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July 31, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Not many left from magical Pirates team of 1960

0PINION — 1st of 3 parts

THE 2013 Pirates are more suggestive of the 1960 champions than either of the two teams that won the World Series in the 1970s. The Bucs had won their division in 1970 and finished either first or second every year between 1970 and 1979, except for 1973 (third).

Unlike those two teams, the ’60 Bucs came out of nowhere, surprising everyone, much like this year’s Pirates, who admittedly haven’t won anything yet. But this year seems similar to that summer of 53 summers past.

Twelve of those players are still living, while 13 players and all the coaching staff have gone to that big ballpark in the sky.

Expanding and adding research started by retired sportswriter Robert Dvorchak several years ago, I discovered who's still around and where they are today:

Reserve outfielder Joe Christopher, 77, played his first game the night Harvey Haddix tossed 12 perfect innings in 1959. He finished his eight-year career in 1966.The former Wall Street worker lives in Baltimore and pursues pre-Columbian art.

Relief ace ElRoy Face saved 3 of the Pirates 4 wins in the Series. He was traded to Detroit in 1968 and retired in 1969. A carpentry foreman at the former Mayview State Hospital, Face, 85, lives in North Versailles.

Another Pittsburgher is pitcher Bob Friend, who never spent a day on the disabled list during his 16-year career. Friend, 82, was Allegheny County controller from 1967 to 1975.

Lefty pitcher Joe Gibbon, 78, retired in 1972 after 13 seasons in the big leagues. He retired after coaching baseball at Clarke College in Mississippi, where he lives.

The NL MVP, batting champion, and team captain in 1960, shortstop Dick Groat was a five-time All-Star in his 14-year career, which ended in 1967. In basketball, he was a two-time All-American at Duke and played one NBA season for the Pistons. Owner and manager of Champion Lakes Golf Course in Ligonier, he has provided color commentary for Pitt’s men’s basketball since 1979. Groat is 82 and lives in Pittsburgh.

The 1960 Cy Young Award winner who also won two Series games, Vernon Law, now 83, played his entire 16-year career with the Bucs.  He was the pitching coach at Provo High School and pitched batting practice there until 2008, when he was 78. “The Deacon” still lives in Provo.

Bill Mazeroski, owner of baseball’s most famous Series homer, ended his 17-year career with Pittsburgh in 1972. At 76, Maz is a special instructor during spring training. His uniform number 9 was retired in 1987 and was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001. A statue in his honor was erected in 2011 on Mazeroski Way, outside PNC Park. The retired Maz lives in Panama City, Florida.

Reserve catcher Bob Oldis, 85, lives in Preston, Iowa. He played MLB for seven years, through 1963. He coached for the Phillies, Twins, and Expos and has been associated with the Marlins for 12 seasons.

Dick Schofield, the first player to bat at Shea Stadium, played for 19 seasons. The 78-year-old retiree lives in Springfield, Illinois, where he is currently an elected official, serving on the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority. His grandson is Washington outfielder Jayson Werth.

Bob Skinner, 81, lives in San Diego. After playing for 12 seasons, he managed in the Philadelphia system and coached for four other organizations. He also was a scout for Houston.

Hal Smith, 82, played the last of his 10 seasons in 1964 and was the starting catcher in the first game played by the expansion Houston Colt .45s. Without his three-run homer in the 8th inning of game seven, Maz’s homer would have meant nothing.

Still a special outfield instructor who finished his 64th camp this spring, Bill Virdon played 12 seasons in the majors, then managed the Pirates, Yankees, Astros, and Expos. Virdon, 82, lives in Springfield, Missouri.

ä Next week’s column will detail the late members of the World Champions.

Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for Allied News.

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