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Bing’s wine cellar was filled with other memories

November 23, 2010
By RICK DeLUCA, special to the Herald-Star

Bing Crosby was always one of my favorites. I loved him in the "Road" movies with Bob Hope. I make it a point to watch "White Christmas" each holiday season. Bing and Danny Kaye were just great in that movie.

I also remember thinking that Bing Crosby reminded me so much of my uncle. I could never decide if the connection was their looks (they did look a little alike), the way they were with words or just that the way Bing looked in an Army uniform reminded me of how my uncle looked in his.

As much as I followed Bing Crosby as a movie star and as a former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I never knew that Bing Crosby drank wine. Never knew he had a wine cellar. Thank goodness he had a wine cellar.

Back in the 1960s, Major League Baseball was still trying to get accustomed to having blacks on rosters. A lot of games were still being played in the daytime. There was no ESPN (that's right, there was no ESPN.) There was no instant replay or fake grass on ballfields.

The vines at Wrigley Field were not yet fully grown.

In Pittsburgh, you could ride a trolley to Forbes Field. There were seats that were obstructed by large steel supports. A program cost 50 cents and a hot dog just 30 cents.

Major League Baseball had yet to decide that archiving important games through their television broadcasts was a good idea. After all, back then sports writers would so vividly describe a game that video was not needed.

On Oct. 13, 1960, the area known as Rush Run, just north of Rayland, and that area's greatest contribution to the world of sports, gave all of us one of the greatest sports moments in history.

Bobby Thompson may have hit the "shot heard round the world," but quiet, laid-back Bill Mazeroski hit the greatest home run of all time.

With no outs, no one on base, a 1-0 count and the game-tied at 9-9 in the bottom of the ninth at Forbes Field in the Oakland District of Pittsburgh, Mazeroski blasted a homer over the head of Yogi Berra and just over the 409 mark in left field to give the Pirates the 1960 World Championship.

It was a shot that has been talked about for 50 years and will be for the next 50. It was a hit that not only made the humble Mazeroski a household name, but directed attention to the great second baseman who would eventually be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

It's a home run that has been shown for years. The highlights of Maz rounding the bases, waving his helmet with a grin from ear-to-ear, have been seen by millions. Pictures of Maz seem to pop up in most every book that documents the history of baseball.

Through all years, the highlight films, the pictures, the stories, it was a game that had been lost in time. For you see, until just very recently, there was no known tape of that seventh game. Unless you were in Forbes Field that day or were able to watch the live broadcast on television, you did not get to see the game. Until Robert Bader decided to go snooping around Crosby's old wine cellar/old film vault.

It was last December that Bader, vice president of marketing and production for Bing Crosby Enterprises, was rummaging through Crosby's cache of old film canisters in his wine cellar that he happened upon a gray canister marked "1960 World Series." He found five canisters, screened the 16-millimeter films and found that they contained the entire broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series with legendary broadcasters Mel Allen and Bob Prince calling the game.

Jump forward to 6 p.m., Nov. 13 at the Byham Theatre just across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates' home these days. With a packed crowd estimated at near 1,000 that included movie star Michael Keaton, former Steeler great Franco Harris, current Pirates' majority owner Bob Nutting and a contingent of 1960 Pirates with their families looking on, the long lost film of that famous Game 7 was played to a public audience for the first time.

A phone call from Alex Marshall, publisher of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times, the day before provided me with the opportunity to be one of those in attendance on Saturday. Alex and I were fortunate enough to be seated with Pirates contingent in the theater and were guests at the reception held at the Renaissance Hotel just prior to the showing.

Getting the opportunity to speak with the 1960 Pirates on hand along with some of the other dignitaries at the reception and screening was not only a real thrill, but an interesting night of conversation.

Maz was hospitalized and unable to attend, but his close friends and former teammates were there with wide smiles and old stories to tell.

Bob Friend, who had pitched in two games in the series and was called in to relieve in the ninth, told me that he wished that Maz was there, but more concerned with his health.

With all that was going on, our conversation included talk about his many visits to the area with Maz and enjoying ribs at Bill's in Yorkville. He tapped a former teammate on the knee and told him "Maz took us there a lot and those are the best ribs I've ever had."

He also told me what a special night it was for the former Bucs, telling me that "you relive the memory of the game in your head over and over, but to see it again reminds you things you kind of forgot."

Vera Clemente, the wife of Pirate great Roberto Clemente, was also on hand and did well representing her husband, who died in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972, just after the season that saw him collect his 3,000th and last career hit.

"Roberto loved this city," she told me and later repeated when called on to talk at the screening. "He really loved playing for the Pirates. They were family to him and family to us. He never wanted to play baseball anywhere else."

At the Bynam Theatre, not only did the screening of Game 7 take place, but it was part of a special broadcast that was taped for MLB Network. With Bob Costas on hand to host the event, the game was shown in three-inning segments before breaking to get comments from some of the former Pirate and 1960 World Series MVP Bobby Richardson of the Yankees.

As the program advanced inning-by-inning, it was easy to see that the 1960 Pirates were a team of destiny and Maz was destined to be the game's hero.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Pirates scored five runs to take a 9-7 lead and recorded the third out in the inning with Maz in the on-deck circle.

In the top of the ninth, the Yankees would have had Tony Kubek batting in the inning, but Bill Virdon's bad-hop ground struck him in the throat in the bottom of the eighth and forced manager Casey Stengel to go to his bench. Later in the frame, Dale Long, whose career included a stop-over in Pittsburgh, pinch-hit in the slot, singled to left and eventually advanced to third on a Mickey Mantle hit.

With Yogi Berra at the plate, Long at third, Mantle at first and just one out, Berra drilled a rocket to first baseman Rocky Nelson. Nelson, who had homered for the Pirates in the first, quickly stepped on first for the second out, but just missed taking Mantle as he alertly dove back to first. Keep in mind if Nelson tags Mantle it's game over and Maz' homer never happens.

In the hallway after the showing I spoke with Hal Smith, whose three-run home in the bottom of the eighth had give the Bucs a 9-7 lead. I told him the people back home would thank him for setting up Maz's homerun. He told me that it's been a long time, but he's just glad that he played a part in winning the game. Then the aging Bucco catcher told me, "this is all really too much for me. I really need to rest."

Go ahead and rest Hal Smith, Bill Mazeroski and the rest of the 1960 World Champion Pirates. You did your job. You gave us something on Oct. 13, 1960, that we can continue to talk about for many, many years to come.

 
 

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