Smith reflects on 1960 World Series

Former Buc recalls 1960 World Series

PITTSBURGH -- On Tuesday, Bill Mazeroski will be at PNC Park, on hand to throw out the first pitch at 6:55 p.m. ET. Dick Groat will be there, too, as will fans who remember the 1960 World Series Championship Pirates team.

Hal Smith, on the other hand, expects to be in his living room, out in the heart of Texas, in a town of just over 3,000 people. It's the place that Smith has called home since 1962. He's living in Astros country, and admits that he has since adapted the Houston ballclub as his team as well.

The 77-year-old Smith doesn't get the opportunity to watch many Pirates games these days unless they are playing the Astros. And, no, he won't go watch a game in the stands anymore -- it's too crowded there, he says.

And even as Pittsburgh is rampant with anticipation about the Yankees' return to the city for the first time since the Pirates defeated the New York club in a Game 7 at Forbes Field on Oct. 13, 1960, Smith will be spending his evening at home, his day playing golf.

Apparently, the hype of the series hasn't reached the Texas border.

"I hadn't really given it much until I started getting all of these phone calls," Smith said of the buildup to this series.

It seems oddly fitting in a way, though, that Smith will be more than 1,000 miles away from a three-game series that fans in Pittsburgh have had circled on the calendar since schedules came out last October.

His name hasn't been sketched in World Series lore like that of Mazeroski, who hit the walk-off homer in the ninth inning of that Game 7 that gave the Pirates the 10-9 win. The clip of Smith's critical three-run homer in the eighth inning of that game rarely makes the baseball history highlight reel, a stark contrast to Mazeroski's shot.

However, as Pittsburgh fans take this week to reminisce about that '60 Series, if just for one day, Smith's contribution appropriately and deservingly comes to the surface once again.

Talking to him now, Smith still speaks proudly about that 1960 club, one made up of future Hall-of-Famers Roberto Clemente and Mazeroski. It was a veteran team, led by manager Danny Murtaugh, who was in his fourth year as the manager of the organization. The team won 95 games that season, finishing with a seven-game lead on the rest of the division.

"It seemed like every day it was a different hitter, or it was a different pitcher," said Smith, a 29-year-old catcher at the time. "It wasn't like one guy led this team. It was a team effort. They knew how to play ball."

Smith also vividly remembers the New York club that they were pitted against in the Series. It was a Yankees team made up of household names -- Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford. The list goes on and on.

It was a team that had won titles six times during the previous decade. They led the Majors that season with 97 wins.

However, Smith also had the scouting report. Having been drafted by the Yankees, Smith had spent five years playing in New York's Minor League system. He played with Maris in Kansas City and had caught most of the pitchers that the Yankees would be sending to the mound.

"They didn't scare me," Smith said. "They didn't scare our guys even though we knew how good they were. We thought we were a good solid team."

Still, the Yankees came into the Series heavy favorites.

"A lot of people around New York and Vegas didn't think we had a chance," Smith recalled. "But everyone around Pittsburgh sure did. And all around the country people were rooting for us. People love the underdog."

Though it's been nearly 48 years since that Series, Smith can recall game details -- and pitch sequences -- with amazing clarity.

He'll talk about how the Pirates were outscored 38-3 in losses in Games 2, 3 and 6. He'll boast about how his team was sure it was going to clinch in six games after taking the 3-2 series lead. He'll tell you about the RBI single Groat hit and the job Roy Face did in closing out three games.

And he'll tell you about his Game 7 at-bat.

Smith had watched the first seven innings of that game from the bench, as fellow catcher Smokey Burgess earned the starting nod. The Pirates took a quick 4-1 lead, only to see the Yankees score six times to take an imposing 7-4 lead into the bottom of the eighth.

Smith had come into the game in the top of the inning, after Burgess had been replaced by a pinch runner in the seventh. With two hits during the first six games of the Series, Smith hadn't exactly been the team's biggest offensive force up until that point.

With New York's Jim Coates on the mound, two teammates on base and the Pirate having already closed the deficit to one, Smith fell behind in the count 1-2.

"I missed a fastball," Smith recalled, referring to the second pitch in the at-bat. "I took a hard swing."

He'd get another try at the fastball two pitches later.

"I remember very well that when I hit it that it would be a home run," Smith said. "It wasn't until I rounded second base and saw the people standing up on the dugout and going crazy that I realized that this was something special. That's when it sunk in how big this was."

The home run gave the Pirates a 9-7 lead, one that they would need every bit of when the Yankees struck for two in the top of the ninth. And that's where the story gets familiar -- Mazeroski answered with the game-winning leadoff homer.

It clinched Pittsburgh's first World Championship since 1925. It also pushed Smith's eight-inning homer -- one that was set to be one of the greatest in the storied franchise's history -- out of the national spotlight, where it seems to have since stayed.

However, Smith insists that though outdone by Mazeroski, his contribution to that Series win has by no means been completely buried.

"It hasn't been forgotten by the people that know baseball," he said. "I still get letters where fans will tell me they never forgot my home run. One guy will tell me he was overseas, and another guy will tell me he took his radio with him to listen as he was going from class to class. I've had people write me who never even saw the home run, but who have heard stories told by their grandfather.

"I haven't been forgotten," he added. "I got all the attention that I needed."

Still, with the hype of this three-game series beginning Tuesday night swelling, it doesn't hurt to give him just a little bit more.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.