50 year celebrations come around but once. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who for all of the ridicule heaped upon them, never forget their heroes. It is something that this blog, its’ readers, and frankly, more of Pittsburgh should enjoy. Life is too short.
Bill Mazeroski, the unlikely hero of the never say die 1960’s World Series champion Pirates, was in town last weekend for Piratefest. Maz and some of those boys who gave Pittsburgh something to cheer about when they desperately needed it deserved better. Remember….. it was a long time since Pittsburgh had much to cheer about back then. You could say Billy Conn was the closest thing Pittsburgh had to cheer about. ‘The Pittsburgh Kid” was light heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1939 to 1941.
The Bucs beat the Yanks 10-9 with the ONLY game seven walkoff World Series homerun. Ever. Huge. Deal.
And Maz was going to get his moment in the sun. It’s too bad the dark clouds rolled in.
The Penguins organization had a ‘source’ that wanted to crash the moment. And did it ever. A Penguin ‘source’, probably at the highest level, leaked a story to PG writer Dejan Kovacevic that Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle made an ‘offer’ to buy the Pirates from majority owner Bob Nutting.
A moment of celebration for Maz and his teammates was ruined when ‘the source’ pissed in the punch. No, that’s too easy, more like took a shit in the punch bowl and it floated around all weekend.
So now we are in the midst of rabid speculation. Certain to be one of the most talked about sports stories of the year was intent on harming the celebration for Mazeroski. It was malicious at the highest level and it disgusts me.
But it’s unclear why the Penguins ‘source’ was intent on ruining such a celebration for one of Pittsburgh’s heroes. Dejan turned and burned the story as any writer would. He was forced to give it a Saturday release. The ‘source’ knew the game. The ‘source’ knew about the meeting, the result of the meeting and just when to leak it as to cause the Pirates the most harm. Hell, that’s some ‘neighbor.’
What I don’t understand is if Lemieux and Burkle were so serious after the fact, why didn’t they get serious about their offer and make a counter? Or was it just easier this way? It’s glowingly obvious that Nutting isn’t interested in selling the Pirates now. So why ruin the party for Maz?
I mean if you’re going to ruin a party at least tell us your name, doesn’t Maz deserve to know whose shit is floating around in his punch bowl?
But that would take courage and this fantasy story has none of it. Courage defined Bill Mazeroski and his tiny infielder’s glove. Courage defined the 60’s Bucs and how they took down the New York Yankees.
The retreating Yogi Berra in left field. The absolute roar of the crowd. The baseball sailing over the 406FT sign. The joyous Mazeroski twirling his helmet as he rounded second base. What seemed like all of Pittsburgh rushing onto Forbes Field. It was magical.
That story is fact. Not fantasy. Despite being outscored 55-27, the Bucs took the World Series. Classic. Yet,’ the source’ was going for Class-less. So, the most amazing story in the past fifty years of Pittsburgh sports lore missed getting it’s due because some people are more interested in creating empires.
Looking at the average Piratefest attendee, they were far too young to have seen Maz and the 1960’s Pirates. Most of the people we spoke with were excited to learn more about it. The lines for autographs from Maz were overflowing. It’s just a shame that the talk in the line was not about Maz’s great glove work, Hal Smith and his mostly unknown three-run homer, or Harvey Haddix’s World Series ERA.
No, the Penguins ‘source’ made sure the buzz had been stolen.
Grandfathers weren’t explaining what they knew about the amazing ’60’s Pirates to their grandchildren. Hard core fans who could have been discussing the excellent book, Fantasy Camp by Jim O’Brien that detailed ‘Living the Dream with Maz and the ’60 Bucs’ were instead explaining the business advantages of owning two teams and sports media empires. We even heard Ted Leonis and the Washington Sports Group being discussed between a father and his teenage son. Ahhh, how refreshing.
The Maz story will get plenty of play throughout the season. Also when his statue is unveiled on his birthday, but the well deserved spotlight has veered from Mazeroski and the main stage, to the Penguins board room where business men talked deals. All the while, the Pittsburgh media force feeds us how first class the Penguins organization is. Perhaps they are.
I’m just not drinking the brown punch.