On Oct. 13, 1960, the Pirates hosted the New York Yankees at Forbes Field in the seventh and decisive game of the World Series. With the game tied, 9-9, Pittsburgh second baseman Bill Mazeroski stepped to the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
The second pitch from Ralph Terry was a high fastball, and Mazeroski crushed it over the wall in left-center field to win the game and the series. It remains the only walk-off home run in baseball history to decide a Game 7 of the World Series.
As fans rushed home plate to congratulate Mazeroski, a group of Pitt students celebrated on the roof of the 32nd floor of the Cathedral of Learning, where they had listened to the game over the radio with a clear view of Forbes Field. Life photojournalist George Silk captured the reaction, and that picture continues to be one of the city’s most iconic images.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of that game and Silk’s photograph, members of the Pirates’ communication’s team visited the Cathedral of Learning last week to work on a short video for the team’s website, and Pitt operating engineer Mike Pawlowski served as their guide.
October 13, 1960 at 3:36pm.— Pirates (@Pirates) October 13, 2020
The Maz Moment. pic.twitter.com/O04fLUzxck
When Pawlowski was a boy, his family drove from Cambria County to Pittsburgh several times a year to watch the Pirates play at Forbes Field—the legendary stadium that was built in 1909 and once stood on Pitt’s campus where Wesley W. Posvar Hall, the Hillman Library and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business stand today. His father always bought tickets along the first-base line so they could watch the Pirates’ Roberto Clemente in right field.
Today, Pawlowski is an operating engineer at the Cathedral of Learning. If there’s ever a problem on the roof of the 32nd floor—the place where the photograph of the young students looking over the railing and cheering was taken—he’s the leader of the team that’d fix it.
The 32nd floor roof isn’t easily accessible. To reach it, you have to go through a locked window inside the offices of the Departments of Financial Information Systems and Business Solutions. That section of roof is now home to Pitt’s victory lights—beacons that blast a gold glow onto the Cathedral after the Panthers win a football game or other major event. Plus, thanks to renovations on the roof, the ledge is much higher today than it was in 1960. So you have to be pretty tall to see where Forbes Field once stood.
To better recreate the iconic photo, Pawlowski took the Pirates employees to the 38th floor balcony, which has a similar view to the one in the legendary photograph. Pawlowski, who plans to retire in May, thinks about Silk’s photograph every time he works on the 38th floor.
“I miss the old stadium,” said Pawlowski, 63. “I liked the way it was configured because it had to fit in the city block. I’m glad we were able to keep the wall, put the outline of the wall on the sidewalk and maintain the home plate inside Posvar Hall. Pitt has kept the history alive.”
In fact, the Pawlowski family was there on June 28, 1970, when the Pirates played their final game at the stadium, with two wins over the Chicago Cubs during a doubleheader.
“After the final out, there was pandemonium,” said Pawlowski, who was 13 at the time. “People tried to rip out seats, and they rushed onto the field, trying to grab anything they could for a souvenir.”
Pawlowski has passed on his family’s tradition of Pirates fandom to his three sons, who are ages 29, 20 and 9. His youngest, Josh, plays first base in little league, and Pawlowski said he’s retiring to walk him to the bus stop every morning.
“He’s a baseball nut,” Pawlowski said.