The Associated Press
Bing Crosby often found himself dreaming of the Pittsburgh Pirates, too, even while on vacation in Paris during the 1960 World Series.
His zealous support and superstition wound up being a good thing for baseball fans: Found in his wine cellar was film of the deciding Game 7, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending homer to beat the New York Yankees, that was thought to be lost forever.
The New York Times reported in a story published in Friday’s editions that the complete NBC broadcast had been discovered in Crosby’s longtime home in Hillsborough, near San Francisco.
The silver-tongued crooner, whose recording of “White Christmas” has sold millions of copies worldwide, was part owner of the baseball team from 1946 until his death in 1977. But the avid sportsman was such a nervous wreck watching the Pirates that when they played the Yankees in the World Series, he went on a European vacation with his wife, Kathryn.
“He said, ‘I can’t stay in the country. I’ll jinx everybody,'” Crosby’s widow said.
It was thought that one of the greatest games ever played had survived only through radio broadcasts, grainy photographs and the written word. Then in December, while Robert Bader was combing through tapes and reels of Crosby’s old TV specials, the vice president of Bing Crosby Entertainment stumbled across two gray canisters in a pile stretching to the ceiling.
They were labeled “1960 World Series” and looked as though they hadn’t been touched in years. An hour of searching revealed three more reels.
Bader screened the 16-millimeter film and realized it was the complete broadcast of Game 7, with the Yankees’ Mel Allen and Pirates’ Bob Prince calling the action. The conditions of the wine cellar — cool and dry — meant that the film had survived in pristine condition.
“I had to be the only person to have seen it in 50 years,” Bader said. “It was pure luck.”
Crosby couldn’t bear to watch the game live, although he did listen by radio while in Paris, so he had hired a company to record the broadcast by kinescope. The early relative of DVR meant that he could go back and watch the 2-hour, 36-minute game later if the Pirates won.
The five reels have since been transferred to DVD, and fans will get a chance to view the game during the offseason on the MLB Network. Bob Costas is set to host the special, which will include interviews with former players and other additional programming.
“Bing Crosby was away ahead of his time,” said Nick Trotta, senior library and licensing manager of Major League Baseball Productions, the sport’s archivists. “It’s a time capsule.”
The game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh that October day was filled with high drama. The Pirates scored four runs in the first two innings off Yankees starter Bob Turley, then watched New York score a run in the fifth and four more in the sixth, when Yogi Berra’s home run gave the Yankees the lead. Two more runs in the eighth made it 7-4.
Pittsburgh rebounded with five runs in the bottom half, pulling ahead on Hal Smith’s three-run homer, before New York tied the game in the ninth on a heads-up baserunning play by Mickey Mantle that allowed Gil McDougald to cross the plate.
Minutes later, Mazeroski stepped into the batter’s box leading off the ninth inning. With one ball and no strikes, he connected with Ralph Terry’s pitch and drove the ball over the left field wall. The Pirates poured out of the dugout, the Yankees stood in disbelief, and Mazeroski rounded the bases after the first game-ending home run to win a World Series.
The New York Times story called the production is simple by today’s standards. NBC appeared to use about five cameras. The graphics were simple (the players’ names and little else) and rarely used. There were no instant replays, no isolated cameras, no analysis, no dugout reporters and no sponsored trivia quizzes.
Viewers looked at the hand-operated Forbes Field scoreboard, which on that day (of 19 runs and 24 hits) got a vigorous workout. Occasionally they saw newsreel cameras atop the ballpark roof.
Only later did Crosby get to see the spectacle unfold, in the comforts of his own home.
“It was such a unique game to begin with,” said the Pirates’ Dick Groat, the 1960 league MVP who will turn 80 in November but remembers the game as if it happened yesterday. “It was back and forth, back and forth. It was unbelievable.”
Almost as unbelievable as finding the long-lost film of it in a wine cellar.