Pirates unveil Bill Mazeroski statue

PITTSBURGH -- Bill Mazeroski, an elite fielder who made it to the Hall of Fame because of his many Gold Gloves and one big swing, now has a bronze statue honoring that most memorable moment.

Four of Mazeroski's 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates teammates tugged away a protective cover Sunday to unveil a 14-foot, 2,000-pound statue depicting the second baseman, the only player to end a World Series Game 7 with a home run.

Mazeroski is portrayed during his jubilant dash around the bases after his homer off Ralph Terry decided the Pirates' 10-9 victory in Game 7 against the favored New York Yankees that season.

Mazeroski is the fourth Pirates player honored with a statue, joining Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. Mazeroski's likeness is located near PNC Park's right field grandstands along a street known as Mazeroski Way.

The statue is rimmed by a brick wall designed to resemble that in Forbes Field and includes the actual section of wall over which Mazeroski homered at the 406-foot mark in left-center field on Oct. 13, 1960. The 50th anniversary will occur next month.

Not surprisingly, Mazeroski was teary-eyed, just as he was during the 2001 Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown and a 1987 tribute at Three Rivers Stadium at which his No. 9 was retired by the team.

"It's great," Mazeroski said. "But I probably get too much credit. We would have won that game if I'd hit that home run or not, I know it in my heart."

Former Pirates pitcher Bob Friend isn't so sure. Friend said many forget Mazeroski's two-run homer carried the Pirates to a 6-4 victory in Game 1, and how nearly every one of Mazeroski's 11 regular-season home runs that year came in key situations. The Pirates won one of the strangest World Series in history despite being outscored 55-27 by the Yankees.

"Nobody gave us a chance facing the top franchise for forever," Friend said.

Both Friend and former Pirates pitcher Steve Blass, a star in the 1971 World Series, referred to Mazeroski as "the greatest second baseman of all time," reflecting the fielding records the eight-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman still holds.

"I learned that Bill Mazeroski is a man of few words, but that statue speaks volumes," Blass said.

Friend, Roy Face, Dick Groat and Bill Virdon took part in the ceremony, which began at the statue site and continued inside the ballpark. Mazeroski was driven around the warning track in a 1960 Bentley convertible.

Mazeroski also threw the ceremonial first pitch to Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, who received spring training instruction from Mazeroski on playing a position unfamiliar to Walker until this season.

The statue was sculpted by Susan Wagner, who also created the Clemente and Stargell statues. It was modeled after a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photo by James Klingensmith that depicted Mazeroski joyously rounding second base with his batting helmet in his hand. Klingensmith, 99, attended the ceremony.

Mazeroski was voted into the Hall of Fame by a veterans committee headed by the late Joe L. Brown, the former Pirates general manager who died at age 91 last month.