Game Seven of the 1960 World Series: a contemporaneous account

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Who says you don’t get anything good via the regular old U.S. Mail these days?  I just got a great letter. It just so happened to be written in 1960. At least originally. Its author — the mother of one of my close friends — transcribed it for me and sent it my way.

The date: October 13, 1960.  The author: Judi, a nice retired grandmother now, but then a student at Pitt.  Now, as then, she was a baseball fan.  The letter was written to her parents right after she got home from watching Bill Mazeroski hit the most famous home run in World Series history.  I won’t reproduce it all, but it starts out with a bang:

“You will never guess where I have just been. To the last and most exciting World Series game!”

The letter describes the spur of the moment decision — “it wasn’t too hard a decision to make” — to wait in a line for standing-room-only tickets. She and two friends took turns waiting in the line that queued up at 9PM the previous night until noon on the day of the game, relieving each other to go to morning classes and the like. They got their tickets: “$4.40 for standing room! I think that is terrible, but I was happy to go.”

Once the gates opened, Judi and her friends had to run — literally run — to find a good place to stand in Forbes Field.  They made it directly behind home plate. Which, given how you can barely loiter down the baselines at minor league games these days, seems incredible to me.  Today, standing in the aisle behind the plate during the World Series would likely get you sent to Guantanamo.  In Yankee Stadium it would mean summary execution.

The game: “perfectly fabulous.”  Judi kept score, and enclosed the scorecard in the original letter to her parents. She said “I missed some of the pitchers, etc., because people were yelling so loud, and I forgot whether right field was 7 or 9.”  She had to explain to her companions — two male math majors who obviously didn’t know much about baseball — why, if such a beast as “pinch hitting” were allowed, Casey Stengel couldn’t just have Mickey Mantle bat every single time. Judi didn’t mind, however, because she enjoyed being “the expert,” for a change, and schooling these young men on baseball was a lot of fun.

At this point I’m going to risk both my marriage and my friendship with Judi’s three children to say that if I found a woman like her when I was a-courtin’, I probably would have proposed to her on the spot.  But I digress. Let’s cut to the best passage of the letter:

“So many times we were perfectly jubilant and so many times really sad, and yet, in the end, I was so weak I could hardly scream. As we went out of the ballpark there was Benny Benack and the Boys really whooping it up . . . the streets were full of happy people, and horns have been blowing from the minute the game was over until right now (7:00 p.m.).  I imagine it will go on all night.”

Mazeroski’s home run itself got a basic description, most notable because “he had to fight his way to home plate due to all of the fans on the field.”  But the description of the crowds, the city and the campus — where students feared that the Cathedral of Learning would tip to the Forbes Field side because so many people were watching out the windows all week — went on and on, with great warmth.

Community. Passion. Shared experiences. Infectious enthusiasm. It’s easy to forget sometimes, but there’s a lot more to the game than the game itself. Even when it’s one of the greatest games ever.

Thanks for sharing, Judi!

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.