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Maz as humble as one can be

September 6, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

People of any age can learn a lot from Bill Mazeroski.

Humility would lead the list.

The man from humble beginnings had a 14-foot, 2,000-pound statue, unveiled on his 74th birthday Sunday. It is at the end of the cul-de-sac along Mazeroski Way along the right field entrance to PNC Park.

"Geez, how could anyone dream of something like this?" he told the assembled crowd after the enveiling as his voice cracked with emotion. "All I wanted to be was a major league ballplayer. I didn't need all this."

"What a special day," he said. "It has been perfect. I'm more proud and honored than you could ever believe.

"Thanks."

The statue was dedicated by his sons Darren and David, grandson Billy, Pirates board chairman Bob Nutting and former teammates Bob Friend, Dick Groat, Roy Face and Bill Virdon.

"It's fantastic," he said. "Geez, it's big. That statue looks overwhelmingly big. I never expected anything that big. Holy cow. It's in a great setting."

As is Maz.

The humble man was walking across the street holding his grandson's hand about 90 minutes before the ceremony. He received thumbs up, hand shakes and congratulations for many in front of the ballpark.

He smiled and said thank you.

He didn't brush anybody off.

He wasn't big-timing it.

"But I probably get too much credit," he said of the 1960 World Series win over the New York Yankees. "We would have won that game if I'd hit that home run or not, I know it in my heart.

"I just know we would have found a way to win that game. We were destined to win that game and win that series.

"We would have found a way. We did it all year long.

"We would have won it somehow."

There was no "look at me."

There was no "I deserved the Series MVP, not Bobby Richardson."

There was no "we should have won the Series with how well I played."

None of that.

We ... We ... We.

Not ... I ... I ... I.

Hello ... anybody listening?

The man who said had some of the best pair of hands in Major League history, was also rather succinct when talking about his fielding.

"I would rather make 10 outs in a row than make an error anytime," he said. "I was not known for my bat. I was known for my glove.

"I took more pride in my defense than my hitting.

"Always trying to get better was the conscious effort. It was just trying to get better and find ways to do it. In those days, there weren't that many coaches around. You just had to do it by trial and error.

"That's how I learned to make a double play.

"But, I did get a good start in high school with my high school coach (Al Burazio). He gave me some good habits to get into in catching a ground ball, so I didn't have to break a lot of old, bad habits.

"I started off the right way, which was good."

Maz said he was thrilled to see his old teammates.

"About half of us are gone," he said. "There's only a few of us left. It was great to see them. Every year is a blessing because you don't know what's going to happen next year at our age."

Mazeroski was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001 and had his number (9) retired by the Pirates in 1987. He played for Pittsburgh from July 7, 1956 to Oct. 4, 1972. He also has Mazeroski Way and now the statue.

In addition, a ceremony will take place on Oct. 13, the 50th anniversary of the game, home run and World Series championship.

"Maybe after the 13th I can just fade away," he said.

Not one for the limelight, Maz really wasn't kidding.

He still can't believe all the fuss 50 years later about one swing of the bat.

Former teammate Steve Blass said Maz's induction into Cooperstown came 20 years too late.

"It didn't bother me in the least," Maz said of the wait. "I never worried about that. I never thought it would happen. Just to get a few votes at the time was thrill enough - just to be mentioned in that category was a thrill, let alone get in it."

Maz then talked about his Ohio Valley roots.

"There were a lot of great athletes coming out of the Ohio Valley (back then)," said Maz. "There's four hall of famers within five or six miles - Havlicek, Phil Niekro. He called me yesterday to congratulate me. That was nice of him.

"I pitched against Phil one time in high school. It was the only game he lost. I pitched against him and beat him 1-0 and hit the home run off him. I still bring that up and he gets upset.

"He threw all knuckle balls, even in high school.

"That was a great era."

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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