Thursday, September 23, 2010

‘Best Game Ever’ Broadcast Found in Bing Crosby’s Wine Cellar

 
(Associated Press) Pittsburgh Pirates vice president Bing Crosby, center,
with co-owner and treasurer John W. Galbreath, left, and President Frank McKinney,
at the season opener at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Ill., in 1947.

By Richard Sandomir
New York Times

September 23, 2010

How a near pristine, black-and-white reel of the entire television broadcast of the deciding game of the 1960 World Series — long believed to be lost forever — came to rest in the dry and cool wine cellar of Bing Crosby’s home near San Francisco is not a mystery to those who knew him.

Crosby loved baseball, but as a part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates he was too nervous to watch the Series against the Yankees, so he and his wife went to Paris, where they listened by radio.

“He said, ‘I can’t stay in the country,’ ” his widow, Kathryn Crosby, said. “ ‘I’ll jinx everybody.’ ”

He knew he would want to watch the game later — if his Pirates won — so he hired a company to record Game 7 by kinescope, an early relative of the DVR, filming off a television monitor. The five-reel set, found in December in Crosby’s home, is the only known complete copy of the game, in which Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a game-ending home run to beat the Yankees, 10-9. It is considered one of the greatest games ever played.
 
(Associated Press) The Pirates’
catcher Hal Smith, right, and his
eighth inning homer to put
Pittsburgh on top, 9-7.
Crosby, the singer and movie and TV star, had more foresight than the television networks and stations, which erased or discarded nearly all of the Major League Baseball games they carried until the 1970s.

A canny preservationist of his own legacy, Crosby, who died in 1977, kept a half-century’s worth of records, tapes and films in the wine cellar turned vault in his Hillsborough, Calif., home.

“Bing Crosby was way ahead of his time,” said Nick Trotta, senior library and licensing manager for Major League Baseball Productions, the sport’s archivist. Three years ago, baseball acquired the rights to Yankees pitcher Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series — leaving the finale of the 1960 World Series high on its wish list. The hunt for old games — this one unseen on TV since its original broadcast — is constant, serendipitous and often futile. Great games like the Game 7 in 1960 are often recalled with just a few newsreel clips.

Crosby was so superstitious about hexing his Pirates that he and Kathryn listened to the game with their friends Charles and Nonie de Limur in Paris.

(Bing Crosby Enterprises)
Bing Crosby, who was part owner
of the Pittsburgh Pirates,
hired a company to record
Game 7 by kinescope,
an early relative of the DVR.
“We were in this beautiful apartment, listening on shortwave, and when it got close Bing opened a bottle of Scotch and was tapping it against the mantel,” Kathryn Crosby said. “When Mazeroski hit the home run, he tapped it hard; the Scotch flew into the fireplace and started a conflagration. I was screaming and Nonie said, ‘It’s very nice to celebrate things but couldn’t we be more restrained?’ ”

After Crosby viewed the 2-hour-36-minute game, probably in a screening room in the house, the films took their place in the vault, said Robert Bader, vice president for marketing and production for Bing Crosby Enterprises.

They remained there undisturbed until December when Bader was culling videotapes of Crosby’s TV specials for a DVD release — part of the estate’s goal of resurrecting his body of work.

He spotted two reels lying horizontally in gray canisters labeled, “1960 World Series.” They were stacked close to the ceiling with home movies and sports instructional films. An hour or so later he found three others on other shelves. Intrigued, he screened the 16-millimeter film on a projector. It was Game 7, called by the Yankees’ Mel Allen and the Pirates’ Bob Prince — the complete NBC broadcast. The film had not degraded and has been transferred to DVD.

“I had to be the only person to have seen it in 50 years,” Bader said. “It was just pure luck.”

Bader’s call to baseball last spring initiated months of talks that have led to an agreement allowing the MLB Network to televise the game in the off-season, and wrap interviews and other programming around it, with Bob Costas as the host.

“It’s a time capsule,” Trotta said.

Hearing of the broadcast’s discovery, Jim Reisler, a historian born in Pittsburgh, sounded stunned.

“Wow,” he said. His book about the game — “The Best Game Ever” — would have benefited from seeing the NBC production, he said; he relied on the radio call. “It would have given me a greater sense of the tremendous ebb and flow of the game,” he said.

Dick Groat, the Pirates shortstop, said: “It was such a unique game to begin with. It was back and forth, back and forth. It was unbelievable.”

The production is simple by today’s standards. NBC appeared to use about five cameras. The graphics were simple (the players’ names and little else) and rarely used. There were no instant replays, no isolated cameras, no dugout reporters and no sponsored trivia quizzes.

Viewers looked at the hand-operated Forbes Field scoreboard that on that day (of 19 runs and 24 hits) got a vigorous workout. Occasionally they saw newsreel cameras atop the ballpark roof.

Price and Allen rarely interacted; the former called the first half, Allen the second half — putting him on the air for Yogi Berra’s three-run homer in the sixth inning (Allen first called it foul); Pirates’ catcher Hal Smith’s eighth inning homer to put Pittsburgh on top, 9-7 (“That base hit will long be remembered,” Allen said as the film showed Roberto Clemente — Allen called him Bob —bounding around the bases with joy); and Mazeroski’s winning drive to left field (“And the fans go wild,” Allen said).

The game included the play in which a ground ball hit by Bill Virdon to Yankees shortstop Tony Kubek kicked off the dirt and hit him smack in the Adam’s apple. He fell on his back, sat up within a minute looking dazed, stood up, then lobbied Manager Casey Stengel unsuccessfully to stay in.

It also included a daring example of base-running savvy by Mickey Mantle with two outs in the top of the ninth, in which he deked Pittsburgh first baseman Rocky Nelson and dived safely back into the bag just as Gil McDougald was reaching home to tie the score, 9-9.

Had Mantle been tagged out, McDougald’s run probably would not have counted and the game would have been over.

“How about that?” Allen said after Mantle’s play. But just minutes later, Mazeroski stepped to the plate. NBC’s sound was good enough to hear a fan shout, “Just get on, Billy, get on!” Mazeroski did more than that. After his home run, fans poured onto the field and danced on the Pittsburgh dugout.

Only later did Bing Crosby witness the joy and jubilation recorded just for him.

“I can still see Bing hitting the mantel with the Scotch,” Kathryn Crosby said.

From the New York Times

1 comment:

walterbayliss said...

Great post.
Good content always attracts.
Well done.
Walt Bayliss
CEO and Founder
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