Tuesday, July 30, 2019

July 30, 1919: A Trade Far Bigger Than It Looked at the Time

July 30, 1919, 100 years ago: The Boston Red Sox trade pitcher Carl Mays to the New York Yankees for pitchers Bob McGraw and Allen Russell, and $40,000. More than any other trade in the history of the sport, this one changed the history of baseball.

McGraw, Russell and the money don’t matter for this discussion. Mays, a 27-year-old Kentuckian with a righthanded "submarine" delivery -- think 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates World Series hero Kent Tekulve, and 1980s Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry -- had already helped the Red Sox win the 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Series.

But he was a rotten guy, what we would now call "a clubhouse cancer." One teammate (I can't find a record of which one) said, "He has the disposition of a man with a permanent toothache."

Mays himself couldn't explain it: "I always have wondered why I have encountered this antipathy from so many people, wherever I have been. And I have never been able to explain it, even to myself."

While he was at Spring Training in 1919, his farm house in Missouri burned down. He believed it was arson. He began the 1919 season with a 5-11 record. In a game in Philadelphia, home fans at Shibe Park pounded on the roof of the visitors' dugout, and Mays reacted to this by getting up and throwing a ball into the stands, hitting a fan in the head.

On July 13, against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park, Eddie Collins tried to steal 2nd base. Catcher Wally Schang tried to throw him out, and hit Mays in the head by mistake. When the inning ended, Mays walked off the field, walked into the clubhouse, changed his clothes, went to the train station, and headed back to Boston. He told Burt Whitman, a Boston sportswriter:

I’m convinced that it will be impossible for me to preserve my confidence in myself as a ballplayer and stay with the Red Sox as the team is now handled. The entire team is up in the air and things have gone from bad to worse. The team cannot win with me pitching, so I am getting out…

Maybe there will be a trade or a sale of my services. I do not care where I go.

His teammates had turned against him. Sox management were eager to get rid of him. The Yankees, needing pitching, were happy to make the trade.

But, for jumping the club, Mays had been suspended by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee. And Byron Bancroft "Ban" Johnson, President of the American League, and one of its co-founders, ruled that Mays could not be traded while he was suspended.

"Baseball cannot tolerate such a breach of discipline," Johnson said. "It was up to the owners of the Boston club to suspend Carl Mays for breaking his contract, and when they failed to do so, it is my duty as head of the American League to act."

This move by Johnson split the League. On one side: Johnson, one of its co-founders, and the "Loyal Five": The Philadelphia Athletics, owned by Benjamin Shibe and manager Connie Mack; the Cleveland Indians, owned by James Dunn; the Detroit Tigers, owned by Frank Navin; the St. Louis Browns, owned by Phil Ball; and the Washington Senators, owned by former pitching star Clark Griffith.

On the other side, the "Insurrectos," the other 3 teams: The Red Sox, owned by Frazee; the Yankees, owned by Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston; the Chicago White Sox, owned by the AL's other co-founder, Charlie Comiskey, once Johnson's best friend, now a bitter enemy.

The Yankees went to court, and got an injunction against Johnson's ability to prevent the trade. Mays went 9-3 the rest of the way, finishing the season 14-14. He would win 80 games for the Yankees, helping them win their 1st  Pennants and their 1st World Series.

He would also -- unintentionally, he always insisted -- become the only pitcher ever to kill an opposing batter with a pitch. Presuming nothing happens to me before then, I will have a post about that on the 100th Anniversary of the event, August 16, 2020.

But the implications of this trade went beyond that. After this, the Loyal Five refused to make any deals with the Insurrectos. Those 3 teams could now only make deals with each other. And Comiskey was famously cheap, which resulted in the Black Sox Scandal. So if Frazee had to make a deal, he had to make it with Ruppert. (Huston more or less stayed out of it.)

And that's why so many of the Red Sox champions of the 1910s went to the Yankees, and helped to make their Dynasty of the 1920s. Mays was the first, and Babe Ruth would be the biggest. Pretty much everybody who has studied this period of baseball history knows that.

What they tend to overlook is what happened to the Loyal Five. Sure, the moves wrecked the Red Sox for a generation. But what did it do to the other teams? The downfall of the White Sox can be traced to the banning for life of the "Eight Men Out" during the Black Sox Scandal.

But from 1921 (after the Indians won the 1920 World Series) through 1964, while the Yankees were winning 29 Pennants in 44 years, how many did the Loyal Five win? The Tigers 4, the Athletics (moving to Kansas City in 1955 and Oakland in 1968) 3, the Senators (becoming the Minnesota Twins in 1961) 3, the Indians 2, the Browns (becoming the Baltimore Orioles in 1954) 1.

And even that wasn't the end of it. The injunction unblocking the Mays trade, combined with the Black Sox Scandal, led to the replacement of the command structure of what we would now call Major League Baseball.

Previously, the game was run by a National Commission, consisting of each League's President and a 3rd man, allegedly impartial (but still doing what the owners wanted.) Afterward, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball was created. The League Presidents would still have power, particularly in the area of discipline, until Commissioner Selig eliminated their offices in 1999. But they would never be so strong again.

The Carl Mays trade was huge, above and beyond leading to the Babe Ruth sale.

How to Be a New York Soccer Fan In Salt Lake City -- 2019 Edition

This coming Saturday night, New York City FC visit the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, to take on Real Salt Lake. The New York Red Bulls will not visit them this season.

Note that they can call themselves "Real" -- in this case, meaning "authentic" but "royal" in Spanish, and pronounced "ree-AL" instead of "REEL" -- all they want, but nobody's going to confuse them with the now 11-time European Cup winners, Real Madrid. On the other hand, RSL have an MLS Cup, while Metro, to their dismay and that of their fans, do not. (Nor, of course, do the considerably newer NYCFC.)

Before You Go. We think of Utah, we think of the Wild West. Desert. National Monument Valley. We forget that it's also in the Rocky Mountains. I flipped out when I heard that it was chosen as the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Winter? Utah? But it's got mountains, and it's got snow. For years, the license plates even said, "Ski Utah."

This is Utah in early August. The weather could be a factor. The Salt Lake Tribune is predicting the mid-90s for daylight on Saturday, and the low 70s for the evenings. Hot. Stay hydrated -- and that does not mean beer, because when it's that hot, and you're outdoors, alcohol is probably the worst thing you can drink. Wait until after the game.

Utah is in the Mountain Time Zone, 2 hours behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. Real Salt Lake averaged 18,605 fans per home game last season. That's about 92 percent of capacity. Fortunately, as an away fan, you have the advantage of set-aside seats for fans of your team. RSL's are in the north end of the upper deck, Sections 233 and 234. Tickets are $25.

Getting There. It's 2,174 miles from Midtown Manhattan to downtown Salt Lake City, and 2,169 miles from Red Bull Arena in Harrison to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. In other words, if you're going, you're flying.

Because, driving, you'd have to get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it's also incredibly simple – you'll stay on I-80 for almost the entire trip, getting off at Exit 306 for downtown Salt Lake.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, and Utah for 1:30. That's about 37 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we're talking 2 full days.

That's still faster than Greyhound and Amtrak. The station serving both, Salt Lake Central Station, is at 300 South 600 West. But Greyhound offers only 1 trip per day between New York and Salt Lake, leaving Port Authority at 4:00 PM and arriving at 10:35 PM 2 days later, changing buses in Denver. The trip is 56 1/2 hours, and you'd have to leave no later than Wednesday morning and arrive on Friday night to get there by Saturday gametime. Round-trip fare is $596, but it could drop to $449 on advanced purchase.

On Amtrak, you would leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM on Wednesday, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:50 AM Central Time on Thursday, and switch to the California Zephyr at 2:00 PM, arriving at Salt Lake City at 11:05 PM Mountain Time on Friday, about 20 hours before kickoff.

Getting back, the California Zephyr leaves Salt Lake City at 3:30 AM on Sunday, arrives in Chicago at 2:50 PM on Monday, and the Lake Shore Limited leaves at 9:30 PM and arrives in New York at 6:35 PM on Tuesday. Round-trip fare: $482, which could be cheaper than the bus, and only takes a few minutes longer.

Newark to Salt Lake City is a relatively cheap flight, considering the distance. You can get a round-trip fare for under $700. The problem is, you'll have to change planes in Denver.

Once In the City. Founded in 1847 by Mormon leader Brigham Young (who famously found what he thought was the right spot for his followers and said, "This is the place") and named after the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City is the smallest anchor city in North American major league sports, except for Green Bay, Wisconsin: 193,000.

But it has a metropolitan area population of about 2.5 million and rising, which makes it larger than NBA markets San Antonio, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Memphis, and MLS markets Kansas City and Columbus -- and not that far behind Vancouver.
The State House

Society in the State and the City remains dominated by "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints," a.k.a. the Mormons. So, in Star Trek IV, when James T. Kirk, having traveled back in time with Spock, tells a woman that Spock was in Berkeley, California in the 1960s and "did a little too much LDS," it was a mistake, not a reference to Spock being a Mormon.

Despite it being a Western university, I don't think there were very many Mormons at the University of California, Berkeley in those days. They were much more likely to have attended the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah State University in Logan, or, especially, the school named for their faith's leading figure, Brigham Young University in Provo.

Nevertheless, like Austin in Texas, Little Rock in Arkansas, Atlanta in Georgia and Lincoln in Nebraska (but definitely not the suburbs of any of those), Salt Lake City is an increasingly liberal capital city in an otherwise very conservative State.

I put it this way: In Salt Lake City, Mitt Romney, America's most famous living Mormon, is regarded as "severely conservative"; in the rest of Utah, he's "Massachusetts Moderate Mitt." (As Dick Smothers would say, "That was not a compliment." Dick and his brother Tom probably also had a few things to say about Mitt's father, George, Governor of Michigan and a Presidential candidate in the 1960s.)

Salt Lake City has the most confusing street names I've ever seen. In place of numbered streets, such as "West 6th Street," they have "600 West," then divide them along the other access, so it reads as "South 600 West." I suppose that if you've lived there all your life, this would be second nature to you. Or North 200 Nature to you. But it would drive me bananas.

At any rate, Main Street is the east-west divider, with State Street taking the place of 100 East, and West Temple -- not "West Temple Street" or "West Temple Avenue" or anything like that, just "West Temple" -- taking the place of 100 West. There's also a North Temple and a South Temple, but not an East Temple. South Temple is the north-south divider. The exact centerpoint is Temple Square. Interstate 215 forms a partial "beltway."

ZIP Codes for Utah begin with the digits 84. The Area Codes are 801 (overlaid by 385) and 435. Rocky Mountain Power runs Salt Lake City's electricity. Salt Lake City was 91 percent white as recently as 1970, but is now 66 percent white, 22 percent Hispanic, 8 percent Asian, 3 percent black and 1 percent Native American.

The Utah Transit Authority runs buses and TRAX light rail. Routes numbered 001 to 199 run east-to-west, 200 to 299 run north-to-south, 300-399 are express, 400 to 499 are intercounty, 500 to 599 are neighborhood routes, 600 to 699 are Weber/Davis County routes, 800 to 899 are Utah County Routes, and 900 to 999 are Ski Service/Seasonal routes.
A square bounded by Temple on the north, 200 East on the east, 500 South on the south, and 400 West on the west, plus the State Capitol, Salt Lake Central Station and Old Greektown Station, are a Free Fare Zone. Otherwise, within Salt Lake City, a one-way fare is $2.50, and a Day Pass is $6.25.

The "sales and use tax," as it's known in Utah, is 4.7 percent for the State, and rises to 6.85 percent in Salt Lake City.

Going In. The official address of Rio Tinto Stadium, or "The RioT" (pronouced like "riot"), is 9256 South State Street, and it is 16 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City.

If you're driving in from downtown: Take I-15 South to Exit 295, and follow South 255 West and West 9400 South to the stadium. I've seen one source that says, "The stadium is unbelievable. The parking is just bad." This may be true: The map shows there isn't much parking on-site. However, the Jordan Commons mall, across State Street to the east, and the South Towne Exposition Center, across 9400 South to the south of that, may have more. Parking runs from $6.00 to $10.00.

By public transit: Take the 701 TRAX, heading toward Draper, from City Center Station to Sandy Expo Station. It's a 32-minute ride. Then it's a 10-minute walk, west on 9400 South and north on the access road to the stadium.
The stadium, whose naming rights are owned by a British-based mining company (appropriate for a soccer team in a mining State, even if most of the company's business is in Australia) opened on October 9, 2008, and the Red Bulls were the visiting team, playing RSL to a 1-1 draw. The field has always been natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south.
RSL share the stadium with their development team, Real Monarchs SLC (Salt Lake City) of the 2nd-tier United Soccer League (same league as NYRB II), and the Utah Royals of the National Women's Soccer League, formerly Kansas City FC.

The stadium hosted the 2009 MLS All-Star Game and the 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final. It has also hosted 4 matches each by the U.S. men's and women's soccer teams, all victories until the most recent USMNT match there, a 1-1 draw in a friendly with Venezuela on June 3, 2017. In their most recent match there, June 7, 2018, the USWNT beat China 1-0. It hosted 2 games of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Concerts at the stadium have included The Eagles in 2009, Paul McCartney in 2010, Journey in 2011 and Neil Diamond in 2012.

Food. The team comes right out and says it on their website: "Eating is not a spectator sport." 
Being an American of Polish descent, I agree with this. Going clockwise around the stadium:

* The north end has Snowie (a snow cone stand), Real Faves (also pronounced "Ree-AL"), Twin Peaks, Chili Verde, Millcreek Pizza and Maverik Bonfire Grill.

* The northeast corner has Moki's Hawaiian and Totally Nuts.

* The east side has Border Burrito, Pass the dog (a hot dog stand), Snowie, Chile Verde, Real Faves, Millcreek Pizza, and another Snowie stand.

* The south end has Maverik Mayhem and Real Faves.

* The west side has Four Corners Smokehouse, flanked by 2 Chili Verdes.

Team History Displays. RSL began play in 2005, and named themselves after Spanish giants Real Madrid, after rejecting names like the Golden Spikers (which sounds more like a good name for a volleyball team, but certainly has a Utah connection) and Blitzz (which was reminiscent of the the failed Utah Starzz of the WNBA, not to mention the Chicago Blitz, who failed in the USFL in 1983 and 1984). They won the MLS Cup in 2009. But there is no banner honoring this in the fan-viewable areas of the stadium.

Oddly, while they have won a league title, they have never finished 1st in the Western Conference in the regular season, though they have finished 2nd 3 times. I suppose this makes them the Miami Marlins of MLS, except that their stadium isn't a garish airplane hangar, their uniforms aren't stupid, they've got insane heat but not the humidity to match, and they've never had a cheap asshole as their owner (as far as I know), or a legendary former player who hasn't yet adjusted to his new position.

RSL were runners-up in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2011, and achieved a dubious "double" in 2013, losing the Finals of both the MLS Cup and the U.S. Open Cup.

(D.C. United won the American version of "The Double" in 1996, the Chicago Fire in 1998, and the Los Angels Galaxy in 2005. L.A. won the MLS Cup but lost the MLS Cup Final in 2002. D.C. won the Open Cup but lost the MLS Cup Final in 1997, L.A. did that in 2001, Chicago in 2003, Sporting Kansas City in 2004, the New England Revolution in 2007. But no other team has lost both Finals in the same season.)

RSL don't have a team hall of fame, and did not select an all-time team for their 10th Anniversary in 2015. There's also no viewable display for their only retired number, the 9 of Jason Kreis. That name should sound familiar to you: He was named MLS Most Valuable Player when helping the D.C. Scum to the 1999 title, and was the 1st head coach of New York City FC, before the club's pathetic performance led to him being fired after just 1 season. He later managed Orlando City, and now manages the Under-23 squad for the USMNT.
He was acquired as RSL's 1st player, before their 1st season, in 2005, and he scored the 1st goal in club history -- which he also did for FC Dallas (then the Dallas Burn) in 1996. Early in the 2007 season, he retired as a player and was named RSL's manager, a post he held through 2013, when he took over at Man City NYC.

Between this job and the Orlando job, he was an assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann on the national team -- which is ironic, because he played for it only 14 times, and never in a major tournament. (He could have been selected for the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2002 or 2006; or for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 or 2005. But he never was.)

Since RSL's inception in 2005, they and their arch-rivals, the Colorado Rapids, have competed for the Rocky Mountain Cup. Real have won it 10 times, including the last 3, and the Rapids 4 times, including the 1st 2. In overall games, Real lead 20-13-11.
The Rocky Mountain Cup
decorated with Real's colors

Stuff. The Real Salt Lake Team Store is in the northeast corner of the stadium. The usual team gear can be found there. Perhaps Utah's Western heritage could be invoked with the selling of cowboy hats with the team's logo on it.

Finding media about the team may be difficult. As far as I can tell, there's no books about the team, and the only video I could find was a record of their championship season, It's For Real - Real Salt Lake MLS Cup 2009 Champions.

During the Game. RSL's big rivalry is with the Denver-based Colorado Rapids, and it is a nasty one, much more so than the one between the NBA's Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.

The Red Bulls and NYCFC are not the Rapids. So, what's the safety factor? I saw one source that said, unless you sit among the home supporters in the south end, you should be able to make friends. But I saw another source that said, "If you are a supporter from another team STAY AWAY. The Real Salt Lake supporters in black shirts were rude and offensive. Security did nothing to prevent them from hassling and cursing away fans."

I don't know what this person meant by "hassling." But if it's anything up to and including what the NYCFC fans tried outside Bello's in Summer 2015, then anyone visiting should know that they won't be on home turf. You will be outnumbered. Best not to escalate anything.

RSL's manager is Mike Petke. That would thrill Red Bull fans. NYCFC fans, not so much.

RSL holds auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. Keeping with the "royal" image of Real Salt Lake, their mascot is Leo the Lion, as in "King of the Jungle."
Apparently, Leo is a Potterhead. Or he's
got a crush on Emma Watson. Or...
Nah, I'm not gonna go there.

In 2011, Branden Steineckert, the drummer for the punk band Rancid and an RSL fan, wrote the song "Believe" in honor of the club. It has since been adopted as the team's official anthem, being sung at the beginning of every home game, as well as after all goals scored by RSL.

Real Salt Lake has eight official supporters groups: Rogue Cavaliers Brigade (RCB -- "We have been called 'the best fans in the stadium,' our foes have called us 'scary,' 'childish' and 'immature'"), The Loyalists, Salt City United (SCU), Section 26, La Barra Real, Union de Real, The Royal Pride (TRP), and The Royal Army. Except for Section 26 and The Royal Army (which is dispersed throughout the stadium), all supporters groups sit in the south stands.
They call themselves "Salt Lake's Finest," but look at the B:
They can't spell "Brigade."

Their chants are mostly borrowed. Chelsea's tune becomes, "Carefree, wherever we may be, we are the famous SLC!" Like Southampton and Tottenham, they use "When Real Goes Marching In." There's "Salt Lake 'Til I Die," "Can You Hear the (Opponent's Fans) Sing?", "Wings of an Eagle" (instead of "Sparrow"), "Who the Fuck Is Colorado" (instead of "Are Man United"), "Let's Go Fucking Mental," "I Believe That We Will Win," and an oldie but a goodie from American football: "Hit 'em again, hit 'em again, harder, harder!" They use "A rope, a tree, we'll hang the referee," but vary it with, "I'm blind, I'm deaf, I wanna be a ref!"

Like many teams, they've adapted the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine," in their case for a player who dives: "You go down like a Tijuana whore, a Tijuana whore, a Tijuana whore!"

After the Game. Salt Lake City is one of the safest cities in the country. You should have no trouble getting back to your car or your hotel all right.

If you want to go out for a postgame meal or drinks -- yes, alcohol can be purchased and consumed in Utah -- across South State Street, the Jordan Commons Mall has a Joe's Crab Shack and a Cold Stone Creamery. However, due to the lateness of the hour, getting in might not be possible. A little further down State Street are Crown Burgers and Iceberg Drive Inn.

Back in downtown Salt Lake, Lumpy's, at 145 S. Pierpont Avenue between 100 and 200 West, was recently cited on Thrillist's list of the best sports bars in every State as the best one in Utah.

As far as I know, there are no bars or restaurants anywhere near Salt Lake City that are known hangouts for New Yorkers.

If your game in Salt Lake is during the European soccer season (which is now approaching its climax), there's one place that shows up whenever you look up area soccer bars: Fiddler's Elbow, at 1063 East 2100 South, 5 1/2 miles southeast of downtown, in the Sugarhouse area. Bus 209, then a 3-block walk east on 2100.

Sidelights. Aside from the Jazz, Salt Lake City doesn't have much sports history, but may still be worth a visit beyond the game.

* Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz' arena opened in 1991 as the Delta Center, with the airline having bought naming rights. It became the EnergySolutions Arena in 2006, and the name was changed again in 2015, as the naming rights were bought by a private home security system company. Yet another thing about Salt Lake City that's confusing, along with the street addresses, the combination of desert and snow-capped mountains, and the liberal City in the conservative State.
The building was used for figure skating and short track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The WNBA's Utah Starzz played there from 1997 to 2002, when they moved to become the San Antonio Silver Stars. It was home to a pair of minor-league hockey teams, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles from 1991 to 1994, and the Utah Grizzlies from 1995 to 1997, winning the Turner Cup in 1996 and '97. It's hosted NCAA Tournament games, although the NCAA is now committed to holding them in domed stadiums with at least twice this arena's capacity of 19,911.

The official address of the arena is 301 South Temple. It's downtown, within walking distance of most hotels.

* Salt Palace. There have actually been 3 buildings with this name, but only the 2nd is connected to sports. Opening in 1969, it hosted minor-league hockey's Salt Lake Golden Eagles from 1969 to 1991; the ABA's Utah Stars from 1970 to 1975, including their 1971 ABA Championship; and the Jazz from 1979 to 1991. The Beatles never performed in Utah, but Elvis Presley sang at the Salt Palace on November 16, 1971 and July 2, 1974.

For most of its history, it seated a little over 12,000 people. By the time the Jazz got good in the mid-1980s, among the NBA's 23 teams, only the Milwaukee Bucks had an arena with a smaller capacity. It was time to build a larger arena.

On of the last events there was an AC/DC concert on January 18, 1991, at which fans rushed the stage, and 3 of them were trampled to death. It took 20 minutes for someone to get word to the band about what had happened, and they stopped the concert. Most likely, you didn't hear about this (unless you were a fan of the band or a Utah native) because the Persian Gulf War had started 2 nights before, and that was all that TV news wanted to talk about. (As opposed to a similar incident at a Who concert in Cincinnati in 1979, which even got a WKRP episode about it.) A lawsuit was filed against the arena operators and the band, and was eventually settled out of court.

The Salt Palace was demolished in 1994. The Salt Palace Convention Center was built on the site, and includes the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and a concert hall, Abravanel Hall. 100 South Temple.

* Smith's Ballpark. This 15,411-seat ballpark, one of the largest in the minor leagues, has been the home of the Salt Lake team in the Pacific Coast League since 1994, known first as the Buzz, then as the Stingers starting in 2001, and as the Bees since 2006. They are currently a farm team of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

It was built on the site of Derks Field, which had been home to area baseball since 1947. The original Salt Lake City baseball team played from 1911 to 1984. As the Bees, they won the Pioneer League (then Class C) Pennant in 1946, 1948 and 1953, and the PCL Pennant in 1959. As the Salt Lake City Angels, they won the PCL Pennant in 1971. As the Salt Lake City Gulls, they won the PCL Pennant in 1979. But the current Bees have never won a Pennant, last making the Playoffs in 2013.

The Salt Lake Trappers won Pioneer League (now a Rookie League) Pennants in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1991, making a total of 10 Pennants for Salt Lake City teams. En route to the 1987 Pennant, they won 29 straight games, to set a North American professional baseball record. In 1994, the Trappers moved upstate to become the Ogden Raptors. 1365 South West Temple, 2 1/2 miles south of Temple Square. Ballpark station on TRAX light rail.

* Rice-Eccles Stadium. Home to University of Utah football since 1998, this 45,807-seat stadium was the centerpiece of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was built on the site of the previous Rice Stadium, built in 1927. It was Real Salt Lake's 1st home field, from 2005 to 2008, and the U.S. soccer team beat Costa Rica there on June 4, 2005.
* Jon M. Huntsman Center. Home to University of Utah basketball since 1969, it was renamed for a major university contributor, the founder of Huntsman Chemical Corporation and the father of a former Governor. (Jon Huntsman Sr. died last year, while Jon Huntsman Jr. is still alive.)

Most notably, the arena then known as the Special Events Center hosted the 1979 NCAA Final Four, including the legendary Final, won by Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Michigan State over Larry Bird's Indiana State. It has hosted 81 NCAA Tournament games, 3rd-most of any arena.

Both the stadium, at 451 1400 East, and the Huntsman Center, at 1825 East South Campus Drive, are about 3 miles east of downtown, and can be reached by TRAX light rail at University Campus South station.

Utah State University is in Logan, 83 miles north on U.S. Route 89. It is not easily reachable by public transportation. Brigham Young University (BYU) is in Provo, 45 miles south on I-15. TRAX does extend to Provo Central Station, taking about an hour, and then you can transfer to the 830 or 831 bus to the campus.

* Maverik Center. Originally known as the E Center, this 12,500-seat arena hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic hockey tournament. The East Coast Hockey League's Utah Grizzlies have played there since it opened in 1997. (Yes, I know: Utah is on neither the Pacific Coast nor the East Coast. I didn't name these leagues.) 3200 Decker Lake Drive, in the suburb of West Valley City. TRAX to Decker Lake station.

Don't count on Salt Lake City ever getting a team in a sport other than the NBA and MLS. Its metro area population would rank it 29th in MLB, 26th in the NFL, and 23rd in the NHL. For now, the closest teams in those leagues are in Denver, 523 miles away.

And yet, while the Denver Broncos are Utah's favorite NFL team, and the Colorado Avalanche its favorite NHL team, it doesn't hold true in baseball. According to an article in the April 23, 2014 edition of The New York Times, Salt Lake City's vast distance from any major league team means that its favorite teams are the teams it's used to seeing on TV: The Yankees and Red Sox each got 17 percent in a poll, and the next-closest in the poll was the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a mere 7 percent. It's not until you get to Uintah County, 160 miles east of Salt Lake (and 320 miles west of Denver), that you get to definitive Colorado Rockies territory in Utah.

Utah has never produced a President. Mitt Romney, born in Detroit and living most of his life in Boston, but having a home in the Salt Lake suburb of Park City, was nominated for President in 2012, but didn't come all that close to winning. So there's no Presidential Library or Museum nearby. Romney has now been elected to the U.S. Senate.

The most famous Utahan remains Mormon leader Brigham Young. His home, The Beehive House, is a Salt Lake City landmark. 67 East South Temple Street, downtown. The spot where Young told his followers, "This is the place" is now the This Is The Place Heritage Park, a "living history" park, a "Mormon Williamsburg" if you prefer. 2601 Sunnyside Avenue South. It is part of the University of Utah campus, as is the Natural History Museum at 301 Wakara Way. Both can be reached by Bus 3 from Temple Square.

As I mentioned, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is part of the new Salt Palace complex. The Museum for Speed includes exhibits about the speed records set at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. 165 East 600 South. Bus 200 from Temple Square.

Golden Spike National Historic Site commemorates the meeting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads to form the 1st transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. Interestingly, both of the locomotives shown in the famous photo were made within a reasonable drive of us: Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works of Paterson, New Jersey built Union Pacific No. 119; and Schenectady Locomotive Works of the Albany area built Central Pacific Railroad #60, a.k.a. Jupiter.

6200 North 22300th Street West (no, I checked, that address is not a typo), in Corrinne, 86 miles northwest of Salt Lake City and around the Great Salt Lake itself, up I-15 and Utah Route 83. Ironically, it's not reachable by train. Nor by bus: You'd have to rent a car to see it. It's about 32 miles southeast of the actual location, usually referred to as Promontory Point, but actually named Promontory Summit, near Brigham City. ("Promontory Point" is a different place.)

The tallest building in the State of Utah is the Wells Fargo Center in Salt Lake City, 422 feet high. (It should not be confused with the building of the same name that is the new Philadelphia sports arena.) Main Street and 300 South. But the most famous building in the State remains the Salt Lake Temple at Temple Square, the Mormons' "Vatican."

As the home of National Monument Valley, many of the films made in Utah have been Westerns, including Stagecoach, The Searchers, How the West Was Won, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- which gave its name to Kid portrayer Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival -- and the Wild West scenes from Back to the Future III. The beginning sequence of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with 18-year-old River Phoenix playing a 13-year-old Indy, was said by the credits to take place in "Utah, 1912," and was indeed filmed in the State. The spot in Forrest Gump where Forrest stops running is on U.S. Route 163 in Monument Valley.

As for Salt Lake City itself, a scene from Legally Blonde 2 was filmed at the Jazz' arena, and another at the State Capitol. The High School Musical movies were filmed at East High School, 3 miles east of downtown. 840 1300 East. Bus 220.

But the most famous movie shot in Salt Lake was set in California's San Fernando Valley in 1962: The Sandlot. The houses of Scotty Smalls and Benny "the Jet" Rodriguez are at the corner of Bryan Avenue and 2000 East, 5 miles southeast of downtown. Also Bus 220. The actual sandlot, renovated for the film's 20th Anniversary in 2013, is behind 1386 Glenrose Drive South at Navajo Street, 4 miles southwest of Temple Square. Bus 516. Patrick Renna, who played catcher Hamilton "The Great Hambino" Porter, filmed another movie in SLC, The Great Unknown, in 1997.
A recent photo of the Sandlot

TV shows set and/or filmed in Utah include the late 1950s Western Union PacificTouched By an Angel (the angels' car had Utah license plates), its spinoff Promised Land, Everwood, and the Mormon-themed drama Big Love and reality series Sister Wives.

*

Like a lot of cities, Salt Lake City can be a bit of an acquired taste. But it's a good soccer town, and it could be a good roadtrip for a Red Bulls or NYCFC fan.

July 30, 1999: I Came, I Saw, I Conquered

July 30, 1999, 20 years ago: It was my greatest achievement as a sports fan.

I, a Yankee Fan, walked into Fenway Park during a Yankees vs. Red Sox Pennant race, saw the Yankees win, walked out still wearing my Yankee cap, and got out of New England in one piece.

It was a good time in America. Bill Clinton was President, the economy was booming, and the nation was at peace. New York City was safer and cleaner than it had ever been in my lifetime. And the Yankees were winning.

But, in the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, it turned out to be a weird time. This was the year the rivalry, kind of dormant since the 1980s ended, picked up again. But it was also the time that the Red Sox were planning on building a new Fenway Park, while the Yankees were merely talking about building a new Yankee Stadium.

Plans were made to build the new Fenway across Jersey Street/Yawkey Way from the old one, with its "front door" on Boylston Street. Plans were made for it to have much more office, concession and restroom space than the original, but keep the same dimensions, including a new Green Monster. The old park would be torn down, except for the original Green Monster, and a new field put in place.
The New Fenway plan

They were planning on having it open by 2003, and they got endorsements from Sox legends Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Pesky, as well as celebrity Sox fans like Stephen King and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

As it turned out, Massachusetts politics got in the way, as it so often does. When John Henry and his people bought the Sox from the Yawkey Trust in 2002, they decided building a World Series winner was more important than building a new ballpark. And so, since then, we have a new Yankee Stadium with 1 World Series win, and the same Fenway Park, modernized as much as possible, with 4 World Series wins *.

But in 1999, it was possible that this would be the last season with a Yankees-Red Sox Pennant race at the old Fenway Park. And this was one of those few Summers in which I had money. I had seen 3 games at Fenway (in 1991, 1994 and 1996), but not against the Yankees. I had seen a Yankees-Red Sox game, but at Yankee Stadium (in 1991). This could have been my last chance, or so I thought. So I went.

*

I made a reservation for a bed-and-breakfast in the Allston section of Boston, just off the Boston University campus. The game was going to be on WNYW-Channel 5 (for the 1st time since 1950, the Yankees' "free TV" carrier was not WPIX-Channel 11), so I set my VCR (remember them?) to record it.

I packed my backpack, walked to the bus station at Tower Center, just off Exit 9 of the New Jersey Turnpike, and took the bus into Port Authority Bus Terminal. I boarded a Greyhound bus at Gate 84, and made a leisurely, uneventful ride to Boston. Everything was in place, except for one thing. I had no game ticket. That's a story in and of itself.

At any rate, we arrived a little early at South Station, the city's venerable rail terminal, which had just had a bus terminal added. I got on the subway, known as "The T" for "transit." South Station is on the Red Line, and I changed at Park Street under (or, "changed at Pahk Street undah," as they say up theah) to the Green Line, and checked in. I had plenty of time to get back on the Green Line and get to the little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square.

One thing Fenway has in common with Yankee Stadium (old or new) is that, as soon as you get out of the subway, there are the scalpers, asking, "Anybody buying? Anybody selling?" I made the left turn from Commonwealth Avenue onto Brookline Avenue, took the bridge over the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Boston & Albany Railroad (now serving Amtrak, MBTA commuter rail, and the T's Orange Line), and past the most famous of all Red Sox bars, the Cask 'n' Flagon, across Ted Williams Way (the recently renamed Ipswich Street) from the big left field wall, the Green Monster.

I went to Yawkey Way (which has since had its previous name of Jersey Street restored), stuck my Yankee cap in the backpack, and looked for a scalper. I found one, with a ticket for an Obstructed View seat in Section 12, behind 1st base. List price was $24, and he was offering it for $42. In 2019 dollars, he was charging $65 for a $37 seat, so you can see just how much the Red Sox' 2003-present success has driven up prices.

The look on the scalper's face when, after making the exchange, I put my cap back on, was worth it.

*

I made my way inside the venerable old ballyard. One thing I've done on every visit to Fenway (except one, having forgotten until I was on the bus to go back home, and I felt terrible about it) is look for one of the little red Jimmy Fund boxes.

One good thing you can do is look for the Jimmy Fund boxes. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has run the fund since 1948, when the Boston Braves pitched in to raise money for a kid named Einar Gustafsson, then 12 years old and a patient of the Institute's founder, Dr. Sidney Farber.

Gustafsson was called the much more generic "Jimmy," not so much because he had a decidedly non-English name (in the post-World War II era, a decidedly patriotic, pro-America time), but to protect his privacy. In the 1st year, $200,000 was raised for cancer research – about $2.1 million in today's money.

When the Braves left town in 1953, Farber turned to the Red Sox. Later that year, when Ted Williams returned from the Korean War, he volunteered, and became the face of the Fund, becoming close friends with Farber and raising money all over the country, especially after his retirement as a player in 1960 gave him more time to do so, until becoming too ill to do so a few years prior to his death in 2002.

*

Here were the lineups for the game. For the visiting Yankees, coming in at 61-39, leading the American League Eastern Division:

1. 11 2B Chuck Knoblauch
2. 2 SS Derek Jeter
3. 21 RF Paul O'Neill
4. 51 CF Bernie Williams
5. 24 1B Tino Martinez
6. 45 DH Chili Davis
7. 20 C Jorge Posada
8. 47 LF Shane Spencer
9. 18 3B Scott Brosius
P 14 Hideki Irabu

For the host Red Sox, coming in at 55-46, 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees, but in good position to take the 1 Wild Card berth then available in the AL:

1. 20 CF Darren Lewis
2. 13 3B John Valentin
3. 23 1B Brian Daubach
4. 5 SS Nomar Garicaparra
5. 25 LF Troy O'Leary
6. 44 DH Butch Huskey
7. 33 C Jason Varitek
8. 15 2B Donnie Sadler
9. 7 RF Trot Nixon
P 31 Mark Portugal

I was familiar all 9 position players. I had seen Huskey play for the Mets. Valentin had been with the Sox since 1992. And I had seen the other 7 play for the Trenton Thunder, now the Yankees' Class AA farm team in the Eastern League, but then belong to the Boston system.

The home plate umpire was Mike Reilly. Had I known that I would one day become a fan of English soccer team Arsenal, and that a referee named Mike Riley would badly screw them over in 2004, and then even more so as the supervisor for Premier League referees, I would have taken this as a bad sign. As far as I know, there is no connection between them, besides similar (if differently-spelled) names and a similar profession.

The other umpires: At 1st base, Brian O'Nora, of whom I have no memory; at 2nd base, Laz Diaz, not a good one; and at 3rd base, Rich Garcia, who wrote his name into Yankee history in the 1996 Playoffs, controversially giving Derek Jeter a home run despite then 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier seeming to interfere with play. (The call was correct: Baltimore Oriole right fielder Tony Tarasco was not going to catch the ball anyway.)

The game-time temperature was 84 degrees, quite tolerable, since there was a 17 mile-per-hour wind. Conspicuously, it was blowing from right field to left field, making the Green Monster slightly more tempting a target than usual, but not making it too easy a target. The sky was overcast, but there was no threat of rain. Given a cold drink, you couldn't have asked for a better night for baseball, a better place to watch it (I make a lot of remarks about Fenway to tease Sox fans, but I don't mean them), or a better pair of opponents.

*

Baseball games generally don't start on the hour or the half-hour. For TV's sake, the time printed on the ticket is usually at 5, or 10, or (in the case of Toronto Blue Jays home games) 7 minutes after the hour. Usually, first pitch comes at 7 or 8 minutes after. So this game should have started at 7:07 PM.

Instead, plate umpire Reilly shouted, "Play ball!" early, and Portugal threw the 1st pitch at 7:04. As I found out when I got back home and ran back the tape, this caught the Channel 5 camerman, and announcers Bobby Murcer and Tim McCarver, by surprise. They missed the 1st pitch of the game. They almost missed the 2nd pitch, too.

I had emerged from Fenway's concourse about halfway between 3rd and home, just in time to see that 1st pitch, and saw the 2nd pitch. It was a meatball -- or, since the pitcher's name was Portugal, maybe it was a chouriço -- and Knoblauch cooked it, sending it over the Monster. I was far from the only fan who had not yet reached his seat, and the Yankees were already up 1-0.

I got to Section 12, found my row, and, at just the right moment, turned around to see Jeter hit the 5th pitch of the game. This was no cheap Green Monster hit: He sent it to straightaway center field, almost hitting the camerman. I was still not in my seat (neither were a few hundred others), and it was 2-0 Yankees.

Finally, I got to my seat. On the 9th pitch of the game, to O'Neill, Portugal was so fershimmeled that the force of his delivery knocked him down. And by "him," I don't mean O'Neill, I mean Portugal. He literally fell off the mound.

You would think that this would leave the Red Sox shellshocked and unable to come back. But this was Fenway Park. Strange things happen. Irabu did not have his best stuff in the bottom of the 1st inning, and after starting things by getting Lewis to pop up, he gave up a home run to Valentin. He got Daubach to ground out, but he allowed a single to Nomar and an RBI double to O'Leary, tying the game, before he struck Huskey out to end the threat.

Fenway was still buzzing after hosting the All-Star Game 17 days earlier, with the pregame ceremony honoring Ted Williams and the in-game pitching of Pedro Martinez. At this point, with the score 2-2, everyone on hand, regardless of who they were rooting for, was expecting a classic.
The 1999 All-Star Game

But the game would not be close. With 1 out in the top of the 2nd, Spencer hit a ground ball to Nomar, then in a 3-way discussion with Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, then with the Seattle Mariners, as to who was the best shortstop in baseball. Met fans argued that the best was their shortstop, Rey Ordonez, but he wasn't as good a fielder as any of the 3, and he was a lousy hitter. Nomar did his role in this discussion no favors on this play, botting the grounder. Three straight singles followed: By Brosius, but Knoblauch getting Spencer home, and by Jeter getting Brosius home.

Jimy Williams was the Sox manager at the time, and he had seen enough. He took Portugal out, and brought in Korean pitcher Jin Ho Cho. O'Neill almost hit it out, deep enough to score Knoblauch. Nixon (full name: Christopher Trotman Nixon) made a bad throw, and Jeter was able to score as well. 6-2 Yankees.

Is any game ever really out of reach at Fenway Park? The Sox led off the bottom of the 2nd with Varitek drawing a walk and Sadler singling. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you, especially the leadoff variety. But Irabu got out of the inning, on his way to getting 10 straight batters out.

Tino led off the top of the 3rd with a single. Chili walked. Posada doubled Tino home. Spencer popped up, and then Brosius singled home Chili and Jorge. 9-2 Yankees.

The Sox, now with Rich Garcés on the mound -- a Venezuelan righthander known as El Guapo, the Handsome One, although he should have been called El Gordo, the Fat One -- kept the Yankees from scoring in the 4th and the 5th. The Sox scored in the bottom of the 5th on a triple by Lewis and a sac fly by Valentin, making in 9-3, but that was as close as they would get. Garces and Mark Guthrie kept the Yanks off the board in the 6th, but in the bottom of the inning, Irabu struck out the side: Garciaparra, O'Leary and Huskey.

The Yankees ended any doubt in the top of the 7th: Single by Chili, home run by Jorge, walk by Spencer, double by Brosius, single by Knoblauch. 13-3. At the 7th inning stretch, the Sox fans sang, "For it's root, root, root for the Red Sox!" I could only answer, "If they don't win, it's the same!"

By this point, there were about 10,000 people left in Fenway, and about 5,000 of them were chanting, "Let's go, Yankees!" I was one of them.

I did not, however, make a nuisance of myself. I was 29 years old, no longer a kid. Certainly, I yelled encouragement to my team's players, but I did not taunt the Sox players, and I did not go out of my way to antagonize the fans around me, most of whom were reasonable, and none of them tried anyting. This may have been my 1st Yankees game at Fenway Park, but, as the saying goes, this was not my first rodeo.

Yankee manager Joe Torre went against his usual instinct, and kept Irabu in the game. Or maybe he figured that, since this was Fenway, he needed to keep his bullpen as rested as possible. Irabu allowed a single to pinch-hitter Reggie Jefferson in the 7th, and a single to Nomar in the 8th. 

But in the 9th, he got Huskey to pop up to Tino, got Lenny Webster (who had replaced Varitek behind the plate) to ground to Brosius, and ended the game with his 123rd pitch of the night, fanning Lou Merloni (who had replaced Sadler at 2nd base) for his 12th strikeout, against just 1 walk.

Cue John Sterling on the radio, the team then being broadcast on WABC, 770 AM: "Ballgame over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeee Yankees win!"

Yankees 13, Red Sox 3. For the Yankees: 13 runs, 16 hits, no errors, 8 men left on base. For the Red Sox: 3 runs, 7 hits, 2 errors, 5 men left on base.

The winning pitcher: Hideki Irabu (8-3), a surprising complete game from the tubby Japanese pitcher who was already being considered a bust, despite having been part of a World Championship team the season before. Obviously, no save. The losing pitcher: Mark Portugal (6-8).

Knoblauch went 5-for-6, with the leadoff home run, and 4 RBIs. Jeter went 2-for-6 with a home run and 2 RBIs. Posada went 3-for-5, with a home run and 3 RBIs. Brosius didn't hit a home run, but went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs. Not only did Knoblauch almost outhit the Sox all by himself, but the Sox were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. That tells a lot.

The attendance was 33,777, and, as Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay would say, the time of the game, a slightly unmanageable, but enjoyable 3 hours and 3 minutes.

*

I had been to Fenway, and seen the Yankees kick the Sox' asses. That was the easy part. The hard part would be getting out alive.

Not yet knowing that, in soccer leagues around the world, visiting fans are put in the same section, kept segregated from the home fans, and kept behind until after the home sections have been emptied, and only then let out, I stuck around for as long as they would let me, even finding my way to the edge of the bleachers, looking for the famous red seat that marked the spot where Ted Williams hit what is, officially, Fenway's longest home run, a 502-foot shot in 1946.

(There may have been a longer one hit by Babe Ruth in the 1920s, or over the Green Monster. But, as far as those home runs that have been measured, this blast by the Splendid Splinter is the longest.)

This being the era before camera phones, I used my regular camera, but it was already dark, and I didn't get a good picture.
A better photo than the one I took

I was not the only Yankee Fan who felt like sticking around. I even ran into a Boston University student who had played football at my high school. (BU had dropped its football program in 1997.) Finally, the ushers began asking us to leave. They did so politely. We followed their instructions.

I tried to find my way to the main entrance, the big wooden doors on Yawkey Way. There were enough people left that it was easy to bump into people. And I did bump into someone. I looked up, and, before I could see who it was, I said, "Sorry, mister."

It was Bobby Murcer. Star Yankee outfielder of the early 1970s who returned at the end of the decade, and broadcaster since his retirement as a player in 1983. Next to him was Tim McCarver, the longtime St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies catcher who had broadcast for the Mets in the 1980s, who was in the 1st of 3 seasons doing so for the Yankees. They were nice enough to not be mad at me for literally bumping into Bobby. (I did not ask for autographs. I never see the point in it.)
Bobby Murcer, at the old Yankee Stadium.
Sadly, both their lives ended in 2008.

I walked out of Fenway. Here is where the real trouble could have begun. I had to get back to the T, without getting killed for wearing a Yankee cap in the aftermath of a Yankee shellacking of the home team. But enough time had passed since the final pitch, and enough of a margin of the score, for it to not be so bad. Nobody bothered me.

I decided to press my luck. I got off the Green Line at Arlington, and walked over to the Bull & Finch Pub on Beacon Street. Although it only opened in 1969, unlike on the show where the sign said 1895 but the script said 1889, The Bull & Finch was used as the basis for the bar on the TV show of the same name, Cheers.

Since then, both the bar and the restaurant above, Hampshire House, used on the show is the basis for Melville's, have been bought by someone who turned all of it into a single establishment called Cheers, with the permission of the ship's production company.

I went down those famous steps, walked in, still wearing the Yankee cap, but did not yell, like Norm Peterson (played by George Wendt), "Good evening, everybody!" After all, there, not only would a Yankee Fan announcing his presence in such a way have been a bad idea, as seen on an early episode; but, unlike with Norm, nobody would have known my name.

There was an empty stool, I ordered a Samuel Adams beer, drank it, paid for it, and walked out in one piece, cap still on my head. I got back to my hotel, and slept a very restful night.

(Sam Adams is still regarded as good beer, but, since it is so easily identified with the Red Sox, I haven't had one since 2004. On principle.)

*

The next day was a hot Saturday. I had time to visit the John F Kennedy Presidential Library, but, while trying to get back to South Station to head home, I had my Walkman with me, and the Red Sox were beating the Yankees, with the newly-acquired Roger Clemens on the mound -- for us, not them.

By the time I got on the bus to head back to New York, the game was over, and the Sox had won. They would win the Sunday game, too. In other words, of the 3 games in the series, the Yankees won only the one that I went to. This has frequently worked out the other way, including this year, when the Yankees took 3 out of 4 from Houston at home, and they only lost the one that I saw live.

But once the bus reached the "neutral zone" of New Haven, Connecticut, I realized that I had accomplished my mission. I had been to the belly of the Beast, and not only escaped, but emerged victorious. As Julius Caesar said after the Battle of Zela (in what's now Zile, Turkey) in 47 BC, "Veni, vidi, vici." I came, I saw, I conquered.

*

The Yankees did go on to win the American League East, but the Red Sox went on to win the Wild Card. In the AL Division Series, the Yankees swept the Texas Rangers, while the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Indians, to set up an AL Championship Series showdown.

The Yankees won Game 1 in 10 innings, on Bernie Williams' walkoff home run, and won Game 2 as well. Game 3 was the much-hyped showdown between Clemens and Pedro Martinez, but it didn't pan out: The Red Sox shellacked us, 13-1. Sox fans acted as if they just won the World Series, but, at the time, how would they have known? As they would say in English soccer, they had"won their Cup Final."

Game 4 was incredibly controversial. It was only 3-2 Yankees going into the ninth inning, but Ricky Ledée hit a grand slam, and Sox fans threw garbage on the field. When the field was cleared, and play resume, Yankees scored again to make it 9-2. There were questionable calls from the umpires, but Sox fans has absolutely no right to complain. Their team made 9 errors in the series, 4 in that Game 4 alone. Their team did it to themselves.

The Yankees won Game 5 to clinch the Pendant at Fenway Park on October 18, before winning the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 4 straight, clinching at Yankee Stadium on October 27.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry would get wilder, and nastier. But, for me, it was never better than on July 30, 1999, 20 years ago today.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Yanks Salvage Fenway Finale, Clock Is Ticking On a Trade

The Yankees had lost the 1st 3 games of their series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. They hadn't gotten a good performance from a starting pitcher in so long, we were wondering if it would ever happen again.

It didn't last night, but it came close enough. Domingo German started, and allowed 3 runs in 5 1/3rd innings. That should have been enough to give the Yankee bats a chance to outscore the Sox, but, in the little green pinball machine off Kenmore Square, you never know.

Chris Sale was, perhaps, the biggest reason why the Red Sox won last year's World Series. At least, until we can prove how they cheated that time. This season, whatever cheating they're doing isn't helping him, as he's had a nightmare season. With 1 out in the top of the 3rd, he walked Cameron Maybin, who recently returned from injury. Cliche Alert: Walks can kill you. Maybin loaded the gun, and Austin Romine pulled the trigger, hitting a home run to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

The process repeated itself in the top of the 4th. With 1 out, Luke Voit drew a walk, and it was Didi Gregorius who hit one out. 4-0 Bronx Bombers.

The Sox made it 4-2 in the bottom of the inning, on a home run by Andrew Benintendi. But in the top of the 6th, Sale sealed his own doom by issuing a leadoff walk to Didi. That cliche about walks being deadly is especially the case with the leadoff variety. Gleyber Torres grounded to 3rd, but the Sox couldn't turn the double play, putting Torres on 1st with 1 out. Gio Urshela doubled Torres home.

The Sox then went to the bullpen, bringing in Colten Brewer. (Colten Brewer? Is he an Indianapolis football player or a Milwaukee baseball player?) Maybin singled Urshela home to make it 6-2.

The Sox threatened in the bottom of the 6th, getting a run home before Aaron Boone brought Tommy Kahnle in to relieve German, and he got out of the jam. In the 7th, walks were again deadly, and so was an error: Aaron Hicks led off with a walk. Aaron Judge struck out, but Edwin Encarnacion doubled. Voit was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Didi hit a sacrifice fly to center. Jackie Bradley threw home, but it went wild, allowing Encarnacion to score as well, making it 8-3.

Kahnle allowed a run in the bottom of the 7th, and Adam Ottavino had to bail him out. Maybin doubled in the top of the 8th, advanced to 3rd on a groundout by Romine, and scored on a wild pitch. Zack Britton got into and out of a jam in the bottom of the inning.

Aroldis Chapman hadn't yet pitched in the series, because the Yankees hadn't been in a save situation. Yet again, he made it too interesting, with, yes, a leadoff walk, to Mookie Betts. He got a fly out, then came a single by Xander Bogaerts, and then a passed ball. Then he struck J.D. Martinez out, but Benintendi singled home Betts and Bogaerts. Finally, Chapman struck Michael Chavis out to end it.

Whew. Yankees 9, Red Sox 6. WP: German (13-2). No save, as Chapman came in with a 5-run lead. Had he been relieved, and the next guy closed it out, he would have gotten a save. LP: Sale (5-10).

The Yankees had today off. With 56 games to go, they lead the American League Eastern Division by 8 1/2 games over the Tampa Bay Rays, and 9 over the Red Sox, in each case (due to having played different amounts of games to this point) by 10 games in the all-important loss column.

The trading deadline is 2 days away, and Brian Cashman still hasn't gotten a new starting pitcher. It won't be Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays, one of Cashman's rumored targets, as the Mets got him for prospects.

The clock is ticking. Tomorrow night, the Yankees return home, to begin an Interleague series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Savages and Pushovers

Last season, the Yankees were in good shape until they went to Fenway Park in mid-Summer, and got swept by the Boston Red Sox in 4 straight.

This season, the Yankees seemed to be in good shape until they went to Fenway for this current mid-Summer series against the Sox. They have now lost 3 straight.

In fact, the Yankees have 7 or more runs in each of their last 7 games. They've allowed more runs than in any 7-game stretch in their 117-season history. And they've won only 2 of those games, and only 1 of those without needing extra innings.

CC Sabathia started last night, and once again looked like a man who is retiring on time, or maybe even a year too late. He didn't walk a batter, so his control wasn't the issue. And it was 2-1 Yankees, thanks to a home run and an RBI single, both by Gio Urshela, going to the bottom of the 4th.

But CC allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, and didn't get out of the 5th inning. Chad Green got us to the 7th, but he allowed 4 more runs.

The final was Red Sox 9, Yankees 5. WP: Eduardo Rodriguez (13-4). No save. LP: Sabathia (5-6).

After the game, manager Aaron Boone said, "As I say all the time, it's inevitable that you're going to get punched in the mouth in a major league season, and we'll be up to the challenge. Our guys are too good in that room. We all know what we're capable of, and we'll get it going here, hopefully starting tomorrow."

"Too good in that room"? And here, I thought, based on what Boone said a few days ago, that his guys were "fucking savages in that box." Even if they were, it's not enough to overcome how much they're pushovers on that mound.

The trading deadline is Wednesday, 3 days from now. Brian Cashman hasn't made a deal to acquire a starting pitcher.

It's worth noting that Dallas Keuchel has a WHIP of 1.260, lower than those of CC, James Paxton and J.A. Happ, and only .005 higher than that of Masahiro Tanaka. Cashman could have signed him at any time between October 29 of last year, when he was granted free agency, and June 7 of this year, when he was signed by the Atlanta Braves.

This was supposed to be the year. Now, it looks like the big Division lead we had will fall apart.

Cashman appears to be doing nothing.

His fanboys act like he's a savage. He's not. He's a pushover.

This series with The Scum concludes on ESPN tonight. Domingo German starts against Chris Sale.

How to Be a Met Fan In Pittsburgh -- 2019 Edition

This coming Friday night, the Mets head to Pittsburgh to play a 3-game weekend series with the Pirates. There was a bit of a rivalry with them in the early 1970s, and again in 1990 when the Pirates beat the Mets out for the National League Eastern Division title, but not much of one since.

Before You Go. Pittsburgh is at roughly the same latitude as New York City, and while it's more of a Midwestern city than a Northeastern one, it's well inland from the Great Lakes. So roughly the same weather that New York gets can be expected. As always, check out the newspaper website (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) before you head out.

For this weekend, they're predicting mid-80s for the afternoons, mid-60s for the evenings. A thunderstorm is predicted for Saturday afternoon, but it should be over in time to start the game on time.

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

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 big-league ballpark has – and despite having a string of 3 straight Playoff seasons not that long ago, the Pirates do not draw well. This season, the team is averaging 18,934 per home game, only 48 percent of capacity.

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, going into 2012, they hadn't had a winning season, let alone made the Playoffs, since George Bush was President. I'm talking about the father, not the son. That's an entire generation out of the Playoffs.

And all 3 of those recent postseason berths were via the Wild Card. The Pirates are 1 of 3 teams that have not won their current Division; their last Division title was in the National League Eastern in 1992, and they moved into the NL Central in 1994. The other 2 teams are the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies, and they have reached the World Series more recently than the Pirates, via the Wild Card route.

Aside from the Seattle Mariners, who've been in business since 1977 and have never won a Pennant, and the Washington Nationals, who started as the Montreal Expos in 1969 and have never won one, no team has gone longer without one than the Pirates. Their last Pennant, and their last World Series win, was in the Carter Administration, in 1979, led by "Pops" Stargell and "The Family." That was 38 years ago. Of the teams that have actually won a World Series, only the Cleveland Indians (1948) have longer droughts, now that the Cubs have won one again.

As a result of having a full generation of ineptitude, you can just 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" -- if, that is, they were willing to take over any ballpark. Frequently, you guys have enough trouble taking over your own.

By MLB standards, Pirates tickets are cheap. Infield Box seats, Sections 109 to 124, will set you back $59. Outfield Boxes are $43, Grandstand (upper deck) seats are $20, Outfield Reserved (right field) are $28, and Upper Bleacher Reserved (left field) are $23.

Getting There. I'm not going to kid you here: There's only one way to get there, and that's by car. You do not want to fly, because even if you get a good deal, you'll end up spending over 500 bucks to go less than 400 miles, and the airport is out in Imperial, Pennsylvania, near Coraopolis and Aliquippa, so it's almost as close to West Virginia and Ohio as it is to downtown Pittsburgh.

The Amtrak schedule doesn't really work. The Pennsylvanian leaves Penn Station at 10:52 AM, and doesn't get to Pittsburgh's Union Station until 7:59 PM, after the first pitch. There's no overnight train that would leave at, say, 11 PM and arrive at 8 AM. Going back, the Pennsylvanian leaves at 7:30 AM and arrives back at 4:56 PM. So in order to watch all 3 games of this Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday series, you'd have to leave New York on Sunday morning, and leave Pittsburgh on Thursday morning. It's $162 round-trip.

Greyhound isn't much better, but at least you have options. There are 14 buses a day between Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pittsburgh. It's $226, but it can drop to as little as $88 with advance purchase. 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 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. And it explains why the State went for President Jackass in 2016.

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."
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.

Once In the City. Pittsburgh has, by American standards, a long history. It was settled by the French as Fort Duquesne 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.

(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 16 World Championships in 21 trips to their sports' finals (which gives them a .762 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 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. Like Boston's system, their logo is a T for Transit, rather than an M for Metro. 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 -- in other words, on your way into the Thursday and Friday night games, making the charge $3.25 instead of $2.50. 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. ZIP Codes for Pittsburgh start with the digits 15, and for the rest of Western Pennsylvania 16. The Area Code for the city is 412, and for the suburbs 724, with 878 overlaid for both. Pittsburgh does not have a "beltway." Duquesne Light Holdings is the city's electric company.

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.

The city's population was 88 percent white in 1950. By 2010, that had dropped to 65 percent. It's 26 percent black, 4.4 percent Asian, and, surprising me, only 2.3 percent Hispanic.

Compared to most big cities, Pittsburgh has had hardly any civil strife. There was the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, in which the U.S. Army suppressed a bunch of guys complaining about a tax on booze. There was the Homestead Strike of 1892, where coal mine owners hired a private army to suppress organized labor. And there was the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018.

Going In. 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's subway/light rail system's Blue Line has now been extended to North Side Station, at Reedsdale & Martindale Streets, 2 blocks from the park.
The park is bounded on the 1st-base side by Mazeroski Way, on the 3rd base side by General Robinson Street (George Robinson was a Revolutionary War leader), on the left-field side by Federal Street, and on the right-field side by the Allegheny River, just before it merges with the Monongahela River to form the Ohio River -- together, the namesakes of Three Rivers Stadium, home of the Pirates and Steelers from 1970 to 2000.

The official address is 115 Federal Street. There are several nearby parking garages, most of them charging only $5.00.

Most likely, you will enter the park at 1 of 2 rotundas (rotundae?): The Trib Total Media Rotunda (especially if you're coming in by light rail or bus), or the Allegheny Sports Medicine Rotunda at the left field corner (especially if you're walking in from over the bridge).

Behind the park's left-field stands, you'll see the Roberto Clemente Bridge, formerly the 6th Street Bridge. (It was already Pirate yellow before they renamed it.) On game days, the Bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, to allow fans to walk across from downtown.

Behind the park's 1st-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 – 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. 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?

Home pate was moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, and from there to PNC Park in 2001. How long that particular plate was used at Forbes, I don't know. Given that the Pirates had a World Series clincher at Forbes in 1960, and the fans stormed the field, there is reason to doubt that it's the same plate that the park opened with in 1909.

The field, which points southeast, 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, and his Number 21 is displayed above the scoreboard on the wall.
PNC is generally considered to be a pitchers' park -- which is ironic, because the Pirates have historically been an offense-first team (in the 1970s, before they were "The Family," they were "The Lumber Company" because of their powerful bats), and there are no pitchers in the Baseball Hall of Fame who, in the last 100 years, have had the Pirates as their primary 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. Babe Ruth's 714th and final home run, with the Boston Braves in 1935, went over the right-field roof at Forbes, but no distance was suggested at the time, and anybody estimating its distance now would just be guessing. But it may have been longer than Stuart's blast.

In 1970, the Pirates moved home plate from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium. In 2001, they moved it again to PNC Park. So while I can't prove it's the same plate since 1909, it is definitely the same one since 1970. (Maybe it goes back to 1961, since the fans running onto the field after the 1960 World Series may have taken the one that was there then.)

PNC Park has hosted concerts, including Bruce Springsteen in 2003, the Rolling Stones in 2005, Billy Joel in 2016, and, although he's hardly up with those legends, Ed Sheeran last year. As yet, the park has hosted no sports besides baseball. Pitt and Duquesne began playing what was officially labeled "The City Game" there in 2003, but stopped in 2010, after Duquesne dropped their baseball program.

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. A recent Thrillist article on the best food at each big league ballpark
cited "Anything from Primanti Brothers" as the best at PNC Park.

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. 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. He lived just long enough to see its dedication in 1954, dying the next year.
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 1st 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 Autumn before.
Roberto Clemente's statue, with his bridge in the background

A statue of Bill Mazeroski, 2nd baseman of 1956 to 1972, was dedicated in 2010, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of him hitting the home run that won the 1960 World Series. (A lot of Yankee Fans who are old enough to remember it are still bothered by 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: Leroy "Satchel" Paige, Josh Gibson, Walter "Buck" Leonard, Oscar Charleston, William "Judy" Johnson, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Smokey Joe Williams.

Because the Homestead Grays divided their "home" games between Pittsburgh (where Homestead actually is) and Washington, Josh Gibson is the only man who never played in Major League Baseball who is honored with statues at 2 different major league ballparks, and in 2 different cities, no less.

As someone who has now tried it with his nieces born 60 years after Jackie Robinson's debut, I can tell you: Explaining why black players weren't allowed in "organized baseball" prior to 1947 is not easy. But it must be done, so that people whose sole experience with New York baseball is fully integrated, and at the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, will understand.
Josh Gibson's statue at PNC Park, which doesn't have
the surrealism of his statue at Nationals Park in Washington.

The Pirates have won 9 National League Pennants: In 1901, 1902, 1903, 1909, 1925, 1927, 1960, 1971 and 1979. This 78-year span is pretty impressive, especially when you consider they clinched their 1st when the bodies of Queen Victoria and President William McKinley were newly entombed. It gets less impressive when you realize that their last was clinched when Jimmy Carter was President, disco was king, and Radar O'Reilly was getting sent home on M*A*S*H.

They've won 5 World Series, in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971 and 1979, which are noted beneath the press box. In a quirk, every World Series they've ever been in but one (1927, swept by the Yankees), win or lose, has gone at least 7 games. (Yes, "at least." In 1903, the 1st 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, on the facing of the upper deck overhang. 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: 20, Harold "Pie" Traynor, 3rd baseman 1920 to 1934 and manager 1934 to 1939; 11, Paul Waner, right field 1926 to 1940 (his brother, fellow Hall-of-Famer Lloyd Waner, a center fielder, has not been honored with the retirement of his Number 10); 1, Billy Meyer, manager 1948 to 1952; 4, Ralph Kiner, left fielder 1946 to 1953 and Met broadcaster 1962 to 2013; and 40, Danny Murtaugh, manager on and off between 1957 and 1976.

Jackie Robinson's Number 42, honored throughout baseball, is also displayed. And, as mentioned, the Barney Dreyfuss Monument survives, and rests on the lower concourse.
The Pirates 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, Traynor, the Waner brothers, Kiner, Murtaugh and Dreyfuss, they are: James "Pud" Galvin, pitcher, 1885-92 Jake Beckley, 1st base, 1888-96; Jack Chesbro, pitcher, 1899-1902 (then became one of the Highlanders/Yankees' 1st 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).

As you can see, that's 9 players from the Dead Ball Era of 1900 to 1919, 9 players from 1920 to 1979, and none who've debuted since. Barry Bonds, who played for the Pirates from 1986 to 1992, would have been in by now if he hadn't used steroids in San Francisco. This gives you a taste of the Pirates' history. They bring to mind the nursery rhyme about the little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead: When they've been good, they've been very, very good; but when they've been bad, they've been horrid.

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, after they left Pittsburgh. 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.

In 1933, baseball's 1st All-Star Game was played. Traynor and Paul Waner (but not his brother Lloyd) were selected from the Pirates. In 1999, Wagner was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team. That same year, he, Traynor, Paul Waner, Kiner, Clemente, Stargell and Bonds were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players. So were Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell from the Crawfords and/or the Grays. In 2006, Pirate fans chose Clemente in the poll for DHL Hometown Heroes.

The Pirates could have 3 geographical rivals, but none is really all that big. Their fellow Pennsylvania team, the Philadelphia Phillies, gave them something of a rivalry in the late 1970s -- in fact, from 1970 to 1980, one or the other won the NL East every year except 1973 -- but that's been about it. The Pirates lead the rivalry 1,218-1,067.

The Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry, so nasty in the NFL, hasn't carried over into baseball, since the Pirates and the Cleveland Indians are in different Leagues. The start of Interleague Play in 1997 hasn't really changed that: You might get a "Here We Go, Steelers" chant when the Indians come to town, but the Indians are not especially hated. The Pirates lead the rivalry 21-18.

There has never been a World Series between the teams, the closest call coming in 1908, when both teams just missed their respective Pennants. In fact, 2013 is the only season in which both teams have both made the postseason.

Based on history, the Pirates' biggest rivals should be the Cincinnati Reds. They faced each other in the National League Championship Series in 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979 and 1990, with the Reds winning all of these except 1979.

Throw in the fact that the teams are on the same river, the Ohio. And the fact that Three Rivers and Riverfront opened within days of each other in 1970, and were so interchangeable that it was joked that you could knock a fan out in one stadium, transport him to the other, and when he woke up, he wouldn't even know he was in a different city until he left the stadium.

Counting Playoff games, the Pirates lead this rivalry, too, 1,189-1,170.

Stuff. The Majestic Clubhouse Store at PNC Park is located on Federal Street, outside the Left Field Gate entrance, near the Willie Stargell statue. 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.

The 2016 season saw the publication of The Bucs!: The Story of the Pittsburgh Pirates, bJohn McCollister and Pirate reliever turned broadcaster Kent Tekulve. In 2013, David Finoli published Classic Bucs: The 50 Greatest Games in Pittsburgh Pirates History

As to individual Pirate teams, Finoli also wrote The Pittsburgh Pirates' 1960 SeasonBruce Markusen wrote The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. (That season, the Pirates not only won the World Series, but became the 1st major league team to start an entirely nonwhite lineup.) And McCollister wrote Tales from the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates Dugout: Remembering "The Fam-A-Lee."


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. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked the Pirates 24th -- in other words, the 7th most tolerable, saying, "In most cases, Pirates fans are a pretty all right bunch. Most of your more abrasive Yinzer types save the bulk of their wrath for Steelers season."

(A "Yinzer" is a Pittsburgher, from their habit of saying the second-person-plural, which is "youse" in New York, as "yinz." They also tend to drop some consonants: "Downtown" becomes "Dow'tow'," and "South Side" becomes "Sou'side.")

The article is accurate about Pittsburghers' aggressiveness. If you were 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. If you were a Philadelphia Flyers fan going into the PPG Paints Arena 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 Blue & Orange 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 2 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, Cleveland doesn't have an NHL team, and neither city has an MLS 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, Pirate fans are not going to get upset at you, even if you start a "Let's Go Mets!" chant in their yard.

They're certainly not going to hurt you if you don't provoke them. Just don't say anything bad about the Steelers, or Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby, 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 Friday game will be Free T-Shirt Friday. The Saturday game is Italian Night -- a good choice with a New York team in town -- and will feature postgame fireworks. The Sunday game will be Kids Day, with kids age 14 and under allowed to run the bases after the game.

Local band the Buzz Poets have written the team a theme song, "A New Pirate Generation." The Pirates hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They 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. Hannah is not the only female character in any of the "ballpark races" -- the mascots race each other in Cincinnati, and sometimes Rosie Red wins -- but she is identifiable because she carries a pocketbook.

There was once a Potato Pete, but they traded him for Oliver Onion (and possibly for a flavor to be named later). Oliver has taped-up "nerd glasses." As with "Teddy Roosevelt" in Washington, there was a joke that Sauerkraut Saul never won, but this (literally) running gag has been dropped.
The Parrot and the Pierogi.
(Yes, like "cannoli," "pierogi" is plural.)

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, and others – 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 had anything to do with Pittsburgh. 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, and will be closed after the games. The next bridge over from the Clemente is the Andy Warhol Bridge. Warhol was interested in baseball: He painted this image, in his style, of Mickey Mantle in 1962. He also did paintings of Tom Seaver
and Pete Rose.

Between PNC Park and Heinz Field, across from where Three Rivers Stadium used to be, is Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, named for the Steeler legend and his uniform number. It's at 393 North Shore Drive.

South of downtown, across the Monongahela River on the South Shore – or, as 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 for 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.)

The closest I could come was a suggestion that Carson City Saloon, at 1401 E. Carson Street, was a
Jet fans' hangout. Number 48 or 51 bus from downtown. When I did this piece in 2013, I was told by a Pittsburgh native 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 you want to take your chances, it's at 4104 Penn Avenue at Main Street. Number 88 bus from downtown.

If you visit Pittsburgh during the European soccer season, which starts up again next month, the city's leading soccer bar is Piper's Pub, at 1828 East Carson Street. No matter what club you support, you can almost certainly find its game on TV there. Bus 48. Unless you're a Liverpool fan, in which case you may prefer their outpost in the Steel City (Pittsburgh, not Sheffield): Cain's Saloon, at 3239 W. Liberty Avenue, 4 miles down the South Side. Red Line to Dormont Junction.

Sidelights. On November 30, 2018, Thrillist published a list of "America's 25 Most Fun Cities," and Pittsburgh came in 24th.

As I mentioned, Exposition Park, home of the Pirates from 1891 to 1909, was nearly on the site of PNC Park. The 1st home of the Pirates, Recreation Park, was roughly on the site of Heinz Field.

This was also the site of the 1st 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 1st professional football game -- though the 1st all-professional game was in 1895 in nearby Latrobe).
Three Rivers, the center of the sports world in the 1970s

* Heinz Field. This is a far better palace for football than the concrete oval that Three Rivers Stadium was. It has a statue of Steeler founder-owner Art Rooney outside, and, on gameday, 68,500 Terrible Towel-waving black and gold maniacs inside.

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 Heinz Field the best stadium in the NFL, tied in their ratings system with Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It also hosts the University of Pittsburgh's football team. On September 10, 2016, the renewal of the Pitt-Penn State rivalry, now labeled the Keystone Classic, set a stadium attendance record of 69,983. Pitt won a thriller, 42-39.

Heinz Field also hosted the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, in which the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 3-1 to the Washington Capitals. In 2017, it hosted an NHL Stadium Series game, in which the Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2. In the Summer of 2014, it hosted a soccer game, in which defending English champions Manchester City beat Italian giants AC Milan 5-1. 100 Art Rooney Avenue. (Three Rivers' address, famously, was 600 Stadium Circle.)

* Senator John Heinz History Center. It includes the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. (Senator Heinz, of the condiment-making family, was the 1st husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who nearly became First Lady in 2004.) 1212 Smallman Street at 12th Street, a couple of minutes' walk from Union/Penn Station and Greyhound.

* 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, the Steelers from 1933 to 1963, and the Homestead Grays of the Negro Leagues from 1929 to 1950.
The Steelers never won a title there, and indeed only hosted 1 Playoff game, which they lost. But the Pirates won 3 World Series while playing there, and the Grays won 11 Pennants and the 1943, 1944 and 1948 Negro World Series.
Forbes Field was also the site of the 3rd of the 4 fights for the Heavyweight Championship of the World between Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott, on July 18, 1951. Walcott won, becoming, at the time, the oldest Heavyweight Champion ever: 37.

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. A historical marker honoring Barney Dreyfuss is nearby.

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 as well. 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.
October 13, 1960, 3:34 PM. Or, as the band Chicago
would have put it, "25 or 6 to 4."

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.
The remaining outfield wall, still with ivy on it

* Petersen Events Center. 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, Tony Dorsett, and, if you want to stretch the meaning of "legend," Dan Marino. 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.

Terrace Street and Sutherland Drive. From 1951 to 2002, before moving into Petersen, Pitt played basketball at Fitzgerald Field House. At 4,122 seats, it was very intimidating for visitors, but much too small for a major college basketball team, and most of their big-draw games had to be played at the Civic Arena. Building the Petersen Center allowed them a 12,508-seat on-campus arena. The old and new arenas are across Sutherland Drive from each other, a 5-minute walk from Forbes Quadrangle.

* Site of Greenlee Field. William Augustus "Gus" Greenlee was one of Pittsburgh's premier black businessmen -- but was both a gangster and a philanthropist. In 1932, he built Greenlee Field for the Negro League team he owned, the Pittsburgh Crawfords, named for another business he owned, the Crawford Grill.

Seating 7,500, it was the Craws' home from 1932 to 1938, when, for reasons beyond his control, he had to make changes that led to fans staying away, and he had to sell the team after the season, lasting 2 more years in other cities before folding. But, led by Hall-of-Famers Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson and James "Cool Papa" Bell, they won Pennants in 1935 and 1936.

Like Ebbets Field, it was on a Bedford Avenue. The Bedford Dwellings housing project is now on the site. 2501 Bedford Avenue, off Chauncey Drive (not Chauncey Street, as in Brooklyn), a mile and a half east of downtown. Bus 83.

* Site of Civic Arena, between Bedford Avenue, Fullerton 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 1st ABA Championship in 1968, led by Brooklyn native Connie Hawkins. Larry Holmes barely hung on to the Heavyweight Championship of the World there, getting off the canvas to knock Renaldo Snipes out on November 6, 1981.

The Beatles played there on September 14, 1964. Elvis Presley sang there on June 25 & 26, 1973 and December 31, 1976. It was demolished in 2011.

* PPG Paints Arena. Opening on August 18, 2010, for a concert by former Beatle Paul McCartney, it was known as the Consol Energy Center until last year. 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 1st time in franchise history, the Penguins' long-term future in Pittsburgh is secure. 1001 5th Avenue.

Pittsburgh hasn't had anything resembling a major league basketball team since the Condors moved in 1973. The new version of the ABA is officially "semi-pro," and has a team called the Steel City Yellow Jackets, who began play in the 2014-15 season. They play on the campus of the Community College of Allegheny County, at a building called the "A Giving Heart Community Center." 808 Ridge Avenue, across (or, rather, under) the elevated highway from Heinz Field.

On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. The PPG Paints Arena is 134 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 (even with the return of 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.

It's unlikely that Pittsburgh will ever seek out a new NBA team. If they did get one, the metro area would rank 22nd in population among NBA markets.

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 1st season, 1946-47, and only that season, and are best known now for having had Press Maravich, father of Pistol Pete, play for them. The ABA's Pittsburgh Pipers, later the Pittsburgh Condors, won that league's 1st title in 1967-68, but that was it. (Connie Hawkins led that team, and was named to the ABA All-Time Team.) The most successful Pittsburgh basketball team may well have been the Pittsburgh Pisces in The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

* Duquesne Gardens. Pittsburgh's original sports arena opened in 1895, and had an unofficial limit of 8,000 spectators. It hosted minor-league hockey teams from the beginning until its closing in 1956, including the Hornets from 1936 to 1956. It hosted the Duquesne and Pitt basketball teams, and the Pittsburgh Ironmen in the NBA's 1st season, 1946-47.

Once bigger arenas like the old Madison Square Garden went up in the 1920s, seating more than twice as many people, the Duquesne Gardens was obsolete. Yet it hung on until 1956. 110 N. Craig Street, at 5th Avenue, near the Pitt campus. University housing is now on the site. Also accessible via the Number 71 bus.

The University of Pittsburgh is on the town's East Side. Penn State is 139 miles to the northeast in State College. West Virginia University, Pitt's other big rival, is 76 miles to the south in Morgantown. Greyhound provides service to State College, while Megabus does so to Morgantown.

* Highmark Stadium. As I said, Pittsburgh doesn't have a Major League Soccer team. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds play in the United Soccer League (USL), the 3rd tier of American soccer. Their home field is Highmark Stadium, and it seats a mere 3,500 fans, about the size of the average high school football stadium in New Jersey. But its placement on the south bank of the Monongahela, across from downtown, gives it a view every bit as good as the one from PNC Park. 510 W. Station Square Drive. Subway to Station Square.

* 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, who was viewed as a supporting player on the 1960 title and the driving force behind the one in 1971, prior to his tragic death in a plane crash off Puerto Rico, trying to bring relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year's Eve 1972.

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 player (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.

Wagner is buried at Jefferson Memorial Park, at 401 Curry Hollow Road in Pleasant Hills, about 8 miles south of downtown. Bus Y47. Josh Gibson is buried at Allegheny Cemetery, at 4734 Butler Street, about 4 miles northeast of downtown. Bus 91. Willie Stargell is buried in North Carolina, and when Clemente's plane went down in the Caribbean, his body was never recovered, so there is no final resting place for him.

No President has come from Pittsburgh, or from anywhere near it. The only President from Pennsylvania has been James Buchanan, and he was a lousy one, and he was from Lancaster, much closer to Philadelphia.

The most notable historic site in Pittsburgh is probably Point State Park, where the "three rivers" come together at the western edge of downtown. It includes the Fort Pitt Museum, telling the city's story from the days of New France Onward. 601 Commonwealth Place.

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. They include My So-Called Life, Hope and Gloria, Queer as FolkMan with a Plan, the World War II-era period piece Remember WENN, and This Is Us, which bounces around between 1980 and the present day.

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 Luke Ravenstahl, then the Mayor of Pittsburgh in real life.

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 earliest 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.
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.) PNC Park was used in the recent films She's Out of My League and
Abduction.

But the greatest movie shot in Western Pennsylvania was the 1977 hockey classic Slap Shot. Nancy Dowd wrote it about her brother Ned's experience with the Johnstown Jets, who played at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. That arena, and minor-league arenas in New York State's Syracuse, Utica and Clinton, were used as filming locations, even though the film's Charlestown Chiefs were said to be in the Charlestown section of Boston. After the real Jets moved out, the replacement team was named the Johnstown Chiefs in honor of the crew led by player-coach Reggie Dunlop, played by Paul Newman.

The 4,000-seat arena, built in 1950, still stands, and is now home to a team called the Johnstown Tomahawks. 326 Napoleon Street in Johnstown, 67 miles east of Pittsburgh. It's a 15-minute walk from the Amtrak station, and the museum honoring the Johnstown Flood of 1889 is along the way.

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Pittsburgh is a terrific city that loves its sports, and PNC Park is one of the best of the retro ballparks. Check it out.