Bucs fans turn back clock for Mazeroski Day

Supporters gather to hear play-by-play on 55th anniversary of Game 7 walk-off homer

Bucs fans turn back clock for Mazeroski Day

PITTSBURGH -- Jerusalem has the Wailing Wall. China has its Great Wall. Pink Floyd did The Wall. And Pittsburgh will always have the Left-field Wall, the one Bill Mazeroski homered over at 3:36 p.m. on Oct. 13, 1960.

And, so, Pirates fans began to gather at its foot Tuesday at 11:15 a.m., at about the time Forbes Field's gates opened that long-ago Thursday for Game 7 of the World Series. The old, their faces creased by age like infield dirt by cleats. The young, curious to see the past through the oldsters' eyes.

They make the pilgrimage here every year to commemorate and experience Bill Mazeroski slaying the mighty Yankees with the only Game 7 walk-off homer in World Series history, the "only celebration of a single sporting event in the world," Herb Soltman tells the gathered.

They began the pilgrimage in 1993, eight years after Saul Finkelstein first sat here with his transistor radio, alone, annually reliving that day by himself until author and radio host Jim O'Brien publicized his habit, sounding a siren call for like-minded nostalgic fans.

Mazeroski himself has appeared twice, on the 40th anniversary and on the 50th, when the crowd swelled to 1,600.

Soltman, 80, is the frontman for The Game 7 Gang, the event's organizer and host. Before the microphone is turned over to the play-by-play broadcast of the game that will keep hundreds enthralled, he grabs it to make some opening remarks which conclude with a moment of silence for the departed 1960 Pirates -- and for one New York Yankee, Yogi Berra, who passed away days ago, nearly 55 years after he looked up to see Mazeroski's drive soar over his head, over the wall, into Schenley Park.

Great WS Moments: No. 1

"They say you can't turn back the clock," Soltman says. "Nonsense. We will."

And with that, the CD starts spinning and Chuck Thompson welcomes his radio audience to Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, after which "there is no tomorrow."

But, of course, this is the 20,089th tomorrow since, although generations of Pittsburghers never left that day. On Oct. 13, 1960, they were nervous about their first dates or reduced to stuttering by that cute redhead in homeroom. Every Bill Mazeroski Day takes them back to those awkward, uncertain, wonderful times.

Play-by-play of the game booms, clearly and unaltered, through loudspeakers set up on the Schenley Plaza lawn, and it's pure pleasure. Mazeroski's home run -- really, the entire Game 7 -- has become a seminal snapshot of American sports with which everyone is familiar, but through the black-and-white NBC telecast. The radio broadcast -- via the Schenectady, N.Y. radio station, we learn during "station identification" breaks -- is never heard.

You could be sitting at the kitchen table, listening on the RCA tabletop to the broadcast preserved in its entirety, commercials included ...

... "Clemente probably has the strongest arm in the National League, and the strongest arm in the American League belongs to Rocky Colavito, who also has the strongest beard, but it is no match for Gillette ... "

The Pirates' early 4-0 lead is erased and their starting pitcher is relieved with two on and none out in the sixth, and "there is a standing ovation for Vernon Law as he comes off the mound," and the men, women and children stand on the lawn and join the applause.

Joining 36,683 on the other end of a 55-year time tunnel, they stand for the seventh-inning stretch and sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" -- but only after singing "Happy Birthday" to Ann and Liz in the crowd.

The broadcast continues to its well-known, predictable and anticipated conclusion and, at 3:36 p.m., Chuck Thompson excitedly calls the home run and hundreds of people cheer and began gathering their belongings to return home and to 2015.

"Beat 'Em Bucs!" cries break out, then begin to fade ... until Oct. 13, 2016.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.