Book is a Love Story of Baseball in the ’60s by thad mumau

Maz to Yaz to Amazin’ was a natural as far as I was concerned. The idea of writing a book about baseball in the 1960s was exciting. Doing it was a bunch of fun.

The ’60s were the pinnacle of major league baseball, a decade overflowing with sensational players, sizzling pennant races and spectacular feats. It was marked by change as the landscape of the game was altered dramatically. There were new rules, new teams, new stars and a new makeup, as leagues were broken into divisions and playoffs preceded the World Series.

It was a decade filled with fluorescent memories, beginning with the first-ever World Series-ending home run long before walkoff was a trendy baseball term; closing with a truly amazing Fall Classic; with one of the most fantastic individual stretch runs sandwiched in between.    

I was introduced to baseball by my dad, who bought me a glove and taught me how to use it. We huddled around an old Philco radio, fighting through crackling static as we strained to hear Bob Prince broadcast Pittsburgh Pirates games.

Dad was a lifelong Pirates fan, having been born and raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh. He had suffered with the Buccos, who were the worst team in baseball through most of the 1950s. His loyalty was rewarded in 1960, when the Pirates won it all. I was excited more for my dad than anything else, but I myself had become a pretty avid follower of the Bucs by then.

Roberto Clemente, whose right arm was a rifle, was my all-time favorite player. Warren Spahn, the lefty with the classic windup, was my favorite pitcher. They were just two of dozens of players whose glossy color pictures I cut from Sport magazine and mounted on my bedroom wall with straight pins.

After growing up and becoming a sportswriter, I talked one-on-one with Clemente in front of his locker for almost an hour. That was a little over two years before his death. The entirety of that interview comprises a full chapter of Maz to Yaz to Amazin’ as does a lengthy conversation I was privileged to have with Tom Seaver.

’60s baseball is marked by accomplishments that are both Herculean and iconic. Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961. Gibson’s 13 shutouts and 1.12 ERA in 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, the same season McLain won 31 games. Back-to-back triple crowns by Frank Robby and Yaz. Koufax’s four-year reign of magnificence.

All that is in the book. But its pages are not monopolized by the grandiose, by turning the record book into prose. There are humorous anecdotes and stories largely overlooked. Like Jim Gentile having his best season at the worst time. Tony Oliva and Vada Pinson seeing their careers highjacked on the way to Cooperstown. Moe Drabowsky, one of the funniest guys ever to wear a big league uniform, becoming a Series hero.

Chapters alternate between a recap of each season and a review of the decade’s most significant baseball events. Huge trades, two expansions, the impact of African American and Hispanic players.

A whole lot was going on beyond baseball in the nation and world during the ’60s – social and political change that affected and still affects us. Some of that upheaval spilled into the game, and some of the game’s changes spilled into our culture in fascinating ways.

But that isn’t what this book is about. Maz to Yaz to Amazin’ is pure baseball. My goal was to share the thrills and good feelings the game gave me and all its fans over a decade that was the most influential of any in baseball history. It is an intimate and informed account that is part romance for a simpler game and part roll call of the fabulous players who filled the dugouts in the ’60s.

The 1960s were a Wow decade for baseball, an ongoing highlight reel of Say Hey, Hammerin’ Hank, Gibby, Brooks, the Harmonica Man, Diamond Jim, fireballers and knuckleballers, sluggers and speedsters.

The National Pastime at its best, featuring a cast of royalty, magic and majesty, hope and heartache, daring and drama. And a galaxy of stars like never before or since.

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