Costas recalls Game 7 of 1960 World Series

Sportscaster Bob Costas grew up in Commack. (Feb. Sportscaster Bob Costas grew up in Commack. (Feb. 27, 2001) Photo Credit: BLM

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept. ...

Bob Costas refused to go to school on Oct. 13, 1960, a bold decision for an 8-year-old. But his father, John, backed him up.

"My father told my mother, 'He'll remember this game much more than whatever is going on at school today,' '' Costas said last week. "And he was 100 percent right."

And how. Costas, who grew up in Commack, still recalls watching as a heartbroken Yankees fan when Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning home run won Game 7 of the World Series for the Pirates, 10-9.

Fifty years later, he watched it again, this time as a host in a theater in Pittsburgh last month, with eight members of that beloved Pirates team.

"It was one of the most heartwarming experiences I've ever had as a broadcaster,'' he said, reveling in the joy of the old men and their fans, even though his team lost again.

What made it unique wasn't just the memorable outcome or the reunion of old Pirates, though. It was the fact that even those in the audience old enough to have watched the live telecast had not seen it since - and it was the strange story of how they came to have the opportunity.

Tomorrow night, those who receive the MLB Network will get the opportunity, too, when the game itself and highlights of the event in Pittsburgh will be shown in a three-hour special from 8-11 p.m. It's a must-watch for anyone with an interest in baseball and/or sports television history.

"I don't like to use the word a lot, but 'fascinating' sounds about right to me," said Bruce Cornblatt, who produced the show.

About a year ago, a man working on a DVD compilation of Bing Crosby material came across old film canisters marked "1960 World Series" in the wine cellar of the late singer's California home.

He had discovered a gem thought to have been lost forever: the entire NBC telecast of Game 7, preserved in the cool, dry climate.

It turned out that Crosby, a part-owner of the Pirates, was too nervous to attend the game, so he listened on the radio in Paris and had the telecast filmed for later viewing.

"My first reaction was, 'Yeah, right,' " said Nick Trotta, licensing manager for MLB Productions. "We get a lot of false leads.

"Then we got to take a look at it and it was just surprise, happiness . . . My first internal thoughts were, how is this preserved, and how is this possible?"

Like the similarly rare kinescope of Don Larsen's perfect World Series game in 1956, the telecast is a reminder of how far sports television has come.

There are no analysts, just play-by-play from the Pirates' Bob Prince and the Yankees' Mel Allen. There are no replays and few graphics.

But there are shots from a centerfield camera that provide a new angle on Maz's historic shot after decades of being seen only in footage from newsreel cameras behind home plate.

(Moments before the home run, someone can be heard urging Mazeroski just to get on base, and that another Pirate would bring him around.)

The best part is the postgame, in which an excited Prince (wearing a dizziness-inducing sports jacket) conducts interviews with seemingly the entire Pirates roster at a comically frantic pace. TV gold.

"Had the Yankees won, it would have been another Yankees World Series victory," Costas said. "Not just in Pittsburgh sports history but in the whole history of the city, it is so iconic and so meaningful.

"You could tell by the applause in the theater that night there was such warmth, such shared memory and appreciation among the people in attendance.''

Did they mind that he was a Yankees fan?

"I 'fessed up up front," he said, "and they forgave me."

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