Posted by: Captain Easychord | October 21, 2008

Pittsburgh Sports Memories

Sean passes along a quartet of questions about Pittsburgh and its sports:

1. What is your all-time most memorable moment in Pittsburgh sports history?

You would think that the answer to this question should immediately jump to mind. In reality though, I’m not quite sure… In fact, it took awhile for me to think of one game that was particularly unforgettable. But since one of these was pulled off by my favorite team (see below), I’ll save that for later…

The first few moments to spring to mind were a pair of Penguins playoff games. While I am first and foremost a baseball fan, there isn’t much that can match the intensity of playoff hockey. I thought of the Darius Kasparitis-led win over the Sabres in 2001… I thought of the quadruple OT win over the Caps in 1996 (watched every minute)… but one of my two most memorable Pittsburgh sports moment came on Monday, April 17, 2000.

Since tax day had fallen on the previous Saturday, it was technically the last night to mail in returns. Being the procrastinator that I am, mine weren’t done yet. I stayed late at my office downtown putting on the finishing touches and dropping the forms off at the Grant Street post office. When I got back to my car – parked in one of those gravel lots uptown along Fifth Avenue – I found that I was parked in by the crowd up at the Arena watching game three of the Pens’ first round series with the Caps.

Since I was stuck downtown ’til the game ended, I figured that I might as well turn my lemons to lemonade and find a place to watch the game. Now there are some bars in the area… some other establishments that might have been airing the game. But rather than duck into a bar, I had a grander plan in mind: I wanted to sneak into the Civic Arena.

The second period was coming to a close at this point, so I figured there might be some gap in the coverage by this point. Long story short, I managed to find a way to walk right onto the concourse! For my effort, I got to witness the Pens turn a game tied at 2 into a dramatic 4-3 win and enjoy the absolutely electric atmosphere of playoff hockey live and in person. Awesome.

1A. What is your all-time most forgettable moment in Pittsburgh sports history?

I spent most of my formative years living in Pittsburgh. The one exception was my sophomore year of high school (1992-1993), when I lived in northern New Jersey. And it was then, while I was more or less alone in my grief that the Pirates’ last winning season was brought to an abrupt and unexpected end… and then roughly six months later, arguably the best Penguins team ever was upset by a quasi-local team (there was even an Isles fan or two at my school). I think the Pirates loss hurt more – they had fallen short the last two years while the Pens had been champions… but the Pens’ defeat is a close second on the list.

2. What makes the city of Pittsburgh special to you?

I’m actually a bit surprised how hard it was for me to come up with an answer to this. Just as I feel as if what I like has really come into focus, I go to elaborate the point and suddenly it’s not there… as if the only way to see what I really like is through averted vision. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty that makes Pittsburgh great: it’s extremely unpretentious, it has *most* of the amenities of a city four times its size, four distinct seasons, etc… but these all also have drawbacks… Nevertheless, it’s never surprising when a native yinzer moves back after having left town. Everybody leaves, everybody comes back. That’s the pattern, and you don’t need to know why you’re coming back, you just know you want to.

3. What would you consider your all-time favorite Pittsburgh sports team, specific to a single season?

The 1997 Pirates didn’t win anything. Heck, like every other Pirates team for the last 16 years, they didn’t even have a winning season. Nevertheless, there was something a bit magical about that team. They weren’t the best team… not by a longshot… but they “went to work,” played entertaining baseball and got just about the max out of what talent they did have. Jon Leiber fanning Albert Belle four times… Kevin Polcovich with a clutch home run to beat Curt Schilling… other luminaries like Turner Ward (who would run through a wall the following season), Rich Loiselle, Smilin’ Joe Randa, Shawon Dunston turning in career performances… and my other potential greatest Pittsburgh sports memory: Francisco Cordova and Ricky Rincon teaming up to no-hit the Astros as the Bucs won on a Mark Smith walk-off home run in the bottom of the tenth to regain a share of the division lead in front of a sellout crowd.

Where my other memorable Pittsburgh sports moment came because I couldn’t get my car, I remember the combined no-no mostly because I spent most of that evening sitting in my car… driving around the South Hills delivering food. Pizza delivery was a fun summer job. I didn’t have a uniform, I could drive around listening to music and/or Pirates games… all was well. As the game went on, I tried to make sure I was always out driving when the ‘stros were at-bat. In particular, I remember the ninth inning… I had forgotten to deliver a portion of someone’s order far from our shop. The long drive back and forth meant less interruption and more listening time, so I wasn’t too upset.

Lots of Pittsburgh sports memories out there though. If you’re looking for a few you might have forgotten, go check this nifty Pens, Pirates and Steelers highlight reel:

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Responses

  1. Nicely done and welcome back to the blog world!

  2. What made Pittsburgh special to me was the general feeling (and maybe this is just the ultimate talking, but I think it was larger than that) that we were all in it together.
    We won as a city, we lost as a city.

    I also agree with the other points, but I felt kinda like the perpetual underdogs fighting for a chance at being on top (and not just in sports, though I don’t think we’re exactly underdogs in all Pittsburgh sports).

    And I liked being a part of it. Atlanta, in comparison, feels soul-less and unnecessarily harsh.

  3. […] .500 season that happened to result in an improbable playoff run.  For this, they might be my favorite Pittsburgh sports team of all time.  … and they finished with a losing […]


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