Baseball stole the national limelight from football last week, which hasn’t happened for a long time.
A regular game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox was held in Dyersville, Iowa – at a stadium inspired by the 1989 film “Field of Dreams”, starring Kevin Costner.
The film features long-deceased baseball players who return to earth to play a game on a baseball field built by Costner’s character. On a deeper level, the film is about a young man (Costner) who seeks to reconnect with his late father, a former gamer. And he also addressed, to some extent, Costner and his father’s arguments over the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919.
The seating capacity of this Field of Dreams was only around 8,000, but each seat was occupied for the game. Another nice touch was the fact that the players wore old school uniforms, especially the Chicago White Sox. Gambling caused a stir on the Internet.
That said, the Pirates have a long legacy of baseball greatness spanning their 100+ years in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t until 1903 that Barney Dreyfus spoke to the owner of the Boston Braves about the possibility of hosting a World Series – the first of its kind, which the Pirates lost.
But fate blessed the Pirates in 1909, when legend Honus Wagner defeated Ty Cobb and the Detroit Tigers to win the club’s first World Series. The Pirates won a few more World Series titles in 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979.
The Pirates had many Hall of Fame players who took the field after Wagner, one of the first six inductees. Among them were Fred Clark, Pie Trainer, Bill Mazeroski, Arky Vaughn, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Paul Waner.
The greatest moment in baseball history – in my opinion – is when Bill Mazeroski hit a home run against the Yankees on October 13, 1960 to win Game 7 and the Series for the Pirates. It was an exciting streak from start to finish and the Pirates stuck with it and took revenge on the Yankees after losing to them in a humiliating streak in 1927. The Yankees of 27 would have been the best baseball team ever. But Honus Wagner’s ghost returned and helped the Bucs get revenge 33 years later.
The Pirates have been in several parks since their inception. The current ground is PNC Park, along the banks of the Allegheny River, considered by some to be America’s finest baseball park. The design of PNC Park is said to have been inspired by and based on Pittsburgh’s most beloved and sustainable baseball park, Forbes Field. When they demolished Forbes Field, in homage to players of that time, the Pirates left the center field wall standing, with several markers around the area to indicate where the field was.
If you walk around the PNC park, you will notice that there are four statues depicting four of the greatest pirates of all time, including Wagner, who was a beloved pirate. There’s also Stargell, who helped the Pirates win the 1979 World Series. Then we have Roberto Clemente, who was the second statue erected at Three Rivers Stadium and now has a place of honor crossing the Roberto Clemente Bridge to ‘at the PNC park. And finally, we have the statue of Bill Mazeroski waving his cap as he circled the bases to win the 1960 World Series.
I often wonder if the kids who attend PNC Park games even know who Wagner, Clemente, Stargell and Mazeroski are – and how important they have been to the history and legacy of the Pirates. Hopefully their fathers and grandfathers informed them of the greatness of these players, just as my grandfather informed me of the greatness of Honus Wagner.
As I get older, I feel blessed to have seen three of these players – Clemente, Stargell and Maz – in action and to know their greatness. I hope these statues of Clemente, Stargell and Maz will help pique the curiosity of baseball kids and get them to research information about the history of these great pirates – which is just the tip of the iceberg. considering the number there were large pirates.
Hopefully there will be new memories of future Pirates and World Series successes to come in the years to come. One can only hope.
Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be contacted at [email protected].