Review of “Had ‘Em All the Way”: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates

Mumau, Thad. “Had ‘Em All the Way”: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2015. 17 Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index. Pp. 240. $29.95 softback.

Reviewed by Charles R. Westmoreland

On Thursday afternoon, October 13, 1960, the Pittsburgh Pirates delivered one of the most dramatic episodes in modern sports history. In Game Seven of the World Series, the Pirates faced the New York Yankees at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field. With the series tied at three games apiece, the Pirates hoped to win their first World Series in over three decades. In the bottom of the ninth of a 9-9 ballgame, 24-year-old second baseman Bill Mazeroski stepped up to the plate to face Ralph Terry, the Yankee reliever. On Terry’s second pitch, Mazeroski smacked a home run over the wall in left-center and circled the bases as the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh erupted in celebration. Mazeroski’s series-winning homer immediately entered baseball legend and the 1960 Pirates, having knocked off baseball’s premier franchise, became one of the most unlikely champions in baseball history.

Pittsburgh Cover

McFarland & Co., 2015

Sportswriter Thad Mumau’s love of the 1960 Pirates is never in doubt throughout his book “Had ‘Em All the Way”: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates. As a teenager growing up in North Carolina, Mumau and his father, a western Pennsylvania native, had followed the Pirates through some losing, lean years in the 1950s, yet remained loyal to their team. Father and son rarely missed a Pirates game even as they battled distance and the inconvenience of static-filled airwaves. When the crackles of the radio became too burdensome at home, Mumau’s father hopped in the car and drove his son to the top of a nearby hill so they could find a clear reception.

Had ‘Em All the Way” tells the story of what Mumau argues is a misunderstood team in baseball history. In fact, Mumau contends that “Perhaps no World Series champion has ever received less respect than the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates” (p. 12). He adds that the Pirates’ championship “has not always been draped with the same illustrious prose as most World Series winners” (p. 17). According to Mumau, that lack of praise comes from sportswriters and baseball experts viewing the 1960 World Series as a fluke. In three of the World Series contests, the Yankees dispatched of the Pirates with little resistance. The Pirates, meanwhile, won their four games in close, nail-biting fashion. Because the Pirates were David facing a Yankee Goliath that had dominated baseball since World War II, too many have assumed that the Pirates simply got lucky that October. Mumau insists that, although the Pirates lacked the stars and future Hall of Famers found in Yankee pinstripes, they proved to be the best team throughout the entirety of the 1960 season. An uncanny ability to manufacture runs and strong pitching enabled the Pirates to stay atop the National League standings for a good majority of the year. This World Series champion was no fluke, writes the longtime Pirate fan.

Mumau’s book is organized in chronological fashion, beginning with the author’s preface and an introduction giving brief coverage to the Pirates’ franchise history. The first chapter offers an overview of the 1960 season, followed by a chapter outlining the Major League Baseball landscape in 1960. From there, the next seventeen chapters explore the 1960 season with special emphasis given to manager Danny Murtaugh, 1960 National League MVP Dick Groat, future Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, Mazeroski, and pitching aces Bob Friend and Vern Law. A concluding chapter entitled “What Next?” provides individual biographical vignettes of the Pirates following their 1960 triumph.

“Had ‘Em All the Way” is certainly not a work of analytical, scholarly sport history. Mumau writes for a general audience of baseball and sports fans. He is a sportswriter and not an academic, which is made clear in his unabashed love for post-World War II baseball and the Pirates, the scant attention given to the social and cultural context of Pittsburgh in the post-World War II era, and the lack of historical research beyond the Pirates organization. Frequently, Mumau resorts to nostalgia when comparing baseball’s past with the present-day game of the twenty-first century. In a second chapter that purports to explore baseball at the dawn of the 1960s, his historical overview devolves into a lamentation of the “me mentality” associated with the impending era of free agency and ballooning player salaries (p. 27). This aside detracts from the flow of the book, which would have benefited from more analysis of the city of Pittsburgh and the culture of western Pennsylvania at that time. This is important, especially considering that Groat and Mazeroski were regional heroes from the Pittsburgh area. Although one cannot expect Mumau to approach his subject in the same way as a scholar of sport history, more attention to the broader historical context of Pittsburgh would have painted a clearer picture of that particular time and place. Mumau’s thin endnotes section and bibliography consist of interviews conducted by the author (including one with Roberto Clemente not long before his death), only two newspapers (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and New York Times), and sixteen books that deal almost exclusively with the Pirates.

Mumau presents a compelling case about an important team in baseball history. He writes clearly, tells interesting stories, and displays a clear passion for baseball and his team. His book will capture the interest of baseball fans, particularly those Pirate loyalists whose memories of that World Series season are “happy ones” (p. 208).

Chuck Westmoreland is Assistant Professor of History at Delta University where he teaches a variety of courses in modern U.S. and southern history, including a course on sport and the American experience. He is currently completing a book manuscript on religion and politics in the South from the era of the modern civil rights movement through the rise of the New Christian Right. You can contact him at cwestmoreland@deltastate.edu.

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