaxation and escape:  antidotes for the grim working conditions that most residents faced daily. While Maz’s story is unique, hundreds of people still go to our parks for the same peaceful welcome and retreat that the Mazeroskis needed that evening.

From the late 1800’s until World War II, Pittsburgh’s urban park system thrived and grew.  After the war, as more people moved to the suburbs and found recreation outside the city limits, the parks began to suffer.   As fewer people used the parks, they became an afterthought to the public officials who made budget decisions. Frick, Highland, Riverview and Schenley, as well as many of the 171 other parks in the City, suffered noticeably for decades.

Aerial 1940s

Schenley Plaza and Forbes Field from above, 1940s

The Parks Conservancy was established in 1996 in response to the declining conditions of our four large regional parks.   From the beginning, the Parks Conservancy has worked side-by-side with the City of Pittsburgh to restore the park system to its earlier greatness and improve the quality of life for  the people who live and work in  Pittsburgh.  In 14 short years, the Parks Conservancy has raised nearly 50 million dollars for park restoration and maintenance, and completed 11 major capital improvement projects.  They include the Riverview Park Chapel Shelter, the Highland Park Entry Garden, and the Schenley Park Cafe and Visitor Center.

Now the City is encouraging the Parks Conservancy to extend its work beyond the four great regional parks, as resources permit.  In 2010, the Parks Conservancy restored the Walled Garden in Mellon Park Shadyside, and formally adopted projects in several new parks, such as Cliffside Park in the Hill District and McKinley Park in Beltzhoover.

Today, Schenley Plaza has been restored to its original status as the grand and welcoming entrance to Schenley Park.  The big parking lot where Maz’s home run landed is once again an emerald lawn that  has welcomed over one million visitors since it was restored in 2006  On the spot where—on October 13, 1960—you could have seen that fabled baseball clear the Forbes Field wall, the PNC carousel twirls hundreds of children each year.  

Pep Rally Ticket

A ticket to a 1960 World Series pep rally at Schenley Plaza

A few feet away, generations of baseball fans continue to visit the preserved Forbes Field wall.  The Parks Conservancy, in conjunction with Pirates Charities and the City of Pittsburgh, has installed a bronze plaque in the nearby sidewalk.  It honors Bill Mazeroski and his role in one of baseball’s—and Pittsburgh’s—greatest moments.

Many thanks to the Pirates organization and members of the 1960 World Championship team for partnering with the Parks Conservancy to help make this event possible.

1960 World Series Celebration

Mazeroski

Mazeroski rounding third base; courtesy of AP

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is partnering with Pirates Charities on Wednesday, October 13 to mark the 50th anniversary of Bill Mazeroski’s home run that made the Pittsburgh Pirates the 1960 World Series Champions.  We’d like you to be a part of this special celebration!

We’ll start the festivities at 11:45 a.m. with a public unveiling of a sidewalk plaque honoring Mazeroski for his walk-off home run.  The ceremony will take place near the old Forbes Field wall at the intersection of Schenley and Roberto Clemente Drives in Oakland. Pirates officials and 1960 team alumni are scheduled to attend. 

Forbes Field

Schenley Plaza and Forbes Field in the 1940s; courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates

A recording of the original radio broadcast will be played at the Forbes Field wall and in Schenley Plaza.  An annual event, this re-broadcast attracts hundreds of people each year but is expected to draw thousands in conjunction with the 50th anniversary.  Ballpark food will be available and there’s sure to be an impressive collection of Pirates memorabilia on hand.

The connection between Pirates baseball and its old neighbor Schenley Park is a strong one: in fact, after hitting the home run that sent a city into jubilation, Mazeroski went to the park with his wife to reflect on the moment in a quiet place.  It’s only fitting that he’ll return to the park next week to remember that day.  We hope you’ll come out and join the celebration!

Countdown to 1 Million: The Big Events

On Monday we looked back at some of the big musical events that have happened at Schenley Plaza over the last four years.  Today we’re focusing on some other large-scale events that drew big crowds and turned Schenley Plaza into a destination to see and be seen. 

Madcap Masquerade

Madcap

The Plaza dressed in its Madcap costume. Photo by George Mendel.

At the Parks Conservancy, we’d always felt that the Plaza would make a great place to have a large-scale special event.  Instead of just waiting for people to realize it was there, we decided in 2008 to move our Halloween fundraiser, Madcap Masquerade, to the Plaza.  The chill in the air was no match for the heated, clear-sided tents that made the party feel like it was outside without the worries about the weather.  The Plaza tent suddenly transformed into a place for fortune tellers and tarot card readers–a little different from the balloon animals at Kids Days! 

Phil

Phil's wild ride--the mask still kind of makes me shudder.

 The area around the tents was beautifully decorated, with special rotating colored light illuminating the Mary Schenley Fountain, which had just been restored.  The fashion show had a Carousel Couture theme, with feathers, animal prints, and other inspired styles lighting up the runway.  And the PNC Carousel itself was a popular attraction for the costumed revelers.  It was cool to see such a different crowd getting a kick out of the carousel, although I think it experienced its scariest moment to date when our own Phil Gruszka, dressed as the lumberjack from hell, hopped on and went for a ride on the rabbit.  Not something you see on the carousel every day… 

Carousel Tea
 

Carousel Tea

The seahorse gets festive at the Carousel Tea. Photo by Joshua Franzos.

There was no such scariness at the Children’s Carousel Teas we held in May 2008 and 2009 (unless you count my having to show up wearing formal gloves to mask some poison ivy I picked up on a volunteer day).  Several hundred kids, some of them channeling the Hat Lunch with their stylish outfits, descended on the Plaza for lunch, games, entertainment, and of course as many carousel rides as they could handle.  At 2009’s event, the Zany Umbrella Circus debuted its new big top tent, and along with it a great aerial show that wowed the kids.  

Squonk Opera’s Astro-rama
 

Squonk Opera

Squonk Opera hails visitors from space. Photo by John Altdorfer.

Happily, it’s not just the Parks Conservancy that puts on great events at Schenley Plaza.  We were all thrilled when Squonk Opera, who we had worked with on a previous Madcap Masquerade, asked if they could host the world premiere of their latest production, “Astro-rama,” on the Plaza lawn.  The October 2008 premiere coincided perfectly with Pittsburgh’s Festival of Lights, which after lighting up downtown for a year was expanding to Oakland.  Astro-rama’s eerie songs and communications with outer space were cool and entertaining, but nothing to me was more memorable than the Squonk folks using the lighting of the Cathedral of Learning as their grand finale.  There’s just something so cool about being immersed in a great show and then turning around to discover there’s something awesome left to discover after it’s over. 

Visionary Arts Festival
 

VAF

Art on the lawn at the Visionary Arts Festival. Photo by John Altdorfer.

Continuing with the avant-garde art theme, last year’s Visionary Arts Festival brought some unusual and fascinating displays to Schenley Plaza.  Much more an experience than a typical art sale, the VAF brought in artists who presented cohesive bodies of work.  The fiber figures embedded in the lawn were a great attention-getter and an introduction to a wide variety of work including sculpture, found objects, paintings, and even giant models of futuristic cities. 

Pogopalooza
 

Pogopalooza

An extreme moment during Pogopalooza. Photo by John Altdorfer

We can guarantee you this was the most extreme event that’s ever graced the Plaza, and it was absolutely awesome to watch.  The annual gathering of extreme pogo athletes came to Pittsburgh last summer and had their main showcase event on the street between the great lawn and the library.  Not only did we see amazing jumps, tricks, and landings, but the organizers arranged a great way to get the crowd involved.  Anyone who was willing to don a helmet and hop on a stick got the chance to compete against each other for who could keep jumping the longest.  Eventually this involved one-handed and one-legged jumping.  I think the winner was about 7 years old.  It was fantastic.  The day ended with the “pro” pogo athletes competing to see who could jump the highest, including a guy in a full-body costume that made him look like a human tennis ball.  I don’t think he won, but to be fair his vision was a bit compromised. 

Mazeroski Day
 

Maz Day

A devoted fan goes back to the wall on Maz Day. Photo by John Altdorfer

Every October 13, the Game 7 Gang flocks to Forbes Field to relive Bill Mazeroski’s game-winning home run in the 1960 World Series.  Schenley Plaza becomes a black and gold haven for Pirates fans and amazing memorabilia.  Because this year is the 50th anniversary, we’re expecting a huge turnout, so make your plans now to be there with your Pirates gear in tow. 

What’s the best event you’ve attended at Schenley Plaza?  Share your memories and check out lots more photos from these events at the Plaza Facebook page

For up-to-the-minute information on the One Millionth Visitor celebration on July 11, watch this page.