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Pirates

Maz honored by Pirates

Joe Rutter
| Saturday, Aug. 11, 2001

Bill Mazeroski turned one final double play Friday night.

Five days after being inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, Mazeroski returned home and showed he could still turn two. Mazeroski participated in two dedication ceremonies in his honor.

First, Mazeroski watched as the street on the west side of PNC Park was named Mazeroski Way. Then, he went inside the ballpark and participated in a 30-minute pregame ceremony.

And he didn't shed a single tear.

Unlike his emotional Hall of Fame acceptance speech, which he cut short after three minutes, Mazeroski kept his composure throughout the proceedings, although his voice cracked while he addressed the fans.

'This is a great evening,' Mazeroski told the sellout crowd. 'Most of you think I can't talk, but I can talk a little bit. I don't get sentimental everywhere. I want to thank the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for giving me the opportunity to play this wonderful game of baseball. I couldn't have played anywhere else. This was home. I met my wife here and everything was fantastic.

'I want to thank the fans of Pittsburgh here. They've been fantastic. They were more excited than I was when I made the Hall of Fame.

'I had a special, special, special career being here in Pittsburgh, and I want to thank you.'

Mazeroski said at a press conference that the tributes put an exclamation on his career.

'I've lived every dream I've ever wanted,' he said. 'How many people can say that• You've got to be pretty fortunate to do all that. All I ever wanted to do was play baseball, and I got to play baseball. I played in (two) World Series, (seven) All-Star games, I got my number retired, and I made the Hall of Fame.

'Then, they have a day for you. There's nothing more than you ask for than that.'

During the pregame ceremony that was held, appropriately, at second base, Mazeroski received nine gifts from the organization. The allotment matched Maz's uniform number that was retired by the Pirates in 1987.

He was given, in order, a videotape of the highlight package that was shown on the scoreboard; a framed photo of PNC Park with the word 'Maz' inscribed in the outfield grass; a diamond ring; a Mazeroski Way street sign; a base with the number 9 written on it; a bronzed glove; an original painting of Maz hitting the game-winning homer in the 1960 World Series; and a 53-inch, big-screen TV.

After taking a lap around the park in a 1960 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, Mazeroski received his ninth gift. It was a baseball that included an inscription from President Bush.

Mazeroski then toed the rubber and used the ball to throw a ceremonial first pitch to one of his sons.

A quiet and unassuming man, Mazeroski said he couldn't wait for the hoopla to subside so his life could return to some semblance of normalcy.

'I used to walk through airports and nobody knew me,' he said. 'Now, I can't do that. I can't sneak around.'

Mazeroski's celebrity grew to new heights Sunday afternoon at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Mazeroski was so choked up with emotion that he cut his speech short after less than three minutes. He never consulted his 12-page speech while weeping openly on stage.

That unprecedented moment earned him an ovation from Hall of Fame members in attendance.

'I tried to apologize for it, but people said not to because it was great and sincere. It was,' Mazeroski said. 'I thought I'd get further along. It's a good thing it happened the way it did. If I had gotten through the whole thing, it would have been boring.

'I was embarrassed, but dozens and dozens of people, some in the Hall of Fame, said it was the greatest speech they had ever heard at the Hall of Fame.'

The notes from his speech remain in Mazeroski's possession and he's contemplating having them published.

'We'll see,' he said. 'I'll think about it for a week or two.'

By that time, Mazeroski might be more comfortable with his renewed popularity. He wants to return to his home in Greensburg, 'hide out' and spend some time fishing.

'When I moved there, everybody at first said, 'There's Bill Mazeroski.' Then, they got used to me and it quieted down. Now, I've got to do it all over again.'

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