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Friday, March 24 2023 @ 12:34 am UTC
1960 Revisited - October 3   
By Bobster

Monday, October 3, 1960---The teams had 2 days off to prepare for the World Series. The Yankees had closed out the regular season with an incredible 15-game winning streak. They were on a roll and would enter the World Series as the hottest team in baseball. But the Pirates weren’t exactly chopped liver. They had won 10 of their last 15.

A number of changes had occurred during the season as the Pirates evolved into a championship team. The season began with a starting rotation of Friend, Law, Haddix and a combination of Bennie Daniels, Jim Umbricht and Joe Gibbon, as there had been no ready replacement when the Pirates traded starter Ron Kline after the 1959 season. The season also began with Julian Javier as a top prospect on the Bucs’ AAA Columbus team. It ended with Vinegar Bend Mizell providing outstanding work as the 4th starter and with Javier having a solid rookie season at second base for the Cardinals. It began with Face receiving shaky right-handed bullpen help from Daniels, Umbricht and Paul Giel. It ended with Tom Cheney as a right-handed spot starter and reliever and veteran right-hander Clem Labine pitching lights out from the bullpen. It began with Virdon and Cimoli sharing center field and, usually, the 7th spot in the batting order. And with Hoak and Skinner splitting the lead-off duties. It ended with Virdon claiming both the centerfield and lead-off spots, Skinner hitting 3rd, Hoak hitting 7th and Cimoli being productive as the 4th outfielder. It began with Rocky Nelson being a pinch-hitter and late inning defensive replacement and ended with Nelson starting a third of the team’s games at first base and having the best season of his career.

The Pirates’ first NL pennant in 33 years was the result of consistent hitting and pitching. The Pirates lacked power. Only 4 of the 16 MLB teams hit fewer HRs than the Pirates in 1960. But the Pirates had the highest team batting average in the majors. There were no easy outs in the lineup. Danny Murtaugh had seen to that. When Virdon slumped early, Cimoli platooned in CF and was red hot. When Stuart slumped, Nelson platooned at 1B and provided the good hitting that had been on display in the minors for most of a decade. Groat won the NL batting title and the NL MVP award. Clemente had a breakthrough season, hitting .314 with 16 HRs and 94 RBIs. Skinner was a steady contributor at .273 with 15 HRs and 86 RBIs. The catching tandem of Burgess and Smith combined for 18 HRs, 84 RBIs and a .294 batting average. Hoak batted 7th for much of the season, hit .282 with 16 HRs and 79 RBIs and finished second in the NL MVP voting to Groat. Mazeroski batted 8th most of the year and hit .273 with 11 HRs and 64 RBIs. The Pirates amassed the highest total of hits in MLB in 1960. They were also second overall in doubles as well as triples. And despite the lack of home runs, the Pirates were second overall in RBIs with 689. Only the powerful Yankees, at 699, had more.

In addition, the Pirates finished 3rd overall in MLB in team ERA. They were fourth in complete games, shutouts and saves. Pirate pitchers walked the fewest number of batters in MLB. They also struck out the 5th highest total.

The success of the 1960 Pirates was a total team effort. They received solid contributions from everyone on the roster. In fact, only Rocky Nelson and Fred Green could be said to have clearly had career years and even those were in lesser roles. For most of the Pirates, their 1960 season was one of their best without being their best ever. Even Law, who won the 1960 Cy Young award (20-9, 3.08) had similar seasons in 1959 (18-9, 2.98) and 1965 (17-9, 2.15), with a significantly lower ERA in 1965.

The Pirate starting rotation of Law, Friend, Mizell and Haddix compared favorably with the Yankees’ Ditmar, Turley, Ford and Terry. Art Ditmar (15-9, 3.06 ERA) was selected by Casey Stengel to start game 1 for NY. Danny Murtaugh indicated that Vern Law (20-9, 3.08) would start game 1 with Bob Friend (18-12, 3.00) going in game 2.

But the Pirates couldn’t match the power of the Yankees. The Pirates’ leading HR hitters, Stuart-23, Clemente-16 and Hoak-16, paled in comparison to The Yankees with Mantle-40, Maris-39 and Skowron-26. But the Pirates had the N.L. Batting Champion in Groat (.325), the multi-talented Clemente (.314) and the best secondbaseman in baseball in Mazeroski.

One area of considerable advantage to NY was World Series experience. The Yankees had been in almost every recent World Series. This would be their 10th in 12 years. The only pitcher on the Pirate roster with WS experience was Clem Labine, who had pitched for the Dodgers in the 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1959 World Series. The only other Pirates ever to experience post-season play were Rocky Nelson, Gino Cimoli and Don Hoak, who had all also played for the Dodgers in prior World Series. But none of them had been starters in those days, and their actual playing time in those series had been minimal.

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