When I called Lee Reischbaum, a local Pittsburgh psychologist pictured left in the above photo, he responded: “You won’t believe this! I’m on the phone with Michael Hyde right now!”
Not that this was abnormal. The two are good friends. The fascinating part?
Michael Hyde is the boy on the right in the photo above, captured on April 24, 1960, by a Pittsburgh Press photographer.
Early in that magical 1960 season, 11-year old Reischbaum and 9-year old Michael Hyde enjoyed hot dogs on the third base side at Forbes Field. It was a warm spring day and a familiar scene. The neighbors, whose parents moved from Friendship to Stanton Heights together when they were infants, often attended games with each other.
Reminiscing about the 1950s and ‘60s Pirates takes the two men — now 65 and 63 — back in time. Both can name just about every player on the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates.
“One person I really enjoyed watching was Smoky Burgess, the catcher,” Reischbaum said. “He was a short, pudgy guy. But you could count on him. He was like a Josh Harrison. You put him up to bat, he would hit the ball.
“Left field was Bob Skinner, this long, tall guy who loped. He looked like a giraffe. And when he ran it was like watching a giraffe run across the plains of Africa.”
Hyde’s memory is just as sharp.
“I remember Billy Virdon climbing up the batting screen in centerfield to catch balls,” Hyde said.
Of course, Roberto Clemente played right. The two boys used to pay a dollar or two to sit in the right-field grandstand.
“They were horrible seats. But they were behind Clemente,” Reischbaum said.
Talking about the Forbes Field Pirates reminds them of a different era.
“It was a gigantic part of life, and if we weren’t at the game at the time, we would be sitting up on the porch watching the glow from the steel mills, listening to it on the radio, eating pizza,” Hyde said. “They were amazing, amazing times.”
Today, Reischbaum has a partial season ticket package to PNC Park. But the men agree that Forbes was in a league by itself.
“I have to say nothing could be better than Forbes field. That was just a classic field,” Hyde said.
Although the two don’t go to Pirates games together anymore — Hyde lives North Carolina and is a professor at Wake Forest University — they stay in touch. Reischbaum has hardly left Pittsburgh, earning four degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Still, the two cannot remember a time when they did not know each other.
“Michael and I are an example of the long friendships people in Pittsburgh have,” Reischbaum said.
After spending his whole life here, Reischbaum is understandably fond of Pittsburgh’s small-town feel. He and Hyde grew up on the same street as Steve Greenberg, the former Pirates vice president who spearheaded the construction of PNC Park.
And Reischbaum’s Little League coach was Bob Smizik, the former Post-Gazette sportswriter.
“That’s part of what Pittsburgh is, too. My wife sometimes shakes her head and says, ‘How do you know all these people? How do you stay in touch with all these people?’ It’s part of the city’s culture.”