1956 would see Maz develop his hitting game to the tune of a .320 average with the Stars in 80 games, helping him to earn a callup to the Pirates on July 7th. He would go 1-for-3 in a 3-2 loss to the New York Giants, but more importantly, he had seen his last minor league pitch. Over 81 games with the main outfit, he hit .243 over 81 games. According to the Wins Probability Added metric, his best game was on August 15th, when he went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored in a 5-1 Pirates win over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates finished the season with an NL seventh best 66-88 record.
In 1957, Mazeroski hit .283 over 148 contests, with 27 doubles, seven triples (NL 10th), eight home runs, 11 sacrifice hits (NL third), and 54 RBI. It will surprise some to know that his batting average would be the highest he would ever post throughout his career, but his value wasn’t strictly rooted in his offensive capabilities, as evidenced by his 1.3 defensive WAR (NL eighth). He registered 443 assists (NL fourth), 308 putouts, (NL fifth), and 96 double plays turned (NL third). His .978 fielding percentage was good for fifth in the league. Using the base-out runs added statistic, his August 13th performance in a 6-0 win over the Phillies was his season’s best. He went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run, and four RBI. The Pirates were dreadful, finishing at 62-92, again finishing in seventh place.
1958 would see Mazeroski earn his first all-star selection, his first Gold Glove, and enough MVP votes to finish eighth in the NL race. He hit .275 in 152 games (NL third), with nine sacrifice hits (NL sixth), 24 doubles, six triples, a career high 19 home runs, and 68 RBI. Defensively, he collected 344 putouts (NL second), 496 assists (NL first), turned 118 double plays (NL second), finished with a .980 fielding percentage (NL third), and led the NL with a 2.9 dWAR rating. On May 10th, he went 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI in a 14-4 drubbing of, you guessed it, the Phillies. The Pirates were a much improved 84-70, finishing in second eight games behind the Milwaukee Braves for the NL Pennant.
Mazeroski earned his second all-star selection in 1959, hitting .241 over 135 games in a decidedly unheroic offensive campaign. His OPS+ rating of 66 would be his lowest through the next decade. He still ranked fourth in the NL with 100 double plays turned and third with a .981 fielding percentage. On September 19th, he hit a solo home run in the third and later hit a game winning two out, two-RBI triple in the bottom of the 12th in a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. Pittsburgh finished in the middle of the pack, in fourth place with a 78-76 record.
In 1960, Maz played in his third all-star game and earned his second Gold Glove, also earning the Babe Ruth Award and the Major League Player of the Year Award, hitting .273 over 151 games (NL seventh) with eight sacrifice flies (NL fifth), 21 doubles, 11 home runs, and 64 RBI. His 10.8 at bats per strikeout ranked him 10th in the NL. Defensively, he led the NL with 413 putouts, 449 assists, 127 double plays turned, and a .989 fielding percentage. On April 30th, he hit two singles, a double and a home run with three RBI in a 12-7 win over the Reds. The Pirates easily won the NL pennant, seven games over the Milwaukee Braves with a 95-59 record. Pittsburgh went seven games against the New York Yankees in the World Series. Maz went 8-for-25 with two doubles, two home runs, and five RBI. This includes the series clinching hit, a bottom of the ninth solo home run to give the Bucs a 10-9 victory. It remains the only time a World Series was decided in walk off fashion in a game seven.
1961 would see Mazeroski earn his third Gold Glove and hit .265 in 152 games (NL ninth) with 112 singles (NL 10th), 21 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI. He ranked eighth in the league with 10.1 at bats per K. He again led the NL in putouts, assists, and double plays turned, with 410, 505, and 144 respectively. His .975 fielding percentage placed him third in the NL. On September 13th, he went 4-for-5 with two round-trippers and three RBI in an 8-2 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Buccos finished sixth in the NL with a 75-79 record.
In 1962, Mazeroski earned his fourth all-star invitation by hitting .271 with 24 doubles, nine triples (NL fifth), 14 home runs and 81 RBI over 159 games, striking out once every 12.2 at bats (NL fifth). He led the league with 425 putouts, 509 assists and 138 double plays turned, ranking second with a .985 fielding percentage. On September 7th, he hit a single and a home run with two intentional walks (of his league leading 16 on the season) with six RBI in a 10-1 win over the Dodgers. The Pirates strong 93-68 record was only good enough that season for a fourth place finish in the NL, eight games behind the San Francisco Giants.
Mazeroski played in his fifth all-star game and won his fourth Golden Glove following 1963. He played in 142 games, hitting .245 with 22 doubles and 52 RBI, striking out once per 11.6 at bats (NL third). Defensively, he made 340 putouts (NL fourth), 506 assists (NL first), 131 double plays (NL first), and finished with a .984 fielding percentage (NL third), leading the NL with a 3.3 dWAR. On April 13th, he hit a single, a double and a home run with three RBI in a 12-4 win against the Reds. Pittsburgh posted a 74-88 finish, ahead of only the two second year NL expansion teams (New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s).
In 1964, Mazeroski won his fifth Golden Glove and earned his sixth invitation to the all-star game. He appeared in all 162 contests (NL second), hitting .268 with 22 doubles, eight triples, (NL eighth), 10 home runs and 64 RBI. He also continued to show patience at the plate, striking out once every 11.6 at bats (NL sixth). Defensively, he finished the season with a 2.1 dWAR (NL second), largely on the strength of his league leading 543 assists, 346 putouts (NL second), and 122 double plays (NL first). On September 4th, he hit a two-run homer and two RBI-singles in a 10-2 win against the Houston Astros. The Pirates headed up the second division, in sixth place at 80-82.
In 1965, Mazeroski won his sixth Gold Glove. He played in 130 games, hitting .271 with nine sacrifice flies (NL third), 54 RBI, a career best 14.5 AB/K (NL second), and a 2.5 dWAR (NL second). Despite his abbreviated time in the field, he finished fourth in the NL with 439 assists, leading the league with 113 double plays and with a .988 fielding percentage. On June 9th, he went 2-for-5 and scored twice. He did not collect any RBI, although he knocked in three unofficially, aided by Astros errors in an 11-3 Pittsburgh win over Houston. Pittsburgh went 90-72, in third place and seven games behind the pennant winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mazeroski won his seventh Gold Glove with a 1.6 dWAR (NL fifth) and finished 23rd in the NL MVP race, leading the National League by appearing in all 162 contests in 1966. He hit .262 with 22 doubles, seven triples, 16 home runs, and a career high 82 RBI. In the field, he led the league with 411 putouts, 538 assists, 161 double plays, and a .992 fielding percentage. On June 18th, he hit three singles and walked, scoring three runs and knocking in two more in a 9-6 win against the Atlanta Braves. The Pirates finished the season in third place in the National League, just three games behind the pennant winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
In 1967, Maz played in his seventh all-star game and won his eighth Gold Glove. For the second season in a row, he led the National League by playing in every game (163). He hit .261 with 130 singles (NL seventh), 25 doubles and 77 RBI, striking out once per 11.6 at bats (NL seventh). As in most seasons, he led the league with 417 putouts, 498 assists, 131 double plays turned, and finished second with a .981 fielding percentage. On June 9th, he hit an RBI single, a two RBI single, a sacrifice fly and also reached on an error, scoring twice in a 16-1 clambake over the Phillies. Pittsburgh finished in the middle of the pack, at 81-81.
In 1968, for the first time in 10 seasons Mazeroski was not honored with any postseason awards or an all-star selection. He hit .251 in 143 contests striking out once in 13.3 at bats (NL fifth). He still ranked highly in the pantheon of National League defensive stalwarts, ranking second in the NL with a 2.6 dWAR and 319 putouts (NL fifth), 467 assists (NL first), 107 double plays (NL second), and a .981 fielding percentage (NL third). Between August 20th and 21st, he reached base in eight of 11 plate appearances (three walks, four singles and a triple) scoring twice and knocking in five as the Pirates took the middle two of a four game series against the Cincinnati Reds, 8-3 and 19-1, respectively. Pittsburgh finished sixth in the NL with an 80-82 record.
1969 would see Mazeroski begin to succumb to the law of diminishing returns, hitting .229 over just 67 games. Conversely, for the first time in his career, he drew more walks (22) than he struck out (16). On May 20th, he reached base on a single, a double, and an error, scoring and knocking in two more in a 6-3 victory over the expansion San Diego Padres. The Pirates finished at 88-74, 12 games behind the Miracle Mets.
In 1970, Mazeroski hit .229 over 112 games, ranking eighth in the NL with a 1.5 dWAR rating. On May 21st, he hit a double, and a home run with three RBI in a 7-6 loss to the Montreal Expos. The Pirates returned to postseason play by finishing at 89-73, five games ahead of the second place Chicago Cubs for the NL East title. Maz went 0-for-2 with two walks, appearing in only one of Pittsburgh’s three losses to the Reds.
1971 would see Mazeroski relegated to more of a utility infielder role, playing at second and third base while appearing in 70 games and hitting .254. On June 26th, he went 4-for-6 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored in an 11-9 track meet over the Phillies. Pittsburgh’s 97-65 record earned them their second NL East crown in a row, seven games in front of the Cardinals. Maz went 1-for-1 in his only plate appearance in the Pirates four game series win over the San Francisco Giants. Although he didn’t have a big role in his second Fall Classic, he still earned his second World Series Title in the Bucs four-games-to-three series win against the Baltimore Orioles (Maz went 0-for-1).
1972 would mark the end of Mazeroski’s major league career. He appeared in 34 games for the Bucs and hit .188. 17 seasons, one team. You won’t be seeing that again anytime soon (I hope Marte and Cutch prove me wrong).
All-Time Statline: 17 seasons, 2163 games, 2016-for-7755, .260/.299/.367, 769 runs, 294 doubles, 62 triples, 138 home runs, 853 RBI, 27 stolen bases, 447 walks, 706 strikeouts, 32.3 wins above replacement.
Next time up: 1978’s NL MVP, seven time all-star, three time Gold Glove and three time Silver Slugger winner, and a BIG part of the family.