As I watched this year's mind numbingly dull World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies, I thought back to the to the 1960s when baseball was different--and better.
Because I had just finished reading Forbes Field: Memories and Essays of the Pirates Historical Ball Park, 1909-1971 by David Cicotello and Angelo Louisa, uppermost in my mind was the great 1960 World Series when the once-lowly Pittsburgh Pirates upset the mighty New York Yankees.
Until I enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh in 1961, my relationship with the Pirates was distant. I had grown up in Los Angeles where the Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars, the minor league affiliate of the Pirates, were my team. By rooting for the Stars, fans automatically pulled for the Pirates.
In the late 1950s, my family moved to Puerto Rico where Pirate great Roberto Clemente played winter baseball. I followed Clemente's team, the Santurce Cangrejeros. (Read Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero, by David Maraniss)
But avid baseball fan though I was, by the time I reached Pittsburgh, I had only seen one major league game. The Dodgers didn't get to Los Angeles until after I left.
I was starved for baseball and, even though the 1961 Pirates were out of the running for most of the year, as soon as I got to college I headed for Forbes Field and what would be a lifetime's worth of happy memories.
Authors Cicotello and Louisa have brought those recollections back home. Their book chronicles Forbes Field from its first days of construction in 1909 through the final game on June 28, 1970. The book includes a transcription of the last home game broadcast on KDKA by the immortal Bob Prince and his sidekick, Nellie King.
The second part of Forbes Field includes reminiscences from former players, managers, club officials and employees as well as several sports writers.
I wasn't able to submit my own personal Forbes Field experiences in time to meet the publishing deadline. But I'll recount them to you now.
Every September when classes started and each April and May as the school year wound down, my friends and I wandered over to Forbes Field, an easy walk from the university campus, and entered the left field bleachers during the sixth or seventh inning. By then, the ticket taker had gone home so we just waltzed in to catch the last of the game.
One might think that in September with classes beginning and football underway or in April with final exams and papers closing in that students would have other things to do (like study!) than watch an average baseball team play out the season's string.
But Forbes Field and all the wonderful players on its field was irresistible.
No matter which team was in town, a Hall of Famer was on its roster. When I think of the players I watched!
Among them, to name only a few, were the Cardinal's Stan Musial, the New York Giants' Willie Mays, the Phillies' Robin Roberts, the Braves' Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn, the Cubs' Ernie Banks and the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
Forbes Field is long gone, torn down 35 years ago. It was a wonderful old park filled with die-hard fans during baseball's glory years.
But Forbes Field lives on.
Mention it in Pittsburgh and everyone lights up. Each year fans young and old gather at the site (a small portion of the brick wall left standing) where the Pirates' Bill Mazeroski's 1960 bottom of the ninth homer won the seventh game of the World Series, 10-9 for Pittsburgh's beloved Buccos.