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Filling The Void: The 406ft Home Run

It was Game 7, it was against the Yankees, it was the greatest home run ever hit.

Forbes Field Outfield wall by David Fulmer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Filling The Void: The 406ft Home Run


Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

We’re several weeks into our worldwide attempt to “flatten the curve”. We’ve been offering daily escapes into the sporting events of yesteryear through our “Filling The Void” series. We’ve looked back on the inspiring, mind-boggling, and remarkable events as well as the ordinary, daily games we’ve been missing in our lives. Here at The Turf Sports, we sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and being safe through these trying days. We’d also like to take a moment to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of those front-line folks keeping society going. From the medical community to those stocking grocery store shelves, delivering supplies around the country or helping us all fight this virus together in some other essential, invaluable way. You are all heroes.

Maz and the Game 7 home run

Three home runs can lay claim to the term “the greatest baseball play ever.” The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” by Bobby Thomson in 1951, known primarily for the call “GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT.” There was “Touch’em all, Joe” for Joe Carter’s walk off home run in game 6 of the ‘93 World Series. However, there was only one done in a “do-or-die,” “winner-take-all Game 7 setting.

That hit would come off the bat of Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski. And without question, it IS the greatest home run ever hit. 

1960

I didn’t see Bill Mazeroski send that ball out over the left field fence of Forbes Field in 1960. A home run that would live on through the ages. That event occurred 22 years before I was born. Growing up a Pirates fan in the Greater Pittsburgh Area, it was hard to not hear about it from time to time. Especially since my Dad, who took me to my first game, was present with his dad, my grandfather, for that momentous moment in baseball history. My Dad was kind enough to share some of his recollections with me.

In 1960 my Dad, Fred Heilman, was 13 years old and in the 8th grade in Elderton, Pa., about 45 mins east of Pittsburgh.

The lead up to Game 7

How much did a ticket to Game 7 cost?

$7.70. In those days you could only send in for two tickets. Dad probably saw something in the paper or heard it on the radio. I was in Section 6, Row Y, seat 3. Where we were was near the right field foul pole…up underneath the second deck.

So, you had the tickets, but the series had to get to a Game 7 first.

Game 6 was the only game where I ever rooted for the Yankees. If the Yankees won Game 6, I would be going to Game 7 of the World Series

Were you listening to Game 6?

I was in school that day, it was a day game; you know they were all day games back then. We weren’t listening to the game, but I think the school announced the results over the public address system.

And Game 7 was the following day, a school day. Did you get in trouble for not being in school that day?

I lived three doors down from the principal. Everyone knew where I was going to be that day, and it wasn’t going to be in school.

But Game 7 wasn’t your first trip to Forbes field, was it

No, we used to go to different games. I remember going to some, they called them twi-night doubleheaders. Those wouldn’t have been on a school night, because we probably would have gotten back to Elderton pretty late. I recall taking my Uncle Howard, my Dad’s brother, down to a game. Dad and my Uncle, you know, were great Pirates’ fans. They started listening to games all the way back in the 1920’s after World War 1.

(Writer’s Note: My Grandfather Reuben Heilman was a medic in World War I as was his brother Howard).

So at one of these Twi-night Doubleheaders you attended, you saw someone pitch who was instrumental in the 1960 Series correct?

I remember going to a Saturday doubleheader that year, and one of those pitchers was Vernon Law, and he had won two games in the 1960 World Series and started the game I was at, Game 7.

Game 7

On the day of the home run my Dad and my Grandfather sat in the right-field bleachers for the 17th Game 7 played in World Series history. Approximately 36,000 were on hand at Forbes Field, located in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, for the games afternoon start. My Dad and Grandfather got down there early that day to take in batting practice and get a hotdog.

Fred’s Game 7 ticket stub. Framed and mounted on the wall of his study

After winning games one and four, Vernon Law got the start and Game 2 ace Bob Turley got the nod for the Yankees. The Pirates jumped on the Yankees early and were out in front 4-0 by the 3rd inning. New York would tally one run in the 5th and four in the 6th. A Mickey Mantle RBI and Yogi Berra three-run home run would put the Yankees on top 5-4. The Bronx Bombers would tack on two more in the 8th, which was met by a thunderous five-run Pirate rally in the bottom half of that inning. But it proved not enough as the Yankees put two more on the board to tie the game, heading into the bottom of the 9th. The first batter to face Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry in the ninth inning was Bill Mazeroski.

Take us through those last couple of innings.

It was in the eighth inning that New York went up 7-4, and Pittsburgh, in the bottom of the 8th, got five runs so it was 7-9. Then in the top of the 9th, New York got two, so it was tied going into the bottom of the 9th. And I can remember thinking, “Hey, not only am I seeing the 7th game of a World Series, but I’m gonna see an extra inning game.”

So you were thinking ‘I might get to see extra baseball’ not ‘I might see one of the greatest baseball plays of all time?’

(laughter) Yeah!

When the ball was hit by Maz, did you know right away it was a home run?

I don’t remember whether I could tell if it was going to be over the fence when it was hit or not. But the crowd reaction was right away, and I mean people were out on the field after the game. And I remember people out on the street when we got out through the crowd, you know, to go to our car. The people were just out in the street celebrating.

History with one swing of the bat

With a count of one ball and no strikes, the Pirate second basemen sent a long fly ball over the left-field fence. Yogi Berra never even had a play on it. Bill Mazeroski had hit a walk-off home run to hand the World Series championship to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And despite the Pirates being outscored in the series 55-27 by the Yankees, this was the only run that mattered.

Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the Fall Classic still stands as the only walk-off home run in a World Series Game 7 to this date. That’s 60 years and 23 Game 7’s later, this moment stands alone.

And, my Dad and Grandfather were there to see it!

A statue of Bill Mazeroski running towards home plate stands outside of PNC Park in Pittsburgh” – is in the Public Domain.

Christian is husband, father and video editor working in New York City. Originally from the Greater Pittsburgh Area he is a life long fan The Steelers, Penguins and Pirates as well as Professional Wrestling.

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