Cooperstown swings open for Mazeroski

Ex-Pirates standout wins spot in Hall

H. Smith, star in Negro leagues, also in

Baseball

March 07, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Longtime Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski, who engineered one of the greatest moments in sports history, finally was rewarded yesterday with a place in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Mazeroski's dramatic game-winning home run against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series nearly overshadowed a distinguished career as one of the game's best defensive infielders, but the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee decided yesterday that he deserved a plaque at Cooperstown.

The committee also elected Negro Leagues star Hilton Smith during yesterday's annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. Mazeroski and Smith (who died in 1983) will be inducted on Aug. 5 along with Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett, who were elected by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in January.

"I'm pretty happy," said Mazeroski, who showed up at the site of the meeting. "I don't really know what to say. I never, ever expected to be here. You dream a lot of things. You want to be in the big leagues. You want to make the All-Star Game. You want to be in a World Series.

"You want to do all those things, but you never dream of this. It's pretty exciting. I just hope I can live up to it."

The 15-member Veterans Committee is made up of former players, baseball executives and baseball writers. Only 14 members were present for yesterday's meeting - Ted Williams is recovering from heart surgery - so 11 votes were necessary to meet the 75 percent requirement for election.

The committee could have chosen up to four new Hall of Famers. The ballot includes categories for former major-league player, Negro-league players, 19th century players and a catch-all category for managers, umpires, executives and Negro leaguers.

Gil Hodges, Dick Williams, Dom DiMaggio and labor leader Marvin Miller also were among those considered yesterday. All can be considered again next year.

Mazeroski's long wait is over. He polled respectably on the BBWAA ballot until his eligibility expired in 1992. He came within a single vote of election at last year's Veterans Committee meeting.

Though he will always be remembered for his joyous gallop around the bases after his historic home run, Mazeroski was no one-hit wonder. He was a seven-time All-Star who won eight Gold Gloves and can make a case for being the best defensive second baseman in history.

"In my personal opinion, he should have been elected the first time he was eligible," said former Pirates executive and current Veterans Committee member Joe Brown. "He's the best second baseman of all time. I don't think anybody came close. I've seen second basemen all the way back to the early '30s and defensively I know of no one who is his equal."

Still, Mazeroski knows that - for most baseball fans - his career is defined by the swing that put a dent in the Yankees dynasty in 1960.

"I don't really think of it unless somebody talks about it, and hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn' talk about it," he said. "The New York people are still mad at me."

Smith was a teammate of Satchel Paige on the Kansas City Monarchs. He was 72-32 in 146 games from 1937 to 1948, including a 10-0 performance in 1941.

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