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COLUMN: Bill Mazeroski says goodbye to his ‘stuff’

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By Bob Watkins

Slugger Museum in Louisville is every bit a match for the over-sized baseball bat standing out front. It has its own hallowed displays, crooks and crannies of memories and glassed-in baseball lore. That’s before you see how bats are made.
To get a look at Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski valuables before an auction on Saturday, I went back to visit last week.
The museum was abuzz. I met a fellow from north of Pittsburgh clad in a Pirates road jersey with Mazeroski across the back. Ray Baker was a kid when Maz hit the home run in 1960, but “I’ve always followed him. Met him a couple times and Maz is just a great down-to-earth good human being,” he said
For Mazeroski, it had to be bittersweet to watch a sell-off of the victories of his professional life. More than 200 pieces of gear would bring $1,709,892.
Ironic, a man who so frequently has shaken his head in disbelief at his charmed life in baseball, (1956-72, all as a Pirate), this windfall in his 77th year.
By Sunday afternoon, a fan would say, “Could you find one person to say something bad about (Mazeroski)? I doubt it. Interesting that he thought to put all of this away.”
According to the Pittsburgh Press, Mazeroski’s “stuff” sold this way.
• 1960 World Series uniform, $632,500.
• Bronzed bat from game seven, $322,000.
• Bronzed cleats from game seven, $97,750.
• Gold Glove Awards – 1958, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967 – $193,775.
• A Roberto Clemente bat, nickname Momen, given to Maz, $86,250.
• And, a 1960 Babe Ruth Award, $41,400.
Context for you and me?
Call to mind that apex moment in your backyard on a sunny day. Red Barber at the microphone, game seven of a World Series, you step to the plate. Then, a fat fastball “up” is coming, you swing and feel it immediately, that sweet spot. “I got it all.”
The ball sails ... and sails ... and well, in your mind, it’s still going ... high over an ivy-covered wall.
The crowd is going wild as you run around the bases (too fast) in a jubilant fog you will wish to have back.
Happens only in a backyard or Bernard Malamud fiction and our childhood dreams, doesn’t it? Except for a poor kid born in Wheeling, W.V., and grew up in Tiltonsville, Ohio, it did happen.
Ray Baker: “That night, after his homer, when everybody in Pittsburgh was still celebrating, Maz took his wife to Shenley Park and they just sat and took it all in.”
Bill Mazeroski played all his Big League days in nearby Pittsburgh where his best summer with a bat was .275 in 1958. He was nicknamed The Glove and won six Golden ones. Then he made it to Cooperstown by way of a Ralph Terry fastball “up,” and a Genuine Louisville Slugger, Powerized 125. More than half-century later it would be worth $322,000.
Who knew?
America, I love this place.

KENTUCKY’S GLIMMER GAME
Mark Stoops’ first Kentucky team needed a glimmer game. A win to ignite a sparkle of hope across Big Blue Nation. It won’t happen at Georgia, so, two chances left. Vanderbilt this week or two days after Thanksgiving when Tennessee travels to Lexington.
Given the Missouri blow-out, good showings on the road at Vandy and Georgia are important to show progress in Stoops’ process. But, beating Tennessee at home is critical if Kentucky is going to win two battles to follow
• First Wednesday in February.
• Season ticket sales next summer and fall.
Meanwhile, Bizzaro World at Kentucky continues.
•Week 6: A successful on-side kick at Mississippi State was erased by a penalty. Off sides.
•Week 8: A punt to Missouri in the second quarter, produced a fumble recovery at the Tigers’ 13. Oops, UK’s punt team was in an illegal formation. A punt team in illegal formation?
•Week (pick one): Rant over game official calls against Kentucky reminds me of Major League Baseball television analyst who says, “Guys like Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton get a strike call on pitches off the plate because they earned ‘em.”
Kentucky football. In four-plus decades writing about it, rarely have I seen a Wildcats team earn a “could go either way” call.

WKU & BOWL?
Bowl eligible Hilltoppers. After a mid-schedule nose-dive, three losses, two at home, Western has rallied to 6-4 with two games left. Sun Belt has three bowl eligibles, Louisiana Lafayette, WKU and the Toppers next opponent, Texas State in San Marcos, Nov 23.
A bowl game is an outside shot for Western, but Hilltopper recruiters should take a reasonably good curve ball into prospective signee living rooms. “We’re movin’ on up. Another winning season. Unbeaten with the service academies this year. New league next year with TV. We finished higher in the mighty SEC than Kentucky.
“And yes, we might keep our head coach.”
Maybe.

UK-U of L ‘FILE IT’ DEPT.
Under a preseason “how this college basketball season will turn out,” this gem: The Wildcats and Louisville are head-and-shoulders above any other teams in the country, and there’s a great chance they’ll meet in the Final Four.
Louisville will probably win when the two face off on its home floor in December, but will have the burden of trying to beat the same great team twice in one season, and even the Cardinals aren’t up to that challenge.
File it.

HEISMAN WATCH
For voters not already in love with Johnny Manziel, the odds-on favorite should be, but isn’t, is a senior who’s led his team to back-to-back national championships and an unbeaten season so far in 2013.
Who deserves a Heisman more than Alabama’s A.J. McCarron?