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Sunday, September 27 2020 @ 07:58 am UTC
1960 Revisited - August 4   
By Bobster

August 4, 1960---A Thursday night game at Forbes Field matched the Pirates and George Witt against the Dodgers and Don Drysdale. The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the 1st when Maury Wills singled, stole second, went to third on Junior Gilliam’s infield out, and scored on Wally Moon’s sac fly. But the Pirates answered in their half of the first when Virdon led off with a triple and scored on Groat’s sac fly.

One out later, Rocky Nelson lofted a high fly ball over the screen in right field near the foul pole to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Witt shut down the Dodgers after the first inning and the Bucs gave him some breathing room in the 6th. Nelson doubled and, after Burgess and Hoak walked, Mazeroski singled to drive in a pair of runs. Leading 4-1, Elroy Face took the mound in the 7th and pitched 3 scoreless innings to earn his 16th save. The game ended when John Roseboro hit a 2-out single to right in the bottom of the 9th and was thrown out by Clemente trying to stretch the hit into a double. It was Clemente’s 15th assist. Drysdale’s record fell to 10-11. He gave up 5 hits, 4 runs and 4 walks in 5 2/3 innings. Virdon (.279) and Nelson (.323) each had 2 hits.

Witt (1-0), making his 4th start of the year and his first since leaving after one inning on July 27th with elbow pain, won his first game since 1958. That year, the right-hander had been a rookie sensation, going 9-2 and leading the team with 3 shutouts and a remarkable 1.61 ERA while giving up only 78 hits in 106 innings with 81 Ks. But Witt had been plagued with elbow problems ever since. In 1959, he was 0-7 with a 6.93 ERA in 50 2/3 innings with 58 hits, 32 BBs and 30 Ks. Witt had been on the opening day roster in 1960 but had since spent several months back in the minors. But this win over the Dodgers was an encouraging game for Witt. He went 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 run, 2 BBs and had 5 K’s.

The Pirate win, combined with another Milwaukee loss to St.Louis, put the Braves 4 games behind. The Cardinals’ win, their 7th in a row, moved them into second place 3 ½ games behind the Pirates.

Starting lineup:

Virdon CF
Groat SS
Skinner LF
Nelson 1B
Clemente RF
Burgess C
Hoak 3B
Mazeroski 2B
Witt P

Meanwhile, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Reds secondbaseman (and future Yankee manager) Billy Martin took offense when Cubs rookie Jim Brewer threw inside. Martin threw his bat toward the mound and then punched Brewer, breaking the orbital bone of the pitcher’s right eye.

Rocky Nelson’s 7th HR of the year, a very modest number, tied his career high. But it was the most he ever hit for one team. His other season of 7 HRs was in 1956 when he split the season between the Dodgers, where he hit 4 HRs and the Cardinals, where he hit 3 more. But Nelson had power. He just never got much of an opportunity to show it. He spent his career bouncing between the minors, where he was a prolific power hitter, and the majors, where he was always a back-up player and a pinch-hitter. In his career, Nelson would amass 1,394 major league ABs--a little more than a full time player gets in 2 seasons. He had 5,032 ABs in the minors over 13 years. From 1953 to 1955 and 1957-1958, Nelson spent each season in AAA except for 4 games with Cleveland in 1954. His AAA HR totals for those years were 34, 31, 37, 28 and 43. His AAA RBI totals for those years were 136, 94, 130, 102 and 120. Nelson was age 33 in 1958. Thus, at an age when most major leaguers were nearing the end of their careers, Nelson was still trudging along in the minor leagues, and hitting 43 home runs. The Pirates picked him up in the minor league draft prior to the 1959 season to be a pinch hitter and back-up firstbaseman. That was to be his role in 1960 as well. But Dick Stuart slumped in mid-season and Nelson, when given a chance, played his way into a L/R 1B platoon with Stuart. So in 1960, at age 35 and near the end of his baseball career, Nelson, with 200 ABs for the season, set personal highs in runs (34), hits (60), doubles (11, matching his 1959 total), HRs (7), RBIs (35), BA (.300) and OBP (.382). And on October 13, 1960, Glenn Richard “Rocky” Nelson, the prolific minor league slugger and part time major leaguer, would find himself batting clean-up in the 7th game of a World Series. Who would’ve guessed?

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