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Pirates honor Mazeroski

January 30, 2010
By PAUL LADEWSKI, Special to the Journal

PITTSBURGH -Bill Mazeroski's place in baseball history is set because of his humbleness and teamwork.

So when the Pittsburgh Pirates announced plans to erect a statue to commemorate his epic home run in the 1960 World Series this summer, the Hall of Fame second baseman reacted the only way he knew how.

A statue? Of me? Are you sure you want to do this?

"I get a lot of credit for what happened, but don't deserve it," Mazeroski insisted yet again in a raspy voice that quivered with emotion at the annual team preseason luncheon on Friday afternoon, when the project was formally announced.

Moments later, after Mazeroski recited his long list of career accomplishments, he exclaimed, "... how do you get a better life than this?"

"I don't know why this has happened to me," he went on to say. "Why me? Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed that I wish somebody else had hit that home run."

The Pirates, the only organization Mazeroski knew in his 17-season career, has more than a statue in mind.

The monument will depict Mazeroski in the familiar pose after his legendary home run beat the mighty New York Yankees in Game 7 at Forbes Field - left heel on the ground, right foot in the air behind it, left arm extended outward and right hand and hat extended upward as if in a pinwheel motion.

The project will feature special effects on the concrete that surrounds the statute and details the infield dirt to recreate the moment. The second-base bag will appear behind the statue, while the background will include original bricks from the Forbes Field wall and the "406 FT" designation.

The monument will stand at the end of the cul-de-sac along Mazeroski Way near the right-field entrance at PNC Park. The dedication will take place prior to the Sunday, Sept. 5 game against the Washington Nationals.

"His famous home run did much more than win the World Series," team owner Bob Nutting said. "It was a moment that has inspired our city and our region for 50 years. It is a moment that continues to be passed on from generation to generation. I am thrilled that soon our fans will have a special place outside PNC Park to remember and share this inspirational story."

When Mazeroski was informed of the plan by Nutting and president Frank Coonelly at an alumni get-together recently, he initially thought they had the wrong person.

"Bob called me into the office with Frank and they said, 'We're going to put up a statute,'" Mazeroski recalled. "That hit me by surprise. I never thought that I would get a statue put up anywhere."

As in the case of the Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell statues, fans will be able to make visible contributions to fund the project in the form of engraved leaves, which will be permanently placed on a brick backdrop. The leaves will be available in two sizes at $150 and $500 a piece. For a $25 donation, fans will receive a commemorative certificate.

Artist Susan Wagner has been commissioned for the project. The Pittsburgh resident also created the Clemente and Stargell monuments.

The tribute takes place 50 years after Mazeroski struck the home run that many consider to be the greatest moment in Pittsburgh sports history.

"It will be there forever," said Mazeroski, who became a grandfather for the third time on Thursday. "I hope that I'm around 10 years from now to take my grandson to see it."



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