When Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski's ceremonial first pitch hit the glove of Pirates manager John Russell before Tuesday's game against the Yankees, the sellout crowd at PNC Park erupted in applause.
It's been 48 years since Mazeroski's walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. The hit lifted the Pirates over the Yankees in what many call the greatest World Series in the history of baseball.
"I've thrown out the first pitch two other times," Mazeroski said minutes before walking out to the mound, "and this is more exciting than any other."
All afternoon PNC Park was hopping.
Festivities were scattered across Federal Street along the ballpark's left-field wall. Thousands of fans were in the stadium hours before the game, watching the visiting team take batting practice. And the roar that followed the Pirates' first-inning double play was deafening.
"It is exciting that it's 48 years and the Yankees are finally coming back to Pittsburgh," Mazeroski said. "That's exciting, and I think Pittsburgh is looking forward to it."
Former Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said, "I'm sure you'll see a lot of excitement around the park. Obviously for us, we'll have a packed house. Trust me, we're not going to rattle them by any means. They're used to playing in front of crowds."
All week leading up to the series, Pirates players downplayed the significance of Tuesday's game. They didn't seem to be impressed that this was the Yankees' first meaningful visit to Pittsburgh since 1960 (the two clubs played an exhibition game at Forbes Field on May 14, 1962).
"It's another game," Mientkiewicz said. "You worry about yourself and you concentrate on your group. We feel that if we play our game, we can beat anybody. You don't get wrapped up in who you play. Once the game starts, anything can happen."
Their manager, on the other hand, put the game in a more historical standpoint.
"Obviously, it's going to be a fun series," Russell said. "It's going to sell out. We're looking forward to that. The biggest thing is we need to be ready to play.
"We know the Yankees are good ballclub and we need to play well to beat them."
Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.