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.