After a thirty-three year hiatus, baseball's first modern National League champions (1901), the Pittsburgh Pirates finally returned to the Fall Classic. Their opponent, the American League's New York Yankees had participated in eight of the last ten contests and only had to wait one year to get back to the big show. Pittsburgh had no problem knocking off their "postseason cobwebs" and started strong with an opening 6-4 lead against the perennial champs in Game 1 at Forbes Field. However, their initial momentum was cut short as the Yanks dominated Games 2 and 3. Mickey Mantle did more than his share (two home runs and five runs batted in) and his teammates followed close behind totaling nineteen hits off of six different Pirate pitchers. The result was a 16-3 victory in the Steel City and a 10-0 shutout back home in the Bronx. Bobby Richardson took Mantle's example in the opener and added a grand slam off of reliever Clem Labine in the third and a two run single giving him a record six RBIs. "The Mick" responded with two more home runs of his own and three other hits, while Whitey Ford tossed his usual four hitter.
A determined Pirate team went back to the basics and gave the ball to first-game winner Vern Law for Game 4. The National League's Cy Young Award winner, combined with relief ace Roy Face to beat back the Yankees, 3-2 in an outing that was decided on Bill Virdon's single in the fifth that scored two of Pittsburgh runs. Attempting to avoid a comeback, New York made a controversial decision and decided to go with Game 1 loser, Art Ditmar, who had only lasted 1/3 of an inning. Some believed (in retrospect) that Stengel had thought the "Bucs" would underestimate the young pitcher, giving him the advantage. Unfortunately the Yankees skipper was wrong as Bill Mazeroski took him for a key-double in the Pirate's three run, second inning. Face returned with 2 2/3 innings of hitless relief after replacing starter and winner Harvey Haddix to nail down the 5-2 triumph which put Pittsburgh in the lead.
It was a completely different story in Game 6 as the day belonged to the "Bronx Bombers". Richardson had two triples, Johnny Blanchard added two doubles, Roger Maris and Yogi Berra (and Blanchard) all collected three hits each and before it over, the Yankees finished with seventeen hits and twelve runs. Whitey Ford added to the "Buccos" embarrassment by shutting them out again and many felt that it was all but over. Despite forcing another opportunity at their own Forbes Field, Pittsburgh had clearly been dominated by New York who outscored them a staggering 38-3 in the Series. However, Game 7 would erase those numbers and leave fans in both agony and ecstasy.
Vern Law and the rest of the Pirates showed why they were still there by rolling over New York to take an early 4-0 lead. However, the Yankees came back with key performances at the plate by Bill Skowron, Mantle and Yogi Berra who shot to a 5-4 lead going into the eighth inning. They continued to lead 7-5 and looked to be in great shape as reliever Bobby Shantz appeared at the top of his game. Fortunately for the Pirates, appearances can sometimes be deceiving.
Gino Cimoli led off the Pittsburgh eighth with a pinch-single and Bill Virdon hit a sharp grounder toward Yankees' shortstop, Tony Kubek. After the speeding ball took a bad hop and struck Kubek in the throat (resulting in a single), Joe DeMaestri was summoned to replace him as both Pirates remained on base. Dick Groat followed with another single cutting the lead to 7-5 and Roberto Clemente kept the rally going with an infield hit that scored Virdon and advanced Groat to third. Now trailing 7-6, Pittsburgh had two runners on base and Hal Smith at the plate. Smith, who entered the game in the top of the eighth after Pirates catcher Smoky Burgess had left for a pinch-runner in the previous inning, sent shock waves through the Pittsburgh crowd by blasting a timely home run over the left-field wall.
Bob Friend, an eighteen game winner for the Pirates and the "Bucs" starter in Games 2 and 6, came on in the ninth to try to protect the 9-7 lead. The Yankees Bobby Richardson and pinch-hitter Dale Long both greeted Friend with singles and Pirates manager, Danny Murtaugh was forced to lift the veteran pitcher in favor of Harvey Haddix. Although he forced Roger Maris to foul out, Haddix gave up a key single to Mantle that scored Richardson and moved Long to third. Berra followed suite hitting short grounder to first, with Rocky Nelson stepping on the base for the second out. In what, at the time, stood as a monumental play, Mantle, seeing he had no chance to beat a play at second, scurried back to first and avoided Nelson's tag (which would have been the third out) as McDougald raced home to tie the score, 9-9. The Yankees were still alive.
Ralph Terry, who had gotten the final out in the Pirates' eighth, returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth to finish the job. The first man he faced was Bill Mazeroski. With a count of one ball and no strikes, the Pirates' second baseman smashed a historical long drive over the wall in left ending the contest and crowning the National League as champions. As the Pirates erupted in a wild celebration, the Yankees stood in disbelief knowing that they had clearly dominated the series, but were unable to finish the task. The improbable champions were outscored, 55-27, and out-hit, 91-60, but in the end the home team prevailed. Years later, Mickey Mantle was quoted as saying that losing the 1960 series was the biggest disappointment of his career. For Bill Mazeroski, it was the highlight.