I’m pleased to present the latest guest post from Joe Guzzardi, a regular contributor here. Today, Joe looks at how Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski got to the majors.
On Saturday the MLB Network, led by Bob Costas, will be in Pittsburgh to tape a Pirates special that will accompany the December 15 broadcast of Bing Crosby’s recently discovered seventh 1960 World Series game film.
The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates lovefest continues!
Saturday’s event at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater is the fourth grand celebration honoring the Buccos. In June at PNC Park, most of the living players brought back for the occasion received an on-the-field standing ovation and a post-game private party. On September 5, the Pirates unveiled a statue of Bill Mazeroski outside PNC. Then, on October 13, the annual Forbes Field gathering took place with the players again flown in.
The 1960 Pirates are synonymous with Mazeroski, the home run hitting, bottom of the ninth inning, seventh game hero.
Mazeroski’s road to Pittsburgh fame began in Hollywood, California. And in the July 11, 1956 Sporting News, a short blurb announced the trade that sent Mazeroski from the Pacific Coast League Stars to the Pirates. The magazine noted:
While Hollywood fans adopted a ‘wait and see’ policy, local press, radio and TV observers generally hailed the Pittsburgh recall of three players and optioning of four Pirates to the Stars as possibly beneficial to both sides. Called up to the Pirates were Hollywood’s three top players—Cholly Naranjo (7-6), southpaw Fred Waters (4-3) and second baseman Bill Mazeroski, brilliant 19-year-old double play maker and the club’s leading hitter at .316
In return the Stars received a sorely needed third baseman Gene Freese plus catcher Danny Kravitz, second baseman Spook Jacobs and southpaw Luis Arroyo.
‘Pittsburgh fans, I’m sure,’ commented Hollywood manager Clay Hopper, ‘will see a polished second baseman who is a master at the double play.’
As a Pirate, Naranjo was a complete bust, 1-2, 4.46 in his only season; Waters, fractionally better with a 2-2, 2.89 ERA over two seasons.
As for those traded to the Stars, they eventually returned to the Pirates. Freese was a moderately useful part time infielder with some power. Sent from the Pirates in 1958 to the St. Louis Cardinals, Freese also played for the Philadelphia Philies, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros before retiring with a .254 average and 115 home runs.
Kravitz was a fourth-string catcher behind Smokey Burgess, Hal Smith and Bob Oldis. Although he was a member of the 1960 Pirates National League pennant winning team, he only batted six times and got no hits.
Jacobs’ major league career, such as it was, ended in Pittsburgh where here he hit .162 in 11 games.
Of the four former Stars, only Arroyo achieved real success but not in Pittsburgh (two seasons, 6-14, 4.89). After a detour with the Cincinnati Reds in 1959, Arroyo landed with the New York Yankees. During his four seasons of outstanding relief, Arroyo compiled a 22-10, 3.15 ERA with one All Star Game appearance.
The trade did neither team any immediate good. The 1956 Pirates finished seventh, 22 games back of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Stars, in its next to the last year of existence, finished a distant fourth behind the Los Angeles Angels, Sacramento Solons and Portland Beavers
Hopper’s prediction about Mazeroski was right on the money, however. As evidence of the “polish” Hooper referred to Mazeroski, a seven-time All Star, holds baseball’s career record for most double plays turned, 1706.
As for Maz’s historic 1960 home run, it ranks as the all-time high point in Pittsburgh sports’ history and one of the most dramatic moments in baseball.
Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org