Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Magical 1960 Pirates’ season chronicled by Davis man’s new book

Local author Clifton Blue Parker talks about his book "Sweet '60" which chronicles the Pittsburgh Pirates' magical 1960 season. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

If you’ve been around awhile, you know exactly were you were when Kennedy was shot in 1963 or the moment man landed on the moon in the summer of 1969.

But if you’re a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, 3:38 p.m. on Oct. 13, 1960 is every bit as significant as any historical date one might encounter.

With apologies to Neil Armstrong, when Bill Mazeroski smacked Ralph Terry’s slider high over the left-field wall at Forbes Field, the Pirates had won Game 7 in David-and-Goliath fashion — capturing a World Series in which the losing New York Yankees had outscored the champs, 55-27.

Now, thanks to Davis author Clifton Blue Parker (and a cadre of Society for American Baseball Research fanatics), that colorful Bucs season has been chronicled in an easy-read, profile- and statistics-packed book “Sweet ’60.”

“I came up with the idea about a year and a half ago,” Parker told The Enterprise. “My grandfather, George F. Reynolds, nurtured my childhood love of the Pirates growing up in Pittsburgh.”

In the 1960s and ’70s, Parker played pick-up baseball, worked at batting cages and cut lawns before wrestling in high school and playing rugby in college (Penn State). He earned a political science degree at Pitt before studying journalism at the University of Florida.

Parker, who writes and edits for various UC Davis publications, has written several critically received baseball books: “Big and Little Poison: Paul and Lloyd Waner, Baseball Brothers,” “Bucketfoot Al: the Baseball Life of Al Simmons” and “Fouled Away: the Baseball Tragedy of Hack Wilson.”

But “Sweet ‘60” is different. It’s less a narrative, more a series of vignettes that taken collectively ties together a story that sees the Pirates rise from the ashes of a woeful run in the early 1950s to stun the prideful Yankees in one of the strangest Fall Classics on record.

Colorful owner John Galbreath is profiled, showing how his partnership with Bing Crosby, Branch Rickey and others navigated the Pirates through choppy water after World War II through the big series win.

Parker collaborated with 44 SABR writers and editors to provide short stories on each of the players, coaches and key personnel — including Hall of Fame announcer Bob Prince — that added to the drama that culminated in Mazeroski’s big fly.

The 10-9 Pirates win remains the only Game 7 to feature a walk-off homer in World Series history.

It also is the only game in series history in which not a single batter struck out.

Names of Pirates on the field that year — save Roberto Clemente — don’t roll off the tongue: Hoak, Mejias, Francis, Daniels, King.

But the saga leading up to the Fall Classic and the series itself is traced in a day-by-day account from Parker, and in those reports you’ll find the superstars … Berra, Musial, Ford, Mantle, Aaron and the like.

Parker lives in Davis. He has daughters Rhiannon, 11, and Caitlin, 8. Parker moved west in 1993 after stints as a newspaper reporter in Florida, a Congressional press secretary in Washington, D.C. and a copywriter.

His love for the Pirates never diminished, but his allegiances have evolved:

“I’m a National League fan — no DHs, please — so over time I started following the Giants,” the now-Northern Californian explains. “My baseball heart is big enough for a few favorite teams, but the Pirates are the deepest existentially, going all the way back to childhood, so if ever the two should meet in the playoffs, I’d root for the Pirates, of course.”

On “Sweet ’60,” Parker wrote parts and was charged with editing a lion’s share. The unique part about the book is that work sessions between contributors were handled via email or on the phone. Few of the contributors actually met.

When family and work responsibilities required more and more of Parker’s time, the end of the project was handled by Bill Nowlin.

“In the middle of 2011, Clifton had to relinquish his position as chief editor.” Nowlin says in a published introduction for “Sweet ’60.” “But he got it underway and I was glad to come on in long relief and close out the book.”

Notes: Available at Amazon.com, hard copies of the work are also available through the SABR online bookstore (www.SABR.org). … Meanwhile, Parker is on to the next project featuring Pirates and Brooklyn shortstop and Hall of Famer Arky Vaughn (who died in 1952 at age 40 in a boating accident). … In that 1960 World Series, the Yankees were a prohibitive favorite and — in 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0 victories — displayed their wherewithal. But Pittsburgh scrambled and won 6-4, 5-2 and 3-2 decisions before Mazeroski’s lightning won the finale, 10-9. … For baseball table-game purists who might be looking for opponents, Parker is a die-hard Strat-O-Matic fan.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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