54-year flashback: PirateFest in the Twilight Zone

There was a moment at the recent PirateFest that Rod Serling would have loved.

In writing his classic TV series, The Twilight Zone, Serling had a thing for episodes in which people yearned to re-live special moments in their past.

And there, on the Main Stage of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, sat, left-to-right, Dick Groat, Vernon Law, Bob Friend, Bill Virdon and ElRoy Face.

The last time I had seen those men together on a stage was a few months after they had won the 1960 World Series. They were on a “barnstorming” tour throughout the tri-state area, and made an appearance at the Manor Theatre, which still stands on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

Then, I was a 12-year-old kid listening slack-jawed as they talked about beating the fabled Yankees.

I listened this time awash in nostalgia as they treated fans to reflections on their careers.

Law had an interesting tale about how he came to be known as “The Deacon,” a story I’d never heard before. His devout reputation apparently preceded him to Pittsburgh so, when he arrived, teammates began calling him Preacher Law. Vernon, an elder in the Mormon Church, explained to them that title wasn’t proper for him — so they scaled it down to Deacon.

Friend talked about trying to retire Hank Aaron with his “slurve.” That’s a quite common pitch nowadays, but it stands for the hybrid pitch, slider-curve. To Friend, it meant a “slow curve.

As for Face’s legendary 18-1 record in 1959 … Law and Friend both took him to task for repeatedly blowing leads they left for him, then vulturing their victories when the Bucs rallied to win.

“That,” Face said, “showed you how good I was. I’d give up the runs to let the other team tie then said, ‘That’s it. No more.’ And there was no more.”

Good stuff.

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