In the mind’s eye, it’s always Oct. 13, 1960
I stepped into a “Twilight Zone” episode today.
Rod Serling had a thing for heart-tugging in writing that iconic television show. He specialized in segments where adults were transported back to scenes of their youth, and found everything unchanged.
So I stepped back to Oct. 13, 1960.
I made my way back to Squirrel Hill, Beacon Street. It wasn’t unchanged, because the block has undergone major redevelopment in 55 years. The triplex where we lived was gone, but I knew exactly where it would still be, and glancing up to where our living room was I could relive the moment that changed my life.
I had returned home from Colfax Elementary about 3 o’clock and turned on the television to watch my usual after-school cartoons. Instead of Bugs Bunny, a baseball game was still on. Disappointed, I plopped down on the sofa, ready to wait it out.
Then this guy in a No. 9 black-and-white uniform hit a ball over the wall. Bill Mazeroski isn’t what changed my life. The reaction to what he had done did. Immediately, car horns went off outside of my living room window. I looked out to see excited people burst through their front doors and hug in the middle of the street.
That is what grabbed my attention— the power of such an act to unify people in a common euphoria.
As I began to make regular journeys to Forbes Field, sitting high up in the right field stands, I would see the same bonding effect. Whenever a Pirates player lined a ball down the third-base line, into the left-field corner, from my vantage point you’d see people rise in waves as if orchestrated by the ball whistling by them.
That’s all it took. I was hooked by baseball, its virtuosos, its followers.
I have spent 43 of the ensuing 55 years — my entire adult life, that is — covering this game and its people. I got to meet extraordinary individuals, from Andrew McCutchen to, yes, Bill Mazeroski.
As The Gunner would say, “How sweet it is!”