Thursday, July 11, 2013

How To Be a Met Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2013 Edition

The Mets' final series before the All-Star Break is in Pittsburgh, against the Pirates.

Last year, I blew it with this one: Due to the futzed-up-ness of the Interleague schedule, the Mets played their one series of the year in Pittsburgh at a time when I couldn't do a 2012 update, and the Yankees won't be going there that season.  So the Pirates were the only one of the 30 major league teams I couldn't do it for last season.

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 mid-80s for the afternoons and mid-60s for the nights this weekend.

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, 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.

You do not want to take the train, because the Amtrak schedule just doesn’t work.  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 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.  And it's $184 round-trip.  No good.

Greyhound isn’t much better, but at least you have options.  There are 14 buses a day between Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh, but it's a bit expensive considering the distance, $146 round-trip (though advanced purchase can get it down to about half that).  The best time to leave, unfortunately, is 3:15 AM, so you can get there by noon.  The next bus is 7:10 AM, which arrives at 6:05 PM, not leaving you much time to get to a hotel and then get to the ballpark for a 7:05 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 drving.  It’s 373 miles from Times Square in Manhattan to downtown Pittsburgh, and 383 miles from Citi Field to PNC Park. (Yes, the naming rights to both are owned by banks. PNC’s service is so bad people say the letters stand for “People Never Count.”) This is far enough that, if you need to see all 3 games in a weekend series, and you have a standard Monday-to-Friday job, you’ll have to take Friday and Monday off. Better to skip the Friday night game, and leave early on Saturday morning (say, 8:00) so you can get there in time to get to a hotel and see the Saturday night game, and leave right after the Sunday afternoon game and get home around midnight Sunday-into-Monday.

From the City, you’ll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. From elsewhere in New Jersey, taking Interstate 287 should get you to I-78.  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.”

From anywhere in New York City, allow 6½ hours for the actual driving, though from North Jersey you might need “only” 6. 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.

Tickets. No problem. No problem at all. Despite having moved from Three Rivers, an artificially-turfed concrete doughnut, to a beautiful new ballpark with a view of Pittsburgh’s very sharp downtown skyline – maybe the best view any ballpark has – and despite having had a very good first half, the Pirates do not draw well.  The team is currently averaging 24,777 per home game, which is actually a decrease of about 1,400 per game over last season.

Their attendance struggles are less because Pittsburgh is a football town (the Steelers nearly always sell out, even when they're bad), and more because, coming into this year, they haven’t had a winning season, let alone made the Playoffs, since George Bush was President. I’m talking about the father, not the son.  Their last winning season and Playoff berth was in 1992, when they won the National League Eastern Division before moving to the NL Central in 1994. They are one of 4 teams that have not won their current Division. Two of those, the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, have reached the World Series more recently than the Pirates, via the Wild Card route. So have the Kansas City Royals, who won 6 titles in their former Division.

Now that the Washington Nationals (formerly the Montreal Expos) have won a Division Title since 1981, the Royals are the only team that has gone longer without reaching the Playoffs than the Pirates.  The Pirates’ last Pennant and World Series win was in the Carter Administration, in 1979, led by “Pops” Stargell and “The Family.” Of the teams that have actually won a Pennant, only the Chicago Cubs have now waited longer to win another; of the teams that have actually won a World Series, only the Cubs and the Cleveland Indians have longer droughts.

As a result of what is now a full generation of ineptitude, you can walk up to the ticket window at PNC Park and buy pretty much any seat you can afford. The Pirates, even with a seating capacity of just 38,362, aren’t going to sell out. In fact, considering there’s less than 400 miles between New York and Pittsburgh, Met fans could “take over the ballpark.”

The Pirates are also a cheap date compared to most teams: Even the Infield Box seats, Sections 109 to 124, will set you back only $36.  Outfield Boxes are $33, Grandstand (upper deck) seats are $21, Outfield Reserved (right field) are $25, and Bleacher Reserved (left field) are $20.

Going In.  With a long history (settled in 1717), great architectural diversity and a dramatic skyline with lots of 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 307,000, 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 every year in 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, and 1979 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 the following January, 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.

(It was also at that time that, in order to ride the bandgwagon, the NHL's Penguins switched their colors from navy blue and yellow to black and gold, but it was several more years before they started winning.)

While the loss of industry did mean a sharp, long-term decline, the financial and computer 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 might be the best winning percentage in finals of any city of at least 3 teams, though I haven't checked that) -- 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 Pittsburgh 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 rivers 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 in the downtown triangle it's free.  But outside that area, a one-zone ride is $2.50, and a two-zone ride is $3.75.  These fares are the same for city buses, although they're not free in the downtown triangle.

From most of downtown, PNC Park is within a mile’s walk, crossing the 6th Street Bridge, now the Roberto Clemente Bridge, over the Allegheny River, shortly before it joins with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River – There are local buses (including the Number 14) that go from downtown to the ballpark. Pittsburgh does have a subway, but it doesn’t go to the ballpark, although the Wood Street Station comes within 6 blocks (counting the river as a “block”).

There are a whopping 11 statues outside the ballpark. Honus Wagner, the Pirate star of 1900 to 1917, still usually considered the greatest shortstop who ever lived (yes, even ahead of such modern heroes as Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter), originally had a statue outside Forbes Field, and it was moved to Three Rivers and then to PNC Park. Roberto Clemente, legendary right fielder from 1955 until his death in a plane crash in 1972, had a statue dedicated outside Three Rivers, and it, too, was moved to PNC Park. Willie Stargell, the first baseman of 1962 to 1982, had his statue dedicated at Opening Day of PNC Park, April 9, 2001 – but he died that very morning from a long-term illness, having thrown out the first ball at the Three Rivers finale the fall before. A statue of Bill Mazeroski, second baseman of 1956 to 1972, was dedicated in honor of the 50th Anniversary of him doing… something. (Unlike Yankee Fans who are old enough to remember the 1960 World Series, that home run he hit doesn’t bother me much, so I can joke about it.) A monument to former owner Barney Dreyfuss used to sit in center field at Forbes Field, and was moved to the concourse at Three Rivers and then to PNC Park.

And on June 26, 2006, in anticipation of the park hosting the All-Star Game the next month, 7 statues were unveiled, honoring Negro League greats who played in the city: Leonard "Satchel" Paige, Josh Gibson, Walter "Buck" Leonard, Oscar Charleston, William "Judy" Johnson, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Smokey Joe Williams.

Behind the park’s first-base stands, you’ll see the Fort Duquesne Bridge – reflecting the original French name of the city before the British took it in the French & Indian War in 1758, and renamed it Fort Pitt after their Prime Minister, William Pitt the Elder, and before the Americans renamed it Pittsburgh – and beyond that, the new home of the Steelers and Pitt football, Heinz Field. In between Heinz and the bridge is a parking lot where Three Rivers Stadium stood from 1970 to 2000. Roughly between the site of Three Rivers and PNC Park, including the northern end of the Fort Duquesne Bridge, was the site of Exposition Park, where the Pirates played from 1891 to 1909.

PNC Park is not a multipurpose facility, it’s a baseball-specific stadium. Every seat has sufficient width, legroom and alignment to view a game in comfort. Behind you will be concession stands that are plentiful and varied, restrooms that are clean and not beset by noxious fumes, and no 2-inning-long lines at either. In front of you are informative and attractive scoreboards and a nice, natural-grass field, instead of the hideous pale-green carpet at Three Rivers, which was one of the most foul-looking rugs in sports (even in fair territory). I don’t know how the Pirates and Steelers, between them, won 6 World Championships on the stuff: How could they look at that turf and not get sick? What kind of home-field advantage could they have had?

The field is not symmetrical: It's 325 feet down the left-field line, 383 to left-center, 410 to the deepest part of the park to the left of center, 399 to straightaway center, 375 to right-center, and 320 to right.  The right field wall is 21 feet high, partly to offset a short distance, and partly to honor Clemente, Number 21.  PNC is  generally considered to be a pitchers' park -- ironically, because the Pirates have historicall been an offense-first team.

Sammy Sosa of the Cubs, with, uh, help, hit the longest home run at PNC Park, 484 feet in 2002.  Oddly, while Willie Stargell hit the longest home run at several stadiums, Three Rivers was not one of them: Greg Luzinski of the Phillies was, in 1979, hitting one 483 feet -- perhaps poetic justice for Stargell hitting the longest at the Vet, in 1971.  The longest at Forbes Field is believed to be one that Dick Stuart hit in 1959, which wasn't measured but almost certainly cleared 500 feet.  The man known then as Stonefingers and later as Dr. Strange-glove couldn't field, but he sure could hit.

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. They deserve it.) Reflecting this, a “Tastes of Pittsburgh” series of stands is on the main concourse, including Primanti Brothers sandwiches: Meat, cheese, hand-cut French fries, tomatoes and cole slaw. All together between slices of Italian bread.

Like several other ballparks, such as Baltimore with Boog Powell and Philadelphia with Greg Luzinski, the Pirates have one of their retired greats holding court in right field (on “the Riverwalk”) at a barbecue stand named for him, Manny’s BBQ. This is Manny Sanguillen, 1970s catcher. They have Dippin Dots and Rita’s Italian Ice. They have a food court named after their favorite-son fat man, Stargell: Pops’ Plaza. They have another food court called Smorgasburgh, including a steak sandwich stand called Quaker Steak and Lube. Another bonus of PNC Park is that they let you bring your own food in – but why would you, with all those choices available?

Team History Displays. Aside from the statues outside the park, the Pirates have displays honoring their titles. They’ve won 9 National League Pennants, in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1909, 1925, 1927, 1960, 1971 and 1979. They’ve won 5 World Series, in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979.  In a quirk, every one of their World Series but one (1927, swept by the Yankees) has gone at least 7 games.  (In 1903, the first year of the World Series, it was a best 5-out-of-9, and the Boston Red Sox beat them, 5 games to 3.)

The Pirates have a display honoring their 9 retired numbers. Wagner played before numbers were worn, but as a coach he wore Number 33.  He was also a player-manager in his last season, 1917.  The other Pirate statue honorees have also had their numbers retired: Mazeroski 9, Clemente 21 and Stargell 8. Also honored with the retirements of their numbers are: Harold “Pie” Traynor, 3rd baseman 1920 to 1934 and manager 1934 to 1939, Number 20; Paul Waner, right field 1926 to 1940, Number 11 (his brother, fellow Hall-of-Famer Lloyd Waner, a center fielder, has not been honored with the retirement of his Number 10); Billy Meyer, manager 1948 to 1952, Number 1; Ralph Kiner, left fielder 1946 to 1953 and Met broadcaster since 1962, Number 4; Danny Murtaugh, manager on and off between 1957 and 1976, Number 40. Jackie Robinson’s Number 42, honored throughout baseball, is also displayed. And, as mentioned, the Barney Dreyfuss Monument survives and rests on the concourse.

They do not have a team Hall of Fame, but they have had quite a few Hall-of-Famers.  In addition to Wagner, Mazeroski, Clemente, Stargell, Tryanor, the Waner brothers, Kiner, Murtaugh and Dreyfuss, they are: Jake Beckley, 1st base, 1888-96; Jack Chesbro, pitcher, 1899-1902 (then became one of the Highlanders/Yankees' first stars); Fred Clarke, left field and manager, 1900-15; Vic Willis, pitcher, 1906-09; Bill McKechnie, 3rd base, 1907-12 and manager 1922-26; Max Carey, center field, 1910-26; Burleigh Grimes, pitcher, 1916-17 and 1928-29; Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler, right field, 1921-27; Joseph "Arky" Vaughan, shortstop, 1932-41; and Bert Blyleven, pitcher, 1978-80 (just 3 years but 1 was a title season).

Connie Mack (1891-96) and Al Lopez (1940-46) were catchers for the Pirates, and Lopez was a pretty good one, formerly holding the all-time record for games caught; but both of them were elected to the Hall of Fame for what they did as managers.  Frankie Frisch managed the Pirates (1940-46), but they weren't very good at that time, and he was elected to the Hall for what he did elsewhere.

Stuff. There are plenty of pirate-themed novelty items, including hats, bandanas, eye patches and foam swords. The late-1970s retro caps, resembling late 19th Century caps, are also sold, although not with the “Stargell Stars” that Pops put on them in the “Family” years.

There is, as yet, no World Series highlight film collection focusing on the Pirates (1909 and 1925 were before they had official films), but they could have packaged 1960, 1971 and 1979 together.  There is a compact disc honoring Hall of Fame braodcaster Bob Prince; an MLB Network Baseball's Greatest Games DVD showing the original TV broadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, the Mazeroski Game; and a DVD collection focusing on the 1979 Series.  As yet, there is no Essential Games of the Pittsburgh Pirates/Three Rivers Stadium DVD collection.

During the Game. If you were a Cleveland Browns fan, or (a little less so) a Cincinnati Bengals fan, or (a further bit less so) a Baltimore Ravens fan going into Heinz Field to face the Steelers, you might be in a bit of trouble. If you were a Philadelphia Flyers fan going into the Consol Energy Center to face the Penguins, you might face some anger. (Then again, pretty much everybody hates the Flyers.) But as a Met fan going into PNC Park, you’ll be fine. You can wear your Met gear at PNC without fear of drunken bums physically hassling you.

While the Pirates spoiled the Mets' home openers at both the Polo Grounds in 1962 and Shea Stadium in 1964, and the two teams went down to the wire in the NL East races of 1973 (Mets beat 'em out by 2½ games) and 1990 (Pirates won by 4 games), neither team has ever considered the other its greatest rival. Met fans have had far more contentious relationships with the Braves and Cubs, and both teams have had rivalries with the Phillies and Reds.

(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.”)

And since the Mets and Bucs (or Buccos, both short for Buccaneers) have been in different divisions since 1994, and there’s been no serious chance of a postseason meeting in all that time, the only thing Pirate fans are going to get upset about is if you start a “Let’s Go Mets!” chant in their yard. But they’re not going to hurt you.

Just don’t say anything bad about the Steelers, or Mario Lemieux, 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 Pirates game (though you may hear a stray chant of "Here we go, Steelers, here we go!" -- it's been known to happen at Pirates, Penguins 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 Pirates have a mascot, the Pirate Parrot. But, due to one of the predecessor suit-wearers having been involved in the Pittsburgh drug trials of the mid-1980s, it is understandable that they tend not to celebrate the character as much as the Mets celebrate Mr. Met, or the Phillies their Phanatic, or the Orioles their Bird, or even the Red Sox their Wally the Green Monster.

The Mets haven’t run an Airplane Race on their video board for years, but, just as the Yankees have The Great City Subway Race, the Milwaukee Brewers the Sausage Race, and the Washington Nationals the Racing Presidents, the Pirates have a between-innings feature called the Great Pierogi Race. The characters are Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Saul, Oliver Onion and Jalapeno Hannah (who is not the only female character in any of the “ballpark races” -- the mascots race each other in Cincinnati, and sometimes Rosie Red wins). There was once a Potato Pete, but they traded him for Oliver Onion (and possibly for a flavor to be named later). As with “Teddy Roosevelt” in Washington, there was a joke that Sauerkraut Saul never won, but this (literally) running gag has been dropped.

The Pirates will play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch, but they do not seem to have an additional song, the way the Mets do with “Lazy Mary,” the Orioles with “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and others. While there are several music legends native to the Pittsburgh area – Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, Lou Christie, the Dell-Vikings, the Vogues – there doesn’t seem to be a particular song that the special-effects people choose, although Christie’s “Lightning Strikes” could be appropriate, and "Blue Moon," a song often reworked by English soccer fans (sometimes obscenely so), was done in doo-wop fashion by the Pittsburgh group the Marcels in 1961.

(In case you're wondering, Willie Stargell liked "We Are Family" because of the image of togetherness that Sister Sledge were singing about, not because they were a Pittsburgh group -- in fact, they were from the opposite end of the State, in Philadelphia.)

After the Game. There are attractions near PNC Park, but most of these are museums, such as the one dedicated to native Pittsburgher Andy Warhol. (The next bridge over from the Clemente is the Andy Warhol Bridge. As far as I know, Warhol never painted a portrait of Clemente, or was even interested in baseball.)

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. You might be better off returning to your hotel and getting a bite or a drink there. 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.)

Sidelights. As I mentioned, 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 first World Series) and Recreation Park (as the site of the first professional football game -- though the first all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).

* 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 one.) 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 Posvar Hall, although it’s not quite in its original location. An urban legend says that, if it was, it would now be in a ladies’ restroom; this isn’t quite the case, but it’s still at roughly the same place.

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 as well. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a Gothic-looking tower over the third-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. Look for Wesley W. 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 Jock Sutherland, 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.

* Site of Civic 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 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 here on September 14, 1964. Elvis Presley played here on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976.  It was demolished in 2011.

* Consol Energy Center, 1001 5th Avenue.  Opening on August 18, 2010, for a concert by former Beatle Paul McCartney, it 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 history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure.

* 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 first Hispanic player in the major leagues (white Cuban Charles "Chick" Pedroes played 2 games for the Cubs in 1902), nor was he the first black Hispanic (Minnie Minoso debuted with the Chicago White Sox in 1949).  But he was the first 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 second Final Four (not that it was called that back then) in 1940, and Pitt did so in 1941 -- none 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. Belevedere, starring Christopher Hewett as a butler to a family led by ballplayer-turned-broadcaster Bob Uecker as a sportswriter, 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 here, 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 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-added bridges added to 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.)

One of Tom Cruise's first big films was All the Right Moves, a high school football movie set in Pittsburgh.  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 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.

*

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.

2 comments:

The Collective said...

This was pretty comprehensive. I can add a few more things as some things are a bit dated. The Pirates are leading their division now. They are selling out now. Pgh is rated as one of the top cities in the World now via the Economist magazine and others. Many New Yorkers have been moving there. Some own bars. Try The Brillo Box http://www.brillobox.net/
There is lots to do in PGH that would excite New Yorkers, go here to find out what http://www.pghcitypaper.com/
Watch out, once you go to Pgh, you might want to move there. It's now a high tech powerhouse with gorgeous architecture and topography.

The Collective said...

Oh and a great deal of The Dark Knight Rises was filmed in Pgh, including most of the 3rd act climax. All throughout the downtown area and near the Cathedral of Learning (which you should visit - the second tallest structure on a campus in the world)in the Oakland section. You can readily walk those areas. Also the only horror movie to win Best Picture was filmed 90% in Pittsburgh Silence of the Lambs.Climactic scene also filmed in Oakland.