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Pirates' Blass accomplishes rare feat

HOUSTON -- Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Steve Blass has two more game balls to add to his collection.

On Thursday, Blass recorded a pair of holes-in-one during the annual Pirates alumni golf outing at Greensburg Country Club. Several former players, including Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, were at the event.

"It's the first time I signed more autographs than Maz," Blass said. "And it'll probably be the last."

For his first ace of the day, Blass used an 8-iron at the 154-yard, par-3 15th hole. His second hole-in-one came with a 7-iron on No. 7, a 175-yard, par-3 hole. Due to the format, Blass' group of five started on the back nine.

"When he made the first one, I went up and congratulated him," said Jim McGrath, head golf pro at Greensburg Country Club. "When I heard he did it again ... that's unreal. I've had guys make two holes-in-one in the same year, and that's a rare feat in itself."

According to Golf Digest, the odds of a golfer making two holes-in-one in the same round are 1 in 67 million.

Yesterday, the Pirates' clubhouse was buzzing about Blass' golf version of a double play.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that Steve sang 'Happy Birthday' to Arnold Palmer, then two days later he gets two holes-in-one," broadcaster Tim Neverett said.

On Tuesday, the Pirates celebrated Palmer's 80th birthday at PNC Park.

Greg Brown, the team's play-by-play announcer, recalled Blass' first hole-in-one. Blass did it during spring training in 1996 when he, Brown and Bob Walk played a course near Bradenton, Fla.

"They both jumped on top of me," Walk said.

"I was thinking, 'This is what it must have felt like when they won the '71 World Series,' " Brown said. "On the next hole, he hit the (hole-in-one) ball into the weeds, and we never found it."

Blass was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1971 World Series, throwing a four-hitter in a 2-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Blass' baseball career ended a few years later, when he inexplicably lost the ability to consistently throw strikes. Even now, folks around baseball talk about "Steve Blass disease" when a pitcher struggles with his control.

On Thursday, Blass, 67, had no such problems on the links.

"I can finally make some kind of ball go where I want it to," Blass said. "Maybe it's a sign from above that I should start pitching again."

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