THE REPLAY ZONE
By Jeff Polman
December ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out all four of my season replay-inspired baseball novels on Amazon.
1960 Yanks and Bucs Battle Again
The Baseball Dice Gods are a restless bunch, and when they texted me from the Pearly Gates Front Office to ask if I’d be willing to re-roll the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates, I said sure! Won by Pittsburgh on a famous Game Seven 9th inning homer by Bill Mazeroski, that series was one of the strangest Fall classics of all time. Two of the four games the Bucs won were by one run, another by two runs and the other by three, while in their three series wins, the Yanks absolutely pulverized Pirate pitching and outscored them 38-3! Would weird history repeat itself on the Strat table? I went with the same rotations and lineups, and for the most part, enjoyed good super-advanced weather…
GAME ONE-Forbes Field
New York is itching for revenge right out of the gate, as Hector Lopez and Roger Maris swat back-to-back blasts off Vern Law, who shut the Yanks down in real Game One. Well, after those homers he does the same thing here, scattering just two walks, a single and double after that 1st inning. Skinner gets one run back for the Bucs with a solo blast off Ditmar, and in the last of the 6th, Clemente rolls a two-run shot on a 1-2 20-sider chance for the ballgame!
NYY 200 000 000 – 2 5 0
PGH 100 002 00x – 3 8 0
GAME TWO-Forbes Field
What was a 16-3 Yankee win in real life is nothing close to that here. While Bob Friend mows down New York with a four-hit shutout, the Dice Gods continue to be extra kind to the home team. After a 1-2 chance Hoak single in the 2nd, Mazeroski puts the Bucs on the board with a sac fly. Two innings later, Maz strokes a three-run shot on a 1-3 chance! Pittsburgh racks up 14 hits off five Yankee hurlers.
NYY 000 000 000 – 0 4 0
PGH 010 320 00x – 6 14 0
GAME THREE-Yankee Stadium
The scene shifts to the Bronx, and the Yanks respond with their first win, though once again it’s a struggle for them at the plate. A 2-0 lead for Whitey Ford vanishes in the top of the 8th on a single, two doubles, and untimely error at first by Bill Skowron. Bobby Shantz bails out Ford and Luis Arroyo follows his inning and two-thirds of shutout ball with a scoreless top of the 10th, before Mantle walks with one out off Roy Face and Skowron makes up for his earlier gaffe with a walkoff two-run shot into the left field stands!
PGH 000 000 020 0 – 2 10 1
NYY 000 200 000 2 – 4 6 1
GAME FOUR-Yankee Stadium
Another bizarre display of 20-sider luck for Pittsburgh helps them to a commanding 3-1 series lead. Gil McDougald puts New York up 1-0 with a solo homer in the 2nd off Law, but that’s wiped out in the 4th when Gil makes an error at third, Maz follows with a double on a 1-5 chance, and Bill Virdon triples both guys in for a 2-1 Pirate lead. The Mick’s first homer of the series ties it in the bottom of the inning, and a scoring grounder by Skowron in the 6th puts the Yanks back up 3-2. Cut to the top of the 9th with Bill Stafford on the hill and one out. Virdon bounces a ball to Bobby Richardson, he of the 1e23 at second base, and he botches it for an error! Dick Groat then rolls a 1-4 homer chance on his card and naturally nails it for the 4-3 Pirates lead! Bottom of the 9th against Face again, Richardson singles with one out, Bob Cerv singles with two outs, and Tony Kubek follows with a single to center. Despite Roger Maris on deck, here comes Richardson rounding third to try and tie the game on a 1-14 safe chance—and he’s OUT! Amazing.
PGH 000 200 002 – 4 9 0
NYY 010 101 000 – 3 11 2
W-Law L-Stafford SV-Face
GAME FIVE-Yankee Stadium
Things get crazy in the fifth game, in this total score reversal of actual Game Seven. The Bucs jump on Ditmar for three runs in the 1st, capped by a Smoky Burgess triple on a “1” chance. Skowron’s two-run triple makes it 3-2 in the bottom of the inning. A Maz homer makes it 4-2 Bucs in the 2nd. The Yanks tie it 4-4 with four hits off Harvey Haddix in the 3rd. No one scores in the middle innings, though Richardson is gunned down at the plate again on a 1-15 chance, this time to end the 6th. Maz then hits his second homer of the game and third of the series with a man aboard in the 7th. An RBI single by the Mick cuts it to 6-5. Top of the 9th, the Pirates appear to put the game and series to bed on a three-run blast into the upper deck off Stafford by Virdon. But down 9-5 in the last of the 9th against Fred Green, New York awakens. Lopez leads with a pinch double, McDougald homers to cut it to 9-7. With one out, Clemente drops Cerv’s fly in right for a two-base error. Faces come on to face Mantle, who clubs a homer to tie the game 9-9! Shantz comes on to throw five scoreless extra innings, while Joe Gibbon is mowing down the Yanks at the same time. Bottom of the 14th, McDougald singles for his fifth hit, Mantle singles with two outs, and Skowron singles home the winner!
PGH 310 000 203 000 00 – 9 13 1
NYY 202 000 104 000 01 – 10 18 0
GAME SIX-Forbes Field
The teams head back to Pennsylvania with the Bucs leading three games to two—exactly where they were in real 1960. This time, though, instead of an easy 12-0 win for Ford, Whitey has his hands full, and is only up 2-1 when a Mazeroski triple in the 7th ties the game. Now because I was doing “as played” lineups, Clete Boyer and his weak side against Friend was leading off instead of McDougald, who only collected five hits and hit for the cycle in my Game Five. Still, Clete manages to double with one out off Friend in the 10th and score the go-ahead run when Kubek singles him home. Not good enough. Clemente and Dick Stuart single to start the last of the 10th off Stafford, and pinch-hitter Dick Schofield greets Shantz with an RBI single to tie the game again! Finally in the last of the 11th, a walk and two singles load the bases with Bucs with one out. Rocky Nelson and his high OBP vs. lefties bats for Stuart and Shantz hits him with a pitch to win the World Series for Pittsburgh again!
NYY 000 020 000 10 – 3 9 0
PGH 010 000 100 11 – 4 13 2
So the major difference in my Strat version of the ’60 Series was the Yankees’ inability to pound the ball like they did against Pirate pitching in reality. By contrast, the Bucs were a high on-base, great contact hitting team built to excel anywhere, and despite a thin bullpen, their starting pitchers were good enough to carry the load. While Mantle hit .348 in the six games, Maris checked in at just .214 and Skowron .185 despite his two game-winning hits. For the Bucs, Mazeroski was a beast at .348 with three homers, while Dick Groat, series MVP, batted .400 with that huge game-winning blast in Game Four. Thanks for reminiscing with me!