University of Pittsburgh

commons room

Game 7, Again

Written by Cara J. Hayden

They come lugging folding chairs and coolers, pennants and baseball cards, some with grandchildren in tow. Like a dispersed family returning to an ancient homeland, they all head toward the same spot—a grassy patch of campus lawn that once served as an outfield. Some would say it’s holy ground. It’s a Monday afternoon, and men playing hooky from work lean against trees or sit on concrete ledges. They loosen their collars and try to look inconspicuous.

After a couple hundred folks squeeze onto a plot no larger than a modest backyard, a gray-haired man wearing a fanny pack and a Pirates baseball cap presses “Play” on an iPod wired to a speaker. Then, the legend begins anew.

The crowd listens to a 48-year-old radio broadcast. The recording sounds muffled and scratchy—the timbre of a bygone era—as radio announcers call

the plays of the 1960 World Series. It’s Game 7, the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the New York Yankees.

For more than 20 years, Pirates fans have gathered on Pitt’s campus every Oct. 13, the anniversary of the series’ final game, which crowned the winner of the 1960 World Series. The tradition began quietly in 1985 when the late Saul Finkelstein brought a cassette player and his lunch to the brick outfield wall on the south end of campus, the only part of Forbes Field that still stands. (The stadium, which hosted Game 7, was razed in 1971 to make room for Pitt’s Posvar and Mervis halls.) Finkelstein listened to a cassette tape of the game. The next year he invited some buddies, who told their friends. Soon, strangers linked only by Pirates mania were meeting at the wall every year and calling themselves the Game 7 Gang.

For the 2008 anniversary, staff in Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business—housed in Mervis Hall, next to the old wall—served hotdogs and gave away balloons. Nick Demao (A&S ’63, KGSB ’67), who attended Game 7 when he was a Pitt sophomore, wandered through the crowd carrying an original base and telling its history: His father stole it in the revelry at the end of Game 7.

When the radio recording reaches the bottom of the ninth, the crowd pushes closer to the single speaker broadcasting the game. The Pirates and Yankees are tied. If the Pirates score, they’ll take the series and the championship trophy. Gang member and Pitt alum Herb Soltman (CBA ’56), who has served as the event’s coordinator and master of ceremonies for the past three years, pauses the iPod.

“Remember, this was 1960,” he announces. “So if we happen to win, there are no high-fives, because they didn’t exist back then.” The gang chuckles, someone lets out a high-pitched whistle. Soltman presses play again.

Pirate Bill Mazeroski is up to bat. There’s the pitch. Then the swing. Crack. The ball sails over the players, soaring toward the left field wall where, nearly 50 years later, a crowd gazes upward and looks for the magic ball in the sky, remembering the gals they swung, the hands they shook, and who they were in 1960 when that ball plunked on the other side of the wall. Home run.