Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy Jim Leyritz Day!



October 23, 1996: Game 4 of the World Series. The Braves rock Yankee starter Kenny Rogers and lead 6-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They close to within 6-3, but in the top of the 8th, they are 4 outs away from being down 3 games to 1 in the Series, their great season coming to a very disappointing close.

But they get two runners on, and backup catcher Jim Leyritz comes to bat against Braves closer Mark Wohlers. Wohlers throws pitches at 98 and 99 miles per hour, and Leyritz manages to foul them off. Then Wohlers dials it down a little, throwing an 86-mile-per-hour slider. Leyritz, a postseason hero for the Yankees a year earlier with his 15th-inning walkoff homer in the Division Series against Seattle, knocks it over the left-field fence to tie the game.

The Yankees load the bases in the 10th, and third baseman Wade Boggs, whom Torre had benched in favor of Charlie Hayes due to his usual magnificent hitting having failed him, is sent up to pinch-hit. Boggs draws one of the most important walks in baseball history, and it’s 7-6 Yanks. An error makes the final score 8-6 Yanks.

Not since the 1929 Cubs had a team blown a 6-run lead in a Series game. The Yankees were in serious trouble, but now the Series is tied, and anything can happen. In this 1996 season, lots of anythings have already happened for the Yankees.

The Yankees traded him in 1997. He helped the San Diego Padres reach the World Series in 1998 -- against the Yankees. In 1999, the Yankees reacquired him, and he helped them with another World Series, hitting what turned out to be the last home run of the 20th Century in Game 4. This led NBC's Bob Costas to say, "You could send this guy to a resort in the spring and summer, as long as he comes back for October." His career ended in 2000 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Leyritz has had his ups and downs since. In 2006, he admitted that he'd used amphetamines while playing -- legal at the time, and not nearly as performance-enhancing as steroids. (So if you want to invalidate the Yankees' 1996 and 1999 World Championships because of this, you can't.) In 2007, he killed another driver in a drunken crash. He ended up serving 10 days in jail and a year's probation. In 2009, he was charged with domestic violence for hitting his wife, although she later dropped the charges (but also dropped him through divorce -- they had 4 children).

In 2011, he was a coach for the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League. In 2012, he worked for the Yankee front office. He now hosts a radio show in Los Angeles. He is about to turn 51 years old.

Also on October 23, 1996, former Yankee pitcher Bob Grim dies at age 66. The New York native was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1954, and won the World Series with them in 1956.

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October 23, 1845: In a rematch at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey‚ the New York Club (a.k.a. the New York Nine) again beats Brooklyn‚ this time 39-17. The New York Herald publishes a box score of the game showing 12 outs for each side during the game‚ 8 players on each‚ and 3 umpires.

Neither of these clubs leave any records behind, but it is likely that this game is not considered a "New York game," as would be defined over the next few months by the Knickerbocker club.

October 23, 1869: John William Heisman is born in Cleveland. He coached several college football teams, his tenure at Georgia Tech being the best-remembered. Upon his death in 1936, the national player of the year trophy first awarded the year before was named the Heisman Memorial Trophy in his memory.

October 23, 1876: The Chicago Tribune publishes season-ending batting percentages, based on the new method of dividing number of at-bats into number of hits. Roscoe "Ross" Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings (forerunners of the Cubs) leads with a .429 average‚ thanks in part to the fair-foul rule.

The following season‚ the rule is changed so that a ball hit in fair territory and rolls foul before passing first/third base is a foul ball.

October 23, 1886: The American Association Champion St. Louis Browns win the World Championship by beating the National League Champion Chicago White Stockings, 4-3 in 10 innings. This is the beginning of the rivalry between the teams now known as the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, often (but hardly universally) considered the greatest in the National League.

Pitching his 4th game in 6 days‚ John Clarkson holds St. Louis hitless for 6 innings as Chicago builds a 3-0 lead. The Browns tie the game in the 8th‚ and Curt Welch scores the "$15‚000" run on a wild pitch in the 10th. St. Louis wins the entire gate receipts from the series ($13‚920)‚ with each of 12 players getting about $580.

October 23, 1894: Raymond Bloom Bressler is born in Coder, Pennsylvania. “Rube” Bressler was a pitcher-turned-outfielder, and a member of the Cincinnati Reds team that won the 1919 World Series.

Like his teammate, future Hall-of-Famer Edd Roush, he was interviewed by Lawrence S. Ritter for his book The Glory of Their Times. And, like Roush, he insisted that the Reds would have won that Series even if the White Sox hadn’t thrown it. He had a .301 lifetime batting average and batted over .300 5 times.

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October 23, 1905: Gertrude Caroline Ederle is born in Manhattan (although many reference books had said 1906). In 1924, she was part of a U.S. women’s swimming relay team that won an Olympic Gold Medal in Paris. In 1925, she swam the 21 miles from the southern tip of Manhattan Island to New Jersey's Sandy Hook in just 7 hours. She was just getting warmed up.

On August 6, 1926, she not only became the 1st woman to swim the English Channel, but broke the existing men’s record for fastest swim of it, lowering it  from 16½ to 14½ hours. Already hard of hearing, she eventually went deaf, and spent much of her life teaching deaf children to swim. She lived to be 98.

October 23, 1910: The Philadelphia Athletics win the World Series for the 1st time, defeating the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs finish a streak of 4 Pennants in 5 seasons, and the A’s have just begun an equal streak.

Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown comes back to face Jack Coombs‚ who takes a 2-1 lead into the 7th. The A's get to Brown for 5 runs and a 7-2 win. The crowd of 27‚374 at Shibe Park is the Series' largest. The A's .316 batting average is a World Series record.

For this Series‚ cork-center balls were secretly used for the first time‚ and will be used in the majors starting next year. Previously‚ rubber-center balls were used. And yet, it would be another 10 years before what we now call "The Lively Ball Era" began.

The A's already have 3rd baseman Frank Baker, shortstop Jack Barry and 2nd baseman Eddie Collins. But 1st baseman John "Stuffy" McInnis is still a year away from becoming a starter. When he does, those 4 will become known as "The $100,000 Infield." My, how quaint the figure now sounds -- about $1.8 million in today's money, combined, for those 4. Baker is also a year away from the achievement that will get him nicknamed "Home Run" Baker. Collins, Baker, pitcher Albert "Chief" Bender, and manager/part-owner Connie Mack will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The last survivor of the Philadelphia A's teams that won the 1910, '11, '13 and '14 American League Pennants was center fielder Amos Strunk, who lived until 1979. The Phillies, discovering that he was the last living player who'd played at the first game at Shibe Park on April 12, 1909, invited him to attend the last game at what had been renamed Connie Mack Stadium on October 1, 1970. He angrily refused, even though he lived just outside Philadelphia in Drexel Hill, still angry with Mack after 60 years, and not willing to be associated with him in any way, even though Mack himself had been dead for 14 years.

October 23, 1915: Dr. William Gilbert Grace dies of a heart attack. He was 67. I don’t know much about cricket, but the native of Bristol, in England's West County, played at the top level of the sport for a record 44 seasons, from 1865 to 1908, and was regarded as the game’s first modern batsman, and by many as its greatest player ever – which certainly suggests that he was the greatest of its early years.

Although he was a practicing physician, he was usually referred to publicly by his initials, “W.G. Grace,” rather than “Dr. Grace.”

October 23, 1923: Babe Ruth makes a post-season appearance in a Giants uniform‚ as the Giants defeat the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. 9-0. Ruth hits a home run over the right-field roof at the Polo Grounds.

The game is a benefit for John B. Day, the now-destitute owner of the Giants’ franchise from their arrival in New York in 1883 until 1892. He had also run the New York Metropolitans of the 1880s' American Association -- the "original New York Mets." He died in 1925, age 77.

October 23, 1925: John William Carson is born in Corning, Iowa.  Or, as Ed McMahon would have said if he'd been in the delivery room, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!"

Host of The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, Johnny Carson made his share of sports jokes. For example: “Well, it’s fall again, and now, we here in Los Angeles can forget about the Dodgers, and concentrate on forgetting the Rams.”

Every year, around Christmastime, Johnny would break out the ideal toy: Dickie the Stick! Dickie the Stick was a very versatile toy. One time, Johnny demonstrated that, “With Dickie the Stick, you can hit a baseball like Reggie Jackson! Or scratch like Pete Rose!”

Also on this day, Frederick Alexander Shero is born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Freddie the Fog” played 145 games as a defenseman for the New York Rangers between 1947 and 1950, but is much better known as a coach. He led the Philadelphia Flyers to the 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cups – the only ones that franchise has ever won. He also coached the Rangers to the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals, their only trip there between 1972 and 1994.

His philosophy of hockey was simple: “Take the shortest route to the puck, and arrive in ill humor.” Before the clinching Game 6 on May 19, 1974, he told his Flyer players, “We will win together now, and we will walk together forever.” He was right.

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October 23, 1931: The Brooklyn Baseball Club of the National League announces that Wilbert Robinson has been fired as manager, and the club will be called the Robins only in the past tense. Max Carey‚ a no-nonsense sort who had been a star outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates‚ will take over next year. The team reverts to its previous name: The Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson was not yet done, though. He was named the president of the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association, and held that post until his death. He had been involved in professional baseball in one form or another in 50 seasons. And, not long before both men died in 1934, he made peace with his arch-rival, former friend and teammate, John McGraw.

Also on this day, James Paul David Bunning is born in Southgate, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati. He is one of the few pitchers to win at least 100 games in both Leagues, and one of the few to pitch no-hitters in both Leagues, including a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1964. It was on Father’s Day, and he had 6 children. He would go on to have 9.

He served his native Kentucky in both houses of Congress, but in the last few years, the very conservative Republican was one of the Senate’s nuttier voices. Then again, pitching for the Phillies prior to 2007 (except for 1980) could do that to you. He is, however, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Phillies have retired his Number 14.

October 23, 1935: Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey, in what will become known as The Chophouse Massacre. As my father, a Newark native, would say, “No great loss.”

In 1998, Michael Walsh published As Time Goes By, a combination prequel and sequel to the film Casablanca, authorized by the estate of the film's writers, the twins Julius and Philip Epstein. In it, Walsh fictionalizes this shootout as being part of the reason Yitzik "Rick" Baline has to flee the United States and become saloonkeeper/casino operator "Rick Blaine."

October 23, 1939, 75 years ago: Zane Grey dies of heart failure in Altadena, California. He was 67. He had played minor-league baseball, and once he failed at that, he became a sportswriter. Eventually, he became a writer of Western novels, including Last of the Plainsmen, and was a favorite of another frustrated athlete, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. On M*A*S*H, Colonel Sherman T. Potter (played by Harry Morgan) was also a big fan of Grey's novels.

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October 23, 1940: Edson Arantes do Nascimento is born in Três Corações (Three Hearts), Minas Gerais, Brazil. The most famous native of his country, we know him as Pelé. If he is not the greatest soccer player who ever lived, he is certainly the most celebrated.

He helped Brazil win the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He might have won it in 1966, too, if the Argentina players hadn't literally kicked him out of it. He led Santos, the largest club in the city of Sao Paulo, to 10 championships of the State of Sao Paulo between 1958 and 1973, 5 national tournament titles and the Copa Libertadores (the South American equivalent to the UEFA Champions League) in 1962 and 1963.

He played his final 3 seasons in America, with the New York Cosmos, playing home games at Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island in 1975, Yankee Stadium in The Bronx in 1976, and Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1977, leading them to the NASL Championship that season.

When he got the entire stadium to “Say it with me, three times: Love! Love! Love!” prior to his testimonial match on October 1, 1977 -- playing the 1st half for the Cosmos, and the 2nd half for Santos -- heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who liked to call himself “The Greatest” and generally refused to take a back seat to anyone, said, “Now I understand: He is greater than me.”

These kids today who say that Lionel Messi is the best player ever? They don't know. These kids today who say Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player ever? He's not even the best Ronaldo the game has ever seen. (Or even the 2nd-best, if you count Ronaldinho.) They don't know: Pelé is the greatest. It's why the Brazilians call him O Rei: The King.

His greatest accomplishment is that he got our nation, notorious for insularity and not caring about what goes on in the rest of the world, to care about soccer for the first time -- it only lasted for a few years, but it provided the building blocks for American soccer fandom today. American soccer fans may not owe him as much as Brazilian fans do, but we're a strong 2nd in that regard.

Also on this day, Eleanor Louise Greenwich is born in Brooklyn. With her then-husband, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep, Mountain High", and about a jillion other rock-and-roll classics.

In 1964 alone, 17 different songs that she and Barry wrote appeared on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100. The only songwriters, individuals or in a team, that’s ever topped that in the rock-and-roll era (1955 to the present) also did it that year: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

She discovered Neil Diamond, and sang backing vocals on several of Diamond's hit songs. In the 1980s, her life and songs were turned into a Broadway musical titled Leader of the Pack. She died of a heart attack on August 23, 2009, age 68.

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October 23, 1945: Brooklyn Dodger president Branch Rickey announces the signing of Jackie Robinson by the Dodger organization. Robinson signs a contract for 1946 for the Dodgers’ top farm team, the Montreal Royals of the International League.

Rickey also signs Negro League pitcher Johnny Wright on this day. But after playing with Montreal in 1946 -- as much to be a roommate and companion for Robinson as for any talent he might have had -- Rickey realized (as did Robinson) that, unlike Robinson, Wright did not have the temperament to make it in white pro ball.

He returned to the Negro Leagues with the Homestead Grays for 1947, retired after the 1948 season, worked in a gypsum plant, and died in 1990, at the age of 73.

October 23, 1949: Michael Walsh is born in Rochester, New York. Author of the aforementioned As Time Goes By, he is also the author of the novel And All the Saints, and several nonfiction books about music.

Sadly, he is a political conservative, having written for National Review and Breitbart.com. I used to appreciate National Review: Even though I agreed with little in its pages, it usually had good writing, reflecting the character of its co-founder and longtime editor, William F. Buckley Jr. Since WFB died, however, it's like they are no longer dedicated to truth, only to political gain.

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October 23, 1962: Doug Flutie is born in Manchester, Maryland, later moving to Melbourne Beach, Florida and Natick, Massachusetts. Almost singlehandedly, he turned Boston College from a pretender to Division I-A grandeur into an Eastern football powerhouse.

Had there been a Big East Conference in 1984, BC would have won it, and even without the thrilling 47-45 day-after-Thanksgiving game in the rain which he won with a last-second pass to his college roommate Gerard Phelan, Flutie would likely have won that year’s Heisman Trophy.

But the NFL balked at him because of his height, 5-foot-9¾. The USFL’s New Jersey Generals tried him out, and then he was signed by the Chicago Bears, desperate for someone to step in for the injured Jim McMahon. His hometown New England Patriots – their 60,000-seat former home of Foxboro Stadium was used by BC for games too small for their on-campus Alumni Stadium, then half that size – also gave him a shot.

But it was in Canada where he achieved professional success, winning the Grey Cup with the Vancouver-based British Columbia Lions in 1992 and the Toronto Argonauts in 1996 and 1997. He was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player 6 times in 7 years from 1991 to 1997.

Finally, in 1998, when he was 36, the NFL could ignore him no longer, and he got the Buffalo Bills into the Playoffs. In 1999, he got the Bills into the Playoffs again, but coach Wade Phillips – who said he was acting on the orders of owner Ralph Wilson – benched him in favor of Rob Johnson for a Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans won, on the play known as the “Music City Miracle.”

The Bills have not made the Playoffs since, leading to talk of a “Flutie Curse”; indeed, the Bills are the only NFL team not to have qualified for the Playoffs in the 21st Century. However, they have not gone as far as the schedule will let them since the 1965 AFL Championship, losing the ’66 AFL Title Game and 4 AFC Title Games, so if there really is a curse on the Bills, it goes back a lot further than Flutie.

He went to the San Diego Chargers, and closed his career on January 1, 2006 with his hometown Patriots. In his first attempted kick in NFL play, Flutie executed a dropkick for a field goal, the only one in NFL play since 1941.

He is now a motivational speaker, and the drummer for the Flutie Brothers Band. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and is the only non-Canadian in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. A short stretch of road connecting the Natick Mall in his hometown of Natick and the Shoppers' World Mall in Framingham is named Flutie Pass.

October 23, 1965: Alois Terry Leiter is born in Toms River, New Jersey. Al and his brother Mark Leiter, who also became a major league pitcher, grew up in nearby Berkeley Township and attended Central Regional High School. He both began and ended his career with the Yankees, won World Series with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993, another with the Florida Marlins in 1997, and a National League Pennant with the Mets, the team he grew up rooting for, in 2000.

He won Game 1 of the 1993 World Series and hit a double in the game. He started Games 1 and 5 in the 2000 World Series, stood to win Game 1 before the bullpen blew it, and gave it everything he had in Game 5 before the Yankees won it. He pitched a no-hitter for the Marlins in 1996, just 3 days before Dwight Gooden pitched his for the Yankees. He won 162 games in his career, despite much of his early career being riddled with injuries. He has since become a broadcaster.

Also on this day, Christopher Robison is born in Pittsburgh. Writing under the name Augusten Burroughs, he is the author of the books Running With Scissors and Dry.

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October 23, 1975: Keith Adam Van Horn is born in Fullerton, Orange County, California. A 3-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year with the University of Utah, he played for several teams, but was generally considered to be a lazy player. He did reach the NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets in 2002 and the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

October 23, 1976: Ryan Rodney Reynolds is born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadian actor starred in The Proposal with Sandra Bullock – ironically, as an American who marries Bullock’s Canadian character so she doesn’t get deported. Casting him as the superhero Green Lantern was a really bad idea.

As far as I know, he has nothing to do with sports. He used to be married to Scarlett Johansson, but no longer: He went from being a member of the Lucky Bastards Club to being a member of the Damn Fools Club. But he has gone back, having married Blake Lively.

October 23, 1979: At a hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota, not far from Metropolitan Stadium, then home of the Twins and the Vikings, Billy Martin is involved in a barroom altercation with Joseph Cooper‚ a marshmallow salesman from the Chicago suburbs. Cooper requires 15 stitches to close a gash in his lip. Billy’s 2nd tenure as Yankee manager soon ends.

Somehow, I think Billy, despite his small frame, got seen as a bully because Cooper has always been listed as "a marshmallow salesman." I can find no record of what happened to Cooper after his fight with Billy. He was 52 years old at the time, so, if he's still alive, he'd be 86 now -- not impossible, but unlikely.

What was Billy doing in Minnesota, anyway? He didn't live there, he wasn't managing the Twins (though he did, in the 1969 season, getting them to the AL West title before being fired due to, you guessed it, a fight), and the season was over, so the Yankees didn't have to play the Twins at that time.

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October 23, 1981: Despite an uncharacteristic poor performance (9 hits‚ 7 walks), Los Angeles’ sensational Mexican rookie Fernando Valenzuela goes the distance in the Dodgers' 5-4 come-from-behind win in Game 3 of the World Series over the Yankees. The deciding run scores on a double play.

Yankee starter Dave Righetti lasts just 2 innings‚ walking 2 and allowing 5 hits‚ but it is reliever George Frazier who takes the loss. Ron Cey hits a 3-run homer for the Dodgers. Starters Valenzuela and Righetti are the 1st 2 Rookies of the Year, of any position, to oppose each other in the World Series since Willie Mays and Gil McDougald in 1951.

Also on this day, recently fired Met manager Joe Torre signs a 3-year contract to manage the Atlanta Braves. This tenure will be a bit more successful than his time in Flushing. However, after this World Series, the Yankees will not reach the Series again, and Torre will still not have reached it as either a player or a manager, until they come together 15 years later.

October 23, 1983: A suicide bomber kills 241 U.S. Marines in their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It remains the worst 1-day loss for the U.S. armed forces since June 21, 1945, the end of the Battle of Okinawa.

Also on this day, NBC newscaster Jessica Savitch is killed in a car crash along the Delaware River in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She was 36.

October 23, 1986: Game 5 of the World Series. Bruce Hurst outduels Dwight Gooden, and the Red Sox beat the Mets, 4-2. The Series goes back to Shea, and the Sox only have to win 1 of the last 2 to win their first World Championship in 68 years. The Mets are 1 loss away from one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of baseball.

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October 23, 1991: The Atlanta Braves even the Series at 2 games apiece with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins in Game 4 at Fulton County Stadium. Journeyman catcher Jerry Willard's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th is the deciding blow. Terry Pendleton and Lonnie Smith stroke solo homers for the Braves‚ while Mike Pagliarulo does the same for the Twins.

October 23, 1993: Game 6 of the World Series, at the SkyDome in Toronto.  The Toronto Blue Jays lead the Philadelphia Phillies 3 games to 2, but trail 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th.

Mitch Williams comes in to close it out for the Phils, but allows 2 runners, before Joe Carter comes to bat. Carter would go on to hit 396 home runs in regular season play, so he was no Bucky Dent, or Bernie Carbo, or Geoff Blum. He hit more home runs than Chris Chambliss, or Bobby Thomson, or Kirk Gibson, or Carlton Fisk. So giving up a home run to him was no shame, though you don't want to lose the World Series on any pitch to any player.

Carter sends a screaming liner down the left-field line, just clearing the fence, and just fair. Home run. Toronto 8, Philadelphia 6. The Jays have won back-to-back World Championships.

Only Bill Mazeroski, who ended a World Series Game 7 with a home run in 1960, has ever hit a bigger home run than this.

Williams, a.k.a. the Wild Thing, has often been blamed for losing the Series. But it was Game 6, so if the Phils had won, they still would have had to play Game 7, on the road, against the defending World Champions. The rest of the Philly bullpen hadn't been much better in this Series. Where the Phils really lost the Series was in Game 4, when they blew a 14-9 lead at Veterans Stadium and lost 15-14. The Jays were very experienced, already accomplished, at home, and the better team.  Besides, the Phils wouldn't have gotten into the World Series without Williams.

When the Vet closed in 2003, Williams was one of the in-uniform attendees, and was cheered, rather than subjected to the well-known venom of "the Philadelphia Boo-Birds." All was forgiven.

And in the 21 years since, the Phillies have played 46 postseason games. The Jays, none. Indeed, now that the Kansas City Royals have won a Pennant, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have made the Playoffs in back-to-back years, not only have the Jays gone longer than any other team without winning the Pennant (unless you count the Seattle Mariners having never won one, or the Montreal Expos with the Washington Nationals), they've gone longer without making the Playoffs than any other team.

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October 23, 1995: The Yankees name Bob Watson their new General Manager‚ replacing Gene Michael, who becomes Director of Scouting. Now, they just need a new manager, to replace the recently resigned Buck Showalter.

Also on this day, plans are approved for a new $320 million stadium, with a retractable roof and real grass, for the Seattle Mariners. By mid-1999, they will be out of the ugly gray Kingdome, and in the shiny new Safeco Field, and their long-term stay in the Pacific Northwest will be secure.

October 23, 1997: Rookie Livan Hernandez wins for the 2nd time as Florida holds off Cleveland for an 8-7 victory in Game 5. Down 8-4‚ the Indians fight back with 3 in the 9th, but strand the tying runner on base. Moises Alou hits a 3-run homer for Florida‚ while Sandy Alomar matches him for the Tribe.

This Series’ games in Cleveland are 3 of the 4 coldest in Series history. They are the first Series games to have been played in a snowfall since 1906. And, despite the Indians having reached the postseason in 1998, ’99, 2001 and ’07, and the Cincinnati Reds doing so in 1999 (sort of), 2010 and 2012, this Game 5 remains the last World Series game played in the State of Ohio.

October 23, 1999: The Yankees beat the Braves‚ 4-1‚ to take the opening game of the World Series. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez holds Atlanta to 1 hit in 7 innings for the victory. The Braves' only run comes on a 4th inning homer by Chipper Jones.

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October 23, 2001: Game 5 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. After 116 regular season wins, breaking the American League record and tying the major league record, the Seattle Mariners are down 3 games to 1. Their manager, former Yankee outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, has predicted, “We’re going back to Seattle for Game 6.”

Sweet Lou was a terrific player for the Yankees, and was often a good manager, but as a prophet, he was no Joe Namath or Mark Messier. More like Patrick Ewing: The prediction blows up in his face. Yankees 12, Mariners 3.

Yankee Fans, feeling every bit as arrogant as Mariner fans had all season – but unlike M’s fans, they had earned it – chant “One-sixteen! One-sixteen! One-sixteen!” And “Over-rated!” And, for the Mariners’ sensational Japanese “rookie” Ichiro Suzuki, “Sayonara!” It is the Yankees’ 38th American League Pennant, and one the City of New York really needed after the 9/11 attacks, 6 weeks earlier.

October 23, 2002: Adolph Green dies at age 87. With Betty Comden, he wrote several Broadway musicals. The songs they wrote include “New York, New York” (as in, “It’s a wonderful town” – sometimes “It’s a hell of a town”) and “Theme From New York, New York” (as in, “Start spreadin’ the news... “)

October 23, 2003: The Florida Marlins move to 1 game away from a World Championship as they defeat the Yankees‚ 6-4‚ to take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the World Series. Winning pitcher Brad Penny's 2-run single gives Florida a lead they never surrender. Jason Giambi hits a pinch-hit homer in the 9th to bring the Yankees within 2 runs‚ but Bernie Williams' attempt for a game-tying homer falls short at the warning track in center field.

The Yankees were a run away from going up 3 games to 1 last night, before Jeff Weaver screwed up. Now, the Yankees are in deep trouble.

October 23, 2004, 10 years ago: The Boston Red Sox take the opener of the World Series with an 11-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Mark Bellhorn's 2-run 8th inning homer is the deciding blow, as Boston bounces back after blowing an early 7-2 lead. David Ortiz also homered for the Sox‚ while Larry Walker connected for St. Louis.

Also on this day, Robert Merrill dies at age 87. The legendary Brooklyn-born opera singer had been the Yankees’ National Anthem singer in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. On Old-Timers’ Day, he would walk up to the microphone wearing Number 1½.

Also on this day, Bill Nicholson dies at age 85. No, not the 1940s and ‘50s slugging outfielder known as “Swish” for his many strikeouts. This was the longtime player and manager of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of North London. “Spurs” have won just 2 League Championships in their history, in 1951 with “Bill Nick” as a player and in 1961 with him as their manager.

He also managed them to the FA Cup in 1961 (making them the first English team in the 20th Century to accomplish “The Double”), 1962 and 1967; the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, and the UEFA Cup in 1972. But he resigned early in the 1974-75 season, "burned out" (as Dick Vermeil would later say when he left the Philadelphia Eagles job) over several things, including the disgraceful behavior of Tottenham fans in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, when they lost the UEFA Cup Final to host club Feyenoord, and causing Spurs to become the 1st British club to get banned from Europe. (Much like George Steinbrenner's 1990 ban from baseball, it was permanent, but they were reinstated after 2 years.)

October 23, 2005: Scott Posednik's walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off Brad Lidge gives the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory over the Houston Astros, and a 2-games-to-0 lead in the World Series. Paul Konerko's grand slam in the 7th puts Chicago in a short-lived lead, before Morgan Ensberg hits a solo homer for Houston.

Lidge had already given up a game-losing homer to Albert Pujols in the NLCS before the Astros won the Pennant in the next game. Lidge would recover -- but not with the Astros.

October 23, 2006: Extending his scoreless streak to 24 1/3 postseason innings, dating back to 2003 with the Twins, Kenny Rogers blanks the Cardinals for 8 innings, when the Tigers win 3-1, to even the World Series at a game apiece. The "Gambler's" recent play-off success comes under suspicion as TV cameras spot an unknown dark spot on the right-hander's pitching hand in the 1st inning, which he claims to be only mud.

October 23, 2013: Game 1 of the World Series. Having rallied their city following the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April, much as the Yankees did for New York after the 9/11 attack in 2001, the "Boston Strong" Red Sox beat the Cardinals 8-1.

David Ortiz, the big fat lying cheating steroid user, hits yet another postseason home run. But a more obvious cheat is that of Sox starter Jon Lester, who was caught with a foreign substance on his glove. He claimed it was rosin, which is legal, and the Cards chose not to press the matter. But this is a New England sports team, so are you going to believe them?

This was the Sox' 9th straight win in World Series play. The record is 14, set by the Yankees from  1996 to 2000. The Yankees had also won 12 straight from 1927 to 1932 (before losing in Game 1 in 1936), and 10 straight from 1937 to 1941. The Cincinnati Reds won 9 straight from 1975 to 1990, and haven't appeared in the Series again, so, technically, their streak is still intact.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Be a Devils Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2014-15 Edition


Next Tuesday night, the Devils visit Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.

I like Pittsburgh as a city very much. I admire the Steelers. I respect the Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. But I loathe the Penguins.

Why? Because I have taste. And because Commissioner Gary Bettman loves Crosby and has fixed games for him.

Before You Go. Pittsburgh is at roughly the same latitude as New York City, so roughly the same weather can be expected. As always, check out the newspaper website (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) before you head out. They're predicting low 80s for the afternoons and mid-60s for the nights, and humid, all 4 days of this weekend, and rain is possible on Friday and Saturday.

Pittsburgh is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to adjust your timepieces.

Tickets. The Penguins are averaging 18,618 fans per home game. That's more than a sellout, and it includes standing-room. This has been the case pretty much since Mario Lemieux arrived 30 years ago (has it been that long already?), and it will be the case as long as Crosby is around.

Penguins tickets are also insanely expensive. In the lower bowl, you can expect to pay at least $190 between the goals and $111 behind them. In the upper bowl, at least $96 between the goals and $75 behind them.

Getting There. I'm not going to kid you here: There’s only one way to do so, and that’s by car. You do not want to fly, because you’ll end up spending over a thousand bucks to go less than 400 miles, and the airport is out in Imperial, Pennsylvania, near Coraopolis and Aliquippa - it’s almost as close to West Virginia and Ohio as it is to downtown Pittsburgh.

You do not want to take the train, because the Amtrak schedule just doesn’t work. It's relatively cheap at the moment, $144 round-trip. But the Pennsylvanian leaves Penn Station at 10:52 AM, and doesn't get to Pittsburgh's station of the same name until 8:05 PM, after the first pitch. And there's no overnight train that would leave at, say, 11 PM and arrive at 8 AM. And going back, the Pennsylvanian leaves at 7:30 AM and arrives back at 4:50 PM. No good.

Greyhound isn’t much better, but at least you have options. There are 14 buses a day between New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh, but it's a bit expensive considering the distance, $149 round-trip (though advanced purchase can get it down to $48). Leaving at 6:15 AM on Tuesday will get you to downtown Pitt at 5:55, giving you just enough time to get to a hotel and then get to the arena for a 7:00 start. The Greyhound station is at 55 11th Street, across Liberty Avenue from the Amtrak station.

The only sensible way is by car – especially if there’s more than one of you going and you can take turns driving. It’s 359 miles from the Prudential Center in downtown Newark to the CONSOL Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Take any highway that will get you to Interstate 78: For most of you, this will be the New Jersey Turnpike (Exit 14), the Garden State Parkway (Exit 142), or Interstate 287 (Exit 21). Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation’s first superhighway, opening in 1940.

You’ll be on it for another 3 hours – Pennsylvania is huge compared to a lot of Northeastern States. The political consultant James Carville, who got Bob Casey Sr., father of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., elected Governor in 1986, says, “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle.” He wasn’t kidding: Between Philly and Pitt, it is very, very rural, hence the nickname “Pennsyltucky.” It certainly explains the State’s love of football: The Philadelphia Eagles, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penn State and high school ball.

You’ll take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 57, the signs showing I-376 and U.S. 22 – the same Route 22 you might know from New Jersey, which I-78 was designed to replace – and the sign will say “Pittsburgh.” Check this photo.

There will be several exits on I-376, the Penn-Lincoln Parkway, into the city of Pittsburgh. Most likely, if your hotel (which I hope you’ve reserved before you left) is downtown, you’ll take Exit 71B, “Second Avenue.” If you're not staying over, and just going for the game, take Exit 72B for Boulevard of the Allies. Make a right on Gist Street, then a left on Fifth Avenue. The arena will soon be on your right.

From North Jersey, you will probably need almost 6 hours just for driving. I recommend at least 2 rest stops, preferably after crossing over into Pennsylvania around Easton, and probably around either Harrisburg or Breezewood. So the whole thing, assuming nothing goes wrong, will probably take about 8 hours. In other words, if you're driving in just for the game, and leaving right thereafter, you should leave New Jersey at 10 AM to arrive by 6 PM, and then leave at 10 PM to arrive back home around 6 AM. (Again, I recommend getting a hotel and staying over. After all, you're not going to be in much shape to go to work on Wednesday morning, so you might as well ask for two days' off.)

Once In the City. Pittsburgh has, by American standards, a long history. It was settled by the French as Fort Duquesne (Doo-KANE) in 1717, and captured by the British in 1758, and renamed Fort Pitt, for Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder. The General who captured it, John Forbes (for whom the Pirates' former park Forbes Field would be named), was a Scotsman, and he intended the town that grew around it to be named "Pittsburgh" -- pronounced "Pitts-burrah," like the Scottish capital Edinburgh. From 1891 to 1911, the H was dropped from the city's name, and this was reflected on the Pirates' uniforms, which sometimes read "PITTSBURG," as seen on the famous 1909 "T-206" baseball card of Honus Wagner. But the Germanic "Pittsburg" went back to the Scottish "Pittsburgh," while keeping the Germanic pronunciation. (There is, however, a town named Pittsburg, with no H, in Kansas.)

With this long history, a great architectural diversity, and a dramatic skyline with lots of neat-looking skyscrapers, Pittsburgh looks like a much bigger city than it actually is. While the metropolitan area is home to 2.7 million people, the city proper has only 306,000, having lost over half its population since the nearby steel mills, coal mines, and other factories closed starting in the 1970s.

The reduction of blue-collar jobs led people to take comfort in their sports teams, especially in the 1970s. Either the Pirates or the Steelers made the Playoffs in every year of that decade, both of them did so in 4 of those 10 years, and the University of Pittsburgh (or just "Pitt," though they don't like that nickname at that school) had an undefeated National Championship season in 1976. The Pirates won 2 World Series in the decade, the Steelers 4 Super Bowls in 6 years.

Calendar year 1979, with spillover into January 1980, was an annus mirabilis, in which the "Steel Curtain" won Super Bowl XIII in January, the "Bucs" (or "Buccos," or "Lumber Company," or "Family") won the World Series in October, and the Steelers then went on to win Super Bowl XIV, with the Pirates' Willie Stargell and the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw being named Co-Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated and the city government advertising itself as the City of Champions. The the ABA's Pipers were gone early the decade, but the city got a fictional basketball team because, in 1979, it was considered cool enough to film a sports movie there: The astrology-inspired The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, starring Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

(It was also at that time that, in order to ride the Pirates/Steelers bandwagon, the NHL's Penguins switched their colors from navy blue and yellow to black and gold, but it was several more years before they became a championship contender.)

While the loss of industry did mean a sharp, long-term decline, the financial, computer and health care industries opened new doors, and Pittsburgh is very much a now and tomorrow city. And they love their sports, having won 14 World Championships in 19 trips to their sports’ finals (which gives them a .737 winning percentage in finals, the best of any city of at least 3 teams) -- and that doesn't count the 9 National Championships won by Pitt football, the Negro League Pennants won by the Homestead Grays (10) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (4), or the 1968 ABA Championship won by the Pipers.

Pittsburgh has numbered streets, moving east from Point State Park, where the Allegheny River to the north and the Monongahela River to the south merge to become the Ohio River -- hence the name of the former Pittsburgh sports facility, Three Rivers Stadium. North-south streets start their numbers at the Monongahela, and increase going north.

There is a subway system in the city, and it's free within the downtown triangle. But outside that area, a one-zone ride is $2.50, and a two-zone ride is $3.75. A 75-cent surcharge is added during rush hour. These fares are the same for city buses, although they're not free within the downtown triangle.

The sales tax in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 6 percent, and Allegheny County (including the City of Pittsburgh) pushes it to 7 percent.

The old Pittsburgh Press, once the 2nd-largest newspaper in Pennsylvania behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, went out of business due to a strike in 1992, before the city's remaining daily, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, brought it back in online form in 2011. That strike gave Richard Mellon Scaife, the current head of the legendary Pittsburgh metals and banking family, a chance to turn a local suburban paper into the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, spouting his right-wing fanatic views. It may be that the P-G brought back the Press to give the city 2 liberals voices against the 1 nutjob voice.

Going In. The CONSOL Energy Center -- the 1st word always in ALL CAPS -- is right downtown. The official address is 1001 Fifth Avenue. It was built across Centre Avenue from the Penguins' previous home, the Civic Arena, now demolished, and its address of 66 Mario Lemieux Place stricken from the U.S. Postal Service's records.

If you're driving in, parking is remarkably cheap for a big-league sporting event: It can be had at most nearby lots for as little as $6.75.

The new arena seats 18,087 for Penguins and other hockey games, including the 2013 NCAA Championships (a.k.a. the Frozen Four); and 19,000 for basketball, for college tournaments and, in the unlikely event the NBA returns to Pittsburgh, the pros. The building and opening of this arena means that, for perhaps the first time in franchise history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure. The rink is laid out north-to-south. The Penguins attack twice toward the north end of the arena.

Food. Pittsburgh is a city of many ethnicities, and most of them love to eat food that really isn’t good for you: Irish, Italian, Polish, Greek, and African-Americans with Soul Food and Barbecue. (Yes, I did mean to capitalize those last two. The styles deserve it.)

Unfortunately, the kind of variety available at the Pirates' PNC Park isn't nearly as available at the New Igloo. The legendary Primanti Brothers sandwich makers have a stand at Section 119, and Section 116 has several healthy options. There are Dairy Queen stands at sections 105 and 234. But there's not much specialization. Pretty much anything you can eat at a sporting event is sold there, though.

Team History Displays. A statue of star-turned-owner Mario Lemieux is in front of the arena. Because the Penguins are the arena's only major tenant, their championship banners are hung over center ice: The 1991, 1992 and 2009 Stanley Cups; the 1991, 1992, 2008 and 2009 Conference Championships; and the Division titles.

As the Devils do, the Penguins hang their retired numbers along the side. In their case, 1 on each side: 21, Michael Briere; and 66, Mario Lemieux. Most likely, the 68 of Jaromir Jagr will be retired when he retires from hockey -- which he will do, eventually. And, of course, the 87 of Sidney Crosby will also go up there.

The Penguins have a team Hall of Fame, but I don't know where the display is at the arena. The 18 current members are:

* From the pre-Cup years, 1967 to 1990: General manager Jack Riley, center Syl Apps Jr. (son of the Toronto Maple Leafs legend), right wings Jean Pronovost and Rick Kehoe, defenseman Dave Burrows and goaltender Les Binkley.

* From their 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup Champions: Team owner Edward J. DeBartolo (father of the former San Francisco 49ers owner), longtime front office executive Elaine Heufelder (one of the few women with her name stamped on the Stanley Cup), general manager Craig Patrick (of hockey's first family, grandson of Lester Patrick), head coach "Badger Bob" Johnson, center Mario Lemieux, right wing Joe Mullen, defensemen Paul Coffey and Ulf Samuelsson, broadcaster Mike Lange, organized Vince Lascheid, and locker room attendants Anthony Caggiano and Frank Sciulli.

So far, no members of their 2009 Cup winners have been elected. And, as I said, Jaromir Jagr has not been. Oddly, neither has center Ron Francis, nor defenseman Larry Murphy, both of whom have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and were instrumental in the Cup wins.

Lascheid was the organist at Three Rivers Stadium and the Civic Arena. Much like Gladys Goodding at Ebbets Field and the old Madison Square Garden, and John Kiley at Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, Lascheid was the answer to a trivia question: Who was the only man to play for the Pirates, the Steelers and the Penguins?

Stuff. The PensGear store is on the ground floor, on the northwest corner of the arena. Smaller souvenir stands are all around the arena.

There aren't many books about the team. Right after the 2nd of the back-to-back Cup wins, Dave Molinari published Best In the Game: The Turbulent Story of the Pittsburgh Penguins' Rise to Stanley Cup Champions. As for their more recent triumph, Andrew Podnieks wrote Year of the Penguins: Celebrating Pittsburgh's 2008-09 Stanley Cup Championship Season.

Highlight DVDs from the 3 Stanley Cup seasons are available. The NHL also produced a Pittsburgh Penguins: 10 Greatest Games video, but it was released before the 2009 Cup win. Not surprisingly, the 1991 and 1992 Cup clinchers are included. Also unsurprisingly, there are no games in the set from before Lemieux arrived in 1984. The set includes Lemieux's 5-goal-3-assist Playoff game against the Flyers in 1989, another 5-goal game from Number 66 clinching their NHL record 16th straight win in 1993, their 4-overtime Playoff epic with the Washington Capitals in 1996, Lemieux ending his 2nd retirement to score against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000, Darius Kasparaitis' overtime winner against the Buffalo Sabres in a Playoff Game 7 in 2001, and, to your dismay and mine, 2 games against the Devils: The 1991 Playoff clincher and a 2006 game with Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, none more than 20 years old, all scoring to beat our boys.

During the Game. If you were a Flyers fan going into the CONSOL Energy Center, or a Cleveland Browns fan or (a little less so) a Baltimore Ravens fan, going into Heinz Field to face the Steelers, you might be in a bit of trouble. But as a Devils fan going into CONSOL,you’ll be fine. You can wear your Scarlet &Black gear without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you.

They're certainly not going to hurt you if you don't provoke them. Just don’t say anything bad about Lemieux or the Steelers, and you should be fine. And, for God’s sake (not to mention that of its inventor, the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope), do not mock or deface The Terrible Towel, that great symbol of Steelerdom. You might not see any at a Penguins game (though you may hear a stray chant of "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!" -- it's been known to happen at Penguins, Pirates and Pitt football games), but they take that particular item very seriously, even pointing out that other NFL teams have lost after mocking it, leading to the phrase “The Curse of the Terrible Towel.”

(The Cleveland Indians are in the American League, Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team, and Cleveland doesn’t have an NHL team, so the Steelers-Browns dynamic doesn’t cross over into any other sports, the way Yankees-Red Sox becomes Jets-Patriots or Knicks-Celtics or Rangers-Bruins – or Mets-Phillies becomes Giants-Eagles or Rangers-Flyers. Being put in a separate Conference, let alone Division, and being mostly terrible since coming into existence, Ohio’s NHL team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, doesn’t generate much heat from Penguin fans. Even Penn State-Ohio State isn’t that big a rivalry. Pitt-Penn State is another story, as is Pitt-West Virginia, “the Backyard Brawl.”)

The Penguins mascot is named Iceburgh, and he looks nothing like either of the logos the team has worn over the years. Indeed, he looks more like something you'd find on The Muppet Show than at a hockey game. Like N.J. Devil, he wears Number 00.

Jeff Jimerson sings the National Anthem for the Penguins, and did so in the 1995 film Sudden Death.
The Penguins' goal song is "Song 2" (a.k.a. "Whoo Hoo!") by Blur. As far as I can tell, the Pens don't have a postgame victory song, but I don't think the current Pirates would mind if they adopt the 1979 Bucs' anthem, "We Are Family" by Sister Sledge.

After the Game. There are several sports-themed bars near the arena, many of which date to the glory days at the Civic Arena. Souper Bowl is at 5th & Washington, while Tailgaters is at Centre & Crawford. However, the amount of establishments around the arena is limited by the parking lot where the old arena used be on the north, and the Catholic (and therefore, at least officially, discouraging of drinking) Duquesne University campus to the south.

South of downtown, across the Monongahela River on the South Shore – or, they say in Pittsburghese, the Sou’side – is Station Square, an indoor and outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. This is a popular gathering place, although as New Yorkers you’ll be hopelessly outnumbered. When I first visited Pittsburgh in 2000 (I saw the Pirates hit 4 homers at Three Rivers but lose to the Cards thanks to a steroid-aided mammoth blast by Mark McGwire), there was a restaurant with a Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame at Station Square, but as far as I can tell it is no longer there.

I searched the Internet, but could not find any bars in the Pittsburgh area that cater to New Yorkers. Usually, I can at least find something that welcomes Giant or Jet fans on their gamedays, but I guess the Steelers are so ingrained in Western Pennsylvania culture that establishing an outpost for “foreign fans” is anathema to them. (Anathema? Didn’t Rocky Graziano knock him out in Buffalo? No, wait, that was Quinella.)

When I did this piece last year, I was told by a local that the Brillo Box was owned by a New Yorker, but, not having been to Pittsburgh since, I cannot confirm this. And one source I found to back it up calls it a "hipster" place. If "yinz" (Pittsburghese for "youse") want to take your chances, it's at 4104 Penn Avenue at Main Street. Number 88 bus from downtown

Sidelights. Pittsburgh has a long and storied sports history, if a real hit-and-miss one. As I mentioned, the Civic Arena was across the street from the new arena, between Bedford Avenue, Crawford Street, Centre Avenue and Washington Place. The official mailing address for "the Igloo" in its last few years was 66 Mario Lemieux Place.

Built in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, it had a retractable roof before additional seating made such retraction impossible. It hosted the American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Hornets from then until 1967, and then the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins until 2010. It was officially known as the Mellon Arena from 1999 to 2010, when the naming rights expired.

The Pittsburgh Pipers, later renamed the Condors, played there, and won the first ABA Championship in 1968, led by Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins. The Beatles played there on September 14, 1964. (And when the new arena opened on August 18, 2010, it was ex-Beatle Paul McCartney who played the opening night.) Elvis Presley sang there on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976. It was demolished in 2011.

Pittsburgh hasn't had professional basketball since the Condors moved in 1973. On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. The Consol Energy Center is 132 miles from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, but don't let that fool you into thinking that Pittsburghers toss aside their NFL-bred hatred of Cleveland to support the Cavaliers, not even to root for the returned LeBron James: They seem to divide their fandom up among 4 "cool teams": The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. The Philadelphia 76ers, only 309 miles away? Forget it.

* PNC Park. The Pirates opened this 38,362-seat ballpark, which opens to a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh, on the North Side in 2001. It took them until last year to reach the postseason there, but they've now done so in back-to-back seasons. 115 Federal Street at 6th Street. Metro to North Side Station. Or you can walk there from downtown. over the 6th Street Bridge, now renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge and painted Pittsburgh Gold.

Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909, was nearly on the site of PNC Park. The first home of the Pirates, Recreation Park, was roughly on the site of Heinz Field.

This was also the site of the first football game played by an openly professional player. Yale University star William "Pudge" Heffelfinger was paid $500 (about $12,800 in today's money) to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club, and scored the game's only points in a 4-0 Allegheny win. (Under the scoring system of the time, a touchdown was 4 points.)

There are historical markers in the complex for both Exposition Park (as one of the sites, along with the Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston, of the 1st World Series) and Recreation Park (as the site of the first professional football game -- though the 1st all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).

* Heinz Field. This is a far better palace for football than the concrete oval Three Rivers Stadium was. It has a statue of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney outside, and, on gameday, 65,500 Terrible Towel-waving black and gold maniacs inside. There are plans to expand it to 69,000 or so seats in time for the 2015 season.

The Steelers hosted the AFC Championship Game in the stadium's 1st season, 2001 (losing it to the New England Patriots, and again in 2004 (losing to the Pats again), 2008 (beating the Baltimore Ravens) and 2010 (beating the Jets).

A 2007 ESPN.com article named it the best stadium in the NFL, tied with Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It also hosts the University of Pittsburgh's football team. This summer, it hosted a soccer game between English champions Manchester City and Italian giants AC Milan. On New Year's Day 2011, it hosted the NHL Winter Classic, but the Penguins lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. 100 Art Rooney Avenue. (Three Rivers' address, famously, was 600 Stadium Circle.)

* Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street at 12th Street, a couple of minutes’ walk from Union/Penn Station and Greyhound. It includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. (Senator Heinz, of the condiment-making family, was the first husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who nearly became First Lady in 2004.)

* Forbes Quadrangle, intersection of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street. This set of buildings, part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, was the site of Forbes Field, home of the Pirates from 1909 to 1970 and the Steelers from 1933 to 1963.

Included on the site is the last standing remnant of Forbes Field, part of the outfield wall, with ivy still growing on it. (Wrigley Field in Chicago wasn’t the only park with ivy on its outfield wall.) Where the wall stops, you’ll see a little brick path, and eventually you’ll come to a plaque that shows where the ball hit by Mazeroski crossed over the fence to win the Series.

Home plate has been preserved, in Wesley W. Posvar Hall, named for the longtime UP Chancellor. An urban legend says that, if it was in its exact original location, it would now be in a ladies’ restroom; this isn’t quite the case, but it’s still at roughly the same spot.

If you’ve ever seen the picture of Mazeroski in mid-swing, you’ll recognize the Carnegie Museum & Library in the background, and it is still there. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a Gothic-looking tower over the 3rd-base stands, that’s the Cathedral of Learning, the centerpiece of UP (or “Pitt”), and it’s still there as well. A portion of the wall, including the 406-foot marker that can be seen with the Mazeroski ball going over it, was moved to Three Rivers and now to PNC Park.

Pick up the Number 71 bus at 5th Avenue at Ross Street, and it will take you down 5th Avenue to Oakland Avenue. From there, it’s a 2-minute walk to the Quadrangle and Posvar Hall.

* Petersen Events Center, at Terrace Street and Sutherland Drive. The home arena for Pitt basketball, it was built on the site of Pitt Stadium, where they played their football games from 1925 to 1999, and where the Steelers played part-time starting in 1958 and full-time starting in 1964 until 1969. Part-time from 1970 to 1999, and full-time in 2000, Pitt shared Three Rivers with the Steelers, and they’ve shared Heinz Field since 2001.

Pitt Stadium was home to such legends as Dr. Jock Sutherland (a dentist and football coach), Marshall “Biggie” Goldberg, Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett. If you’re a Giants fan, this is where they played the Steelers on September 20, 1964, and Giant quarterback Y.A. Tittle got clobbered by the Steelers' John Baker, resulting in that famous picture of Tittle kneeling, with blood streaming down his bald head, providing a symbolic end to the Giants’ glory days of Frank Gifford, Sam Huff and quarterbacks Charlie Conerly and Tittle. The Petersen Center is a 5-minute walk from Forbes Quadrangle.

* Roberto Clemente Museum. A fan group tried to buy Honus Wagner's house in nearby Carnegie and turn it into a museum, but this is the only museum devoted to a single Pittsburgh athlete. Clemente wasn't the 1st Hispanic player in the major leagues (white Cuban Charles "Chick" Pedroes played 2 games for the Cubs in 1902), nor was he the 1st black Hispanic (Minnie Minoso debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1949). But he was the 1st to really take hold in the public imagination, to the point where later Hispanic stars wore Number 21 in his honor, and there is a movement to have the number retired throughout baseball as was done for Jackie Robinson (but it is not likely to succeed). 3339 Penn Avenue at 34th Street. Bus 87 to Herron Avenue.

Pittsburgh has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Duquesne University reached the 2nd Final Four (not that it was called that back then) in 1940, and Pitt did so in 1941 -- no Western Pennsylvania school has done so since. In fact, Pittsburgh has never been a big basketball city: The Pittsburgh Ironmen played in the NBA's first season, 1946-47, and only that season, and are best known now for having had Press Maravich, father of Pistol Pete, play for them; and the ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers, later the Pittsburgh Condors, won that league's first title in 1967-68, but that was it. The most successful Pittsburgh basketball team may well have been the Pittsburgh Pisces in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

The U.S. Steel Tower, at 7th & Grant Avenues, is the tallest building in Pittsburgh, at 841 feet -- although there are 3 buildings in Philadelphia that surpass it for the title of tallest building in Pennsylvania. Built in 1970, it surpassed the 1932-built Gulf Tower, on the opposite corner from U.S. Steel.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Pittsburgh. Mr. Belvedere, starring Christopher Hewett as a butler to a family led by a sportswriter played by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker, was set in nearby Beaver Falls, hometown of Jets legend Joe Namath, but it was filmed in Los Angeles. The most notable TV shows actually taped in Pittsburgh, at the PBS station WQED-Channel 13, were Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Fred Rogers was from Latrobe, and in spite of his show's success, he never moved the taping to New York or Hollywood. He notably had Steeler receiver Lynn Swann on his show, to show that even a big tough football player (or, at least, a graceful wide receiver) could love ballet (which explained how Swannie got such nice moves in the first place). A statue of Mr. Rogers, sponsored by TV Land, is near Heinz Field, as is one of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney.

A lot of movies have been shot in Pittsburgh, due to its varied architecture. Many have had sports scenes. You may have seen the 1994 version of Angels in the Outfield, which involved the team then known as the California Angels; the original black-and-white version came out in 1951, and the downtrodden team they featured was the Pirates, and there's some nice shots of Forbes Field in it. Some nice shots of Janet Leigh, too. (Jamie Lee Curtis' mom -- no, unlike in some other films such as Psycho, Janet doesn't flash any skin in this one, but now you know why Tony Curtis married her, and where Jamie Lee inherited the goods.)

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh was a very silly, very Seventies movie, with Julius "Dr. J" Erving playing for the good guys and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing for the opposition. Sudden Death had Jean-Claude Van Damme trying to stop an assassination attempt at the Stanley Cup Finals. Both featured the old Civic Arena. Van Damme also filmed Timecop in Pittsburgh.

While most of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in New York (with a few CGI bridges added to the skyline to create the atmosphere of the fictional Gotham City), and its 2 predecessors were filmed in Chicago, the football game scene was filmed at Heinz Field, with the fictional Gotham Rogues wearing Steeler black & gold. (They even made up a fake website for the team, including the Rogue Rag, a takeoff on the Terrible Towel.) Real-life Steeler legend Hines Ward returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Bane's bomb collapsed the field behind him, and playing the opposition's kicker was real-life Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. The scene where Gary Oldman goes to Matthew Modine's house to prepare for the final assault may also have been filmed in Pittsburgh, although the row-house style resembles Philadelphia. Some of the movie was filmed in Newark, but that street doesn't look like any part of Newark I've ever seen. You'd have to get as far south as Trenton to see Philly-style rowhouses in New Jersey, but then they've got 'em all along the Delaware River, in places like Bordentown, Burlington and Camden. Maybe it's a Pennsylvania thing.

One of Tom Cruise's first big films was All the Right Moves, a high school football movie set in Pittsburgh. He returned to Pittsburgh to film Jack Reacher. A movie with more life in it, the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, was filmed in Pittsburgh. Its sequel Dawn of the Dead was filmed at the Monroeville Mall in the eastern suburbs, and the concluding chapter Day of the Dead back in the city. Gung Ho, with Michael Keaton, spoofed the decline of Pittsburgh industry. Flashdance, with Jennifer Beals, turned the declining Pittsburgh dream on its head. Boys On the Side seemed to wink at it. And Groundhog Day starts in Pittsburgh before moving east to Punxsatawney. However, those aren't sports movies. (Although, with Jennifer Beals, Drew Barrymore and Andie MacDowell in them, there may be some heavy breathing.)

*

Pittsburgh is a terrific city that loves its sports, and PNC Park is one of the best of the new ballparks. Its Sunday games are scheduled for 1:35, while nearly every other home game, including on Saturday nights, is at 7:05. (Though, in this series, the Saturday game is a 4:05 PM start, as it's a Fox Game of the Week.)

Cities & Metropolitan Areas Hosting Finals, 1903-2014


This list counts the World Series (1903-2014), pre-title game NFL Championships (1920-31), the old NFL Championship Game (1932-65), the Super Bowl (1966-2013 seasons, 1967-2014 calendar years, counting both participants and neutral-site hostings), the NBA Finals (1947-2014), and the Stanley Cup Finals in the post-"challenge cup" era (1912-2014).

It does not include pretenders to major league status like the CFL, the various AFLs, the AAFC, the WFL, the USFL, the XFL, the ABA or the WHA. Nor does it include the WNBA or any North American soccer league. Nor does it include college events like annual bowl games or the NCAA basketball Final Four.

Ties broken by most recent appearance.

1. New York (including New Jersey and Long Island), 119: 65 World Series, 1 pre-NFL Championship Game title, 22 NFL Championship game appearances (including 5 Super Bowls played in, 1 hosted, and the 1936 NFL Championship Game as a neutral-site host), 21 Stanley Cup Finals, 10 NBA Finals

2. Boston (including Foxboro and Providence), 58: 21 NBA Finals, 19 Stanley Cup Finals, 14 World Series, 1 pre-NFL Championship Game title, 3 Super Bowls

3. Los Angeles (including Anaheim and Inglewood), 52: 24 NBA Finals, 10 World Series, 6 NFL Championship Game appearances (including 2 Super Bowls), 7 Super Bowls hosted, 5 Stanley Cup Finals

4. Chicago, 48: 15 World Series, 1 pre-NFL Championship Game title, 13 NFL Championship game appearances (including 2 Super Bowls), 12 Stanley Cup Finals, 7 NBA Finals

5. Detroit (including Pontiac and Auburn Hills), 46: 23 Stanley Cup Finals, 11 World Series, 5 NFL Championship Game appearances, 2 Super Bowls hosted, 5 NBA Finals

6. Philadelphia, 39: 15 World Series, 9 NBA Finals, 8 Stanley Cup Finals, 1 pre-NFL Championship Game title, 6 NFL Championship Game appearances (including 2 Super Bowls)

7. Montreal, 34: 34 Stanley Cup Finals

8. St. Louis, 30: 21 World Series, 4 NBA Finals, 3 Stanley Cup Finals, 2 Super Bowl appearances

9. San Francisco (including Oakland, San Jose, Daly City and now Santa Clara), 29: 15 World Series, 10 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl hosted, 3 NBA Finals

10. Miami (including the Fort Lauderdale region), 24: 5 NBA Finals, 5 Super Bowl appearances, 10 Super Bowls hosted, 2 World Series, 1 Stanley Cup Finals

11. Milwaukee (including Green Bay), 21: 3 pre-NFL Championship Game titles, 13 NFL Championship Games (including 5 Super Bowls), 3 World Series, 2 NBA Finals

12. Toronto, 20: 18 Stanley Cup Finals, 2 World Series

13. Pittsburgh, 19: 8 Super Bowl appearances, 7 World Series, 4 Stanley Cup Finals

14. Cleveland (including Richfield), 19: 4 pre-NFL Championship Game titles, 9 NFL Championship Games, 5 World Series, 1 NBA Finals

15. Washington (including Landover), 18: 10 NFL Championship Game appearances (including 5 Super Bowls), 4 NBA Finals, 3 World Series, 1 Stanley Cup Finals

16. Minneapolis (including St. Paul and Bloomington), 16: 6 NBA Finals, 4 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl hosted, 3 World Series, 2 Stanley Cup Finals

17. Baltimore, 15: 7 NFL Championship Game appearances (including 4 Super Bowls), 6 World Series, 2 NBA Finals

18. Dallas (including Irving and Arlington), 15: 8 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl hosted, 2 World Series, 2 NBA Finals, 2 Stanley Cup Finals

19. Cincinnati, 12: 9 World Series, 3 NFL Championship Game appearances (including 2 Super Bowls)

20. New Orleans, 11: 1 Super Bowl appearance, 10 Super Bowls hosted

21. Denver, 10: 7 Super Bowl appearances, 2 Stanley Cup Finals, 1 World Series

22. Buffalo (including Rochester and Syracuse), 10: 4 Super Bowls, 4 NBA Finals, 2 Stanley Cup Finals

23. Seattle, 8: 3 NBA Finals, 3 Stanley Cup Finals, 2 Super Bowl appearances

24. Edmonton, 8: 8 Stanley Cup Finals

25. Atlanta, 8: 5 World Series, 1 Super Bowl appearance, 2 Super Bowls hosted

26. Vancouver, 7: 7 Stanley Cup Finals

27. Tampa Bay, 7: 4 Super Bowls hosted, 1 Super Bowl appearance, 1 World Series, 1 Stanley Cup Finals

28. Houston, 7: 4 NBA Finals, 2 Super Bowls hosted, 1 World Series

29. San Antonio, 6: 6 NBA Finals

30. Indianapolis (including Fort Wayne), 6: 3 NBA Finals, 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 Super Bowl hosted

31. Ottawa, 6: 6 Stanley Cup Finals

32. Kansas City, 5: 3 World Series, 2 Super Bowl appearances

33. Phoenix (including Glendale), 5: 2 NBA Finals, 1 World Series, 1 Super Bowl appearance, 1 Super Bowl hosted

34. San Diego, 5: 3 Super Bowls hosted, 2 World Series

35. Calgary, 4: 4 Stanley Cup Finals

36. Portland, 4: 3 NBA Finals, 1 Stanley Cup Finals

37. Carolina (including Charlotte and Raleigh), 3: 2 Stanley Cup Finals, 1 Super Bowl appearance

38. Victoria, 3: 3 Stanley Cup Finals

39. Orlando, 2: 2 NBA Finals

40. Salt Lake City, 2: 2 NBA Finals

41. Quebec City, 2: 2 Stanley Cup Finals

42. Oklahoma City, 1: 1 NBA Finals

43. Tennessee (including Nashville and Memphis), 1: 1 Super Bowl appearance

44. Jacksonville, 1: 1 Super Bowl hosted

45. Winnipeg, none: Last title was the 1902 Stanley Cup

46. Columbus, none

47. Sacramento, none

No, you can't combine Baltimore and Washington. Nor can you combine Tampa Bay and Orlando. I did accept combining Boston and Providence, and I would have accepted combining Boston and Hartford had the Whalers reached the Stanley Cup Final while they were there. While Memphis and Nashville are rival cities, each of the teams in Tennessee more or less represents the entire State. Same with Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina. But the Orlando Magic have never pretended to represent Central Florida as a whole, and as far as I know there's no active partnership between them and any of the Tampa Bay teams, not even at a charity level.

*

Now, these ranking may seem unfair to some of you, as some of these cities are small, some are large, and some are huge; thus, some have more teams than others. Fine, I'll use a metropolitan area population coefficient, and show their "true" rankings. To make it simpler, I'll use the U.S. cities only, as Canada (aside from its big 3 of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) isn't all that big in the "suburbs" department.

Column 1: City/Metro Area; Column 2: Finals appearances; Column 3: Metro area population in millions; Column 4: Ratio.

Areas in bold currently have teams in at least 3 of the 4 major sports.


1. St. Louis302.910.34
2. New Orleans111.29.17
3. Milwaukee212.39.13
4. Detroit465.38.68
5. Boston587.67.63
6. Pittsburgh192.77.04
7. Baltimore152.75.56
8. Philadelphia397.15.49
9. Cincinnati122.25.45
10. Cleveland193.55.43
11. New York11923.35.11
12. Chicago489.55.05
13. Minneapolis163.44.71
14. Miami245.64.29
15. San Francisco298.43.45
16. Buffalo103.03.33
17. Denver103.23.13
18. Washington185.93.05
19. San Antonio62.22.73
20. Tampa Bay72.82.50
21. Los Angeles5222.62.30
22. Seattle83.62.22
23. Indianapolis62.72.22
24. Dallas156.82.21
25. Kansas City52.42.08
26. Portland42.31.74
27. San Diego53.21.56
28. Atlanta86.11.31
29. Phoenix54.31.16
30. Houston76.21.13
31. Salt Lake City22.40.83
32. Jacksonville11.30.77
33. Oklahoma City11.30.77
34. Carolina34.30.70
35. Orlando23.00.67
36. Tennessee12.90.34
37. Columbus02.30.00
38. Sacramento02.60.00