In Pittsburgh sports lore history, many extraordinary events have contributed to the city's sports franchises winning — and almost winning — titles.
Mazeroski's Home RunEdit
Mazeroski's Home Run was the home run hit by Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees, played on October 13, 1960. It gave the Pirates a 10–9 victory, their first World Series title in 35 years, was the first home run to end a World Series, and remains the only one to decide it in the climactic seventh game. Mazeroski has remarked that he was so focused on the play on the field that he had to be reminded he was up to bat first in the bottom of the ninth. Coincidentally, Mazeroski, who wore #9 for the Pirates, came to bat in the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied 9-9.
In the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, the Pirates and Yankees were locked in a "teeter-totter battle" that had settled into a 9–9 tie going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry faced the Pirates' leadoff batter for the inning, Bill Mazeroski. With the count one ball, zero strikes, Mazeroski hit a line drive toward deep left field that cleared the wall for a solo home run.
- Pirate catcher Hal Smith had helped to set the stage for Mazeroski's dramatic home run one inning earlier when he capped off a Pirate rally with a pivotal three-run home run of his own. Smith's home run put the Pirates ahead 9-7, but it's true value was realized when the Yankees scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the score. Thus, instead of Mazeroski coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth with the score 9-6 in favor of the Yankees, the game was tied with the winning run (in the form of Mazeroski) at the plate.
- Since Mazeroski's home run in 1960, only Joe Carter has repeated the feat of ending the World Series with a home run, hitting one for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. However, Mazeroski's remains the only walk-off Series-winning home run to come in the deciding Game 7.
- The home run completed an improbable victory for Pittsburgh, whose three losses to New York were by scores of 16–3, 10–0 and 12–0. In total, the Pirates were outscored 55–27 in the series, and their biggest margin of victory was three runs: a 5–2 victory in Game 5.
- The city of Pittsburgh had suffered its longest pro-sports championship drought by 1960, having waited 35 years since the Pirates won the 1925 World Series; meanwhile at the time, the Steelers were mediocre at best, the city had long ago lost its NHL Pirates, and had seen only spotty success during the intervening period from their minor-league hockey team, the Hornets. Many local sports fans[who?] felt bittersweet going into the Series, since the Pirates had been swept by the mighty "Murder's Row" Yankees during their last Series appearance in 1927; and by Game 7 in 1960, it was clear—through even a cursory examination of a stat sheet—that the Yankees were clearly outplaying the Pirates, reminiscent of 1927. Furthermore, the surprising[according to whom?] but nail-biting wins that the Pirates had managed to collect in order to force a Game 7 had done little to buoy the hopes of the region's fans.
- Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle admitted that out of all the losses he experienced both as an amateur and a professional, the Game 7 loss to the Pirates in 1960 is the only one that was so emotionally disheartening that it brought him to tears.
- Hall of Famer (and former Pittsburgh Pirate player) Casey Stengel was fired, ostensibly as a fall guy for the Series defeat, shortly afterward. The reason given for his dismissal was that he was too old to properly focus on the game, to which he famously quipped, "I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again!"
- Mazeroski and Roberto Clemente were the last two players from the 1960 Pirates World Series team that were part of the Pirates next World Series team in 1971.
The Comeback IEdit
Facing elimination in the "Fall Classic" and led by the 1979 NL Comeback Player of the Year recipient, Willie Stargell, the Pirates rallied from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to claim their fifth overall World Series title and second within the decade of the 1970s.
- Both of the Pirates' World Series victories in the 1970s came against the Baltimore Orioles. In a curious string of coincidences surrounding those Series victories:
- Both deciding Game 7 matches were played in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium on October 17, exactly eight years apart.
- Stargell (who wore #8) scored the winning run in both Game 7 matches, making him the first (and to date, only) player in MLB history to score the winning tallies in two World Series Game 7 matches.
- Only six teams have won a World Series title after facing elimination going into Game 5, and two of those teams were the Pirates. The first Pirate (and major league) team to have accomplished this feat was in 1925.
- The team became known as the "We Are Family Pirates" after adopting the Sister Sledge hit as their theme song.
In the 1992 National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Pirates (who had "three-peated" as division champs) faced the Atlanta Braves in a rematch of the previous year's NLCS. The Game 7 series decider, held on Wednesday October 14, was its most memorable contest. The Pirates' Doug Drabek pitched masterfully for the first eight innings, holding the Braves scoreless. His only real scare came in the sixth, when the Braves loaded the bases with none out. But Jeff Blauser lined into a double-play and Terry Pendleton struck out to end the inning. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh wasn't doing much with Atlanta starter John Smoltz, but they did manage single tallies in the first on an Orlando Merced sacrifice fly and in the sixth on an RBI single by Andy Van Slyke.
The Pirates took their 2–0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when their season imploded. Drabek allowed an inning-opening double to Pendleton. In what would prove to be a crucial play, normally sure-handed second baseman José Lind then booted David Justice's easy grounder. A walk to Sid Bream loaded the bases, and Stan Belinda replaced Drabek. Ron Gant then plated one run with a sacrifice fly to make it 2–1, and Damon Berryhill walked to reload the bases. Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter popped up to second base with nobody scoring, and it looked like Pittsburgh might escape. But pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera singled to left to score Justice and — just ahead of Barry Bonds' throw — Bream. The Braves piled onto Bream at the plate, the stadium erupted, and Atlanta went back to the World Series. The Pirates, meanwhile, have not made the playoffs — or posted a winning season record — since.
- "Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He is...safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!" - Skip Caray's call of Francisco Cabrera's game-winning hit in Game 7.
- "Line drive and a base hit. Justice has scored the tying run. Bream to the plate...and he is safe, safe at the plate! The Braves go to the World Series!" - Sean McDonough's call of Francisco Cabrera's game-winning hit in Game 7.
- Sid Bream played for Pittsburgh from 1985 to 1990.
- The Pirates had found themselves in a familiar situation during the 1992 NLCS: down 3-games-to-1 and facing elimination going into Game 5. In fact, they had come within one out of re-accomplishing the feats of the 1925 and 1979 Pirates in overcoming such a deficit in post-season play (albeit this time in the NLCS rather than the World Series).
Worst Call EverEdit
At 2 AM on July 26, 2011, in the bottom of the 19th inning (the fourth-longest game in franchise history), the Pirates are ironically handed another disheartening loss against the Atlanta Braves, this time in the form of a blown call (perhaps the worst in professional sports) by home plate umpire Jerry Meals.
Posting their best regular-season record in 19 years and on pace for a wild-card playoff spot, a night game tied at 3-3 in Atlanta drags on into extra innings. In the bottom of the 19th inning, Atlanta placed runners on first and third with one out. Atlanta's Scott Proctor hit a ground ball to third base which was fielded cleanly by Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez threw home to Pirates' catcher Michael McKenry, who appeared to apply the tag to the Atlanta base runner, Julio Lugo, in plenty of time. To the shock of everyone watching, home plate umpire Jerry Meals indicated that Lugo had avoided the tag by signalling "safe."
While this was only one loss in what was otherwise a winning season to that point, the play seemingly resurrected too many "ghosts of '92," and put the Pirates into a season-breaking tailspin from which they could not recover.
Worst Trade EverEdit
July 30, 2003, in one of the worst trades in sports history Pirates General Manager Dave Littlefield demands more than "just" Ryan Howard from Philadelphia for hurler Kris Benson, and in frustration instead trades Benson to the Mets for basically nothing.
In the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Oakland Raiders, The Steelers found themselves trailing in the score, "4th and long," 60 yards from the end zone, and down to their last play. A desperation pass, actually intended for Steelers other running back, John "Frenchy" Fuqua, ricocheted to rookie Running Back Franco Harris, who made an incredible, "shoe-string" catch and ran the ball in for the winning touchdown. The play, soon dubbed the Immaculate Reception, became one of the most famous and controversial plays in the history of sports.
The Immaculate DeflectionEdit
January 14, 1996: Trailing by four points (20–16) and with five seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game, the Indianapolis Colts needed to score a touchdown to defeat the Steelers, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XXX. With the ball at the Steelers' 29 yard line, Colts QB Jim Harbaugh lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone. The pass seemingly hung in the air forever, and was batted down by Steelers defensive back Myron Bell. However, the ball was knocked straight down onto the stomach of fallen Colts WR Aaron Bailey. On the television camera feed, the view of the ball was lost for a split second, after which Bailey had possession of the ball. The Colts immediately began signalling touchdown, and the Steelers defensive backs vehemently signaled incomplete. The back judge, however, ruled that the ball hit the ground, and after a lengthy discussion, the referee declared the pass to be incomplete - which other camera angles would show was clearly the diciest call in playoff history.
The Comeback IIEdit
- (January 5, 2003, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC Wild Card Playoff Game)
Trailing by 17 points, a 24–7 disadvantage with 19 minutes left to play, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Quarterback Tommy Maddox rallied the Steelers, scoring three passing touchdowns in four offensive drives. The Browns managed to score 9 points in the 4th quarter keeping them in the lead (33–28) until a 61-yard drive, culminating in a 3 yard rushing touchdown and a successful two point conversion by the Steelers. At 36–33, with 54 seconds left in regulation, it was the first time in the game that the Steelers had been leading on the scoreboard. The Browns failed to answer back in their final drive, ending the game in one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history.
The Tackle/Immaculate RedemptionEdit
- See also: National Football League lore
The Tackle or The Immaculate Redemption refers to an event that occurred on January 15, 2006 during the AFC Divisional Round between the Steelers and the heavily favored Indianapolis Colts. Clinging to a 3-point lead, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle against Colts cornerback Nick Harper, who nearly returned a fumble by running back Jerome Bettis for the go-ahead touchdown.
With 1:20 remaining in the game, Pittsburgh's Joey Porter sacked Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on fourth down at Indianapolis's 2-yard line. The Steelers, leading 21–18, appeared to have clinched victory as the Colts turned the ball over to them on downs. Since the Colts had all three of their timeouts, the Steelers were forced to try for a two yard touchdown; they would be unable to run the clock out by simply kneeling on the ball.
On first and goal, Pittsburgh veteran running back Jerome Bettis (who hadn't fumbled throughout the 2005 NFL season) spun to his left near the goal line with the ball cradled in his left arm. Colts linebacker Gary Brackett put his helmet squarely on the ball, and it popped out of Bettis's arm, back behind the line of scrimmage. Immediately, Colts cornerback Nick Harper picked up the ball and headed for the Steelers' end zone with several blockers around him. It very much appeared as if Harper would take the football all of the way for a go-ahead, possible game-winning touchdown, with precious little time left. As Harper was running down the field, Roethlisberger, who had been turned completely around several times desperately trying to stay in front of the speedy Harper, managed to get a hold of Harper's right shin by diving in a backwards twisting motion, and make a shoestring tackle to bring him down at the Colts' 42-yard line.
The tackle would later prove to be the play of the season, as afterward, the Colts, while denied a touchdown return, tried to drive down the field in an attempt to score a touchdown. On 2nd and 3rd and 1, the Colts took deep shots down the left sideline to Reggie Wayne. Both passes were blocked by rookie Bryant McFadden. This playcalling was questioned as a simple running play could have extended the drive. But the Colts were eventually forced into a potential game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt. However, kicker Mike Vanderjagt (the most accurate kicker in NFL history) missed it terribly wide-right and the Steelers held on to win 21–18. Vanderjagt's miss was his last attempt in a Colts uniform. He would sign with Dallas after the season ended.
Vanderjagt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the kick because he removed his helmet and slammed it to the RCA Dome turf.
Fueled by this play, the Steelers traveled to Denver and dominated the Denver Broncos in a 34–17 upset a week later in the AFC Championship Game, then defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21–10 on February 5, 2006 in Super Bowl XL to claim their first NFL title in twenty-six years.
- If Harper had scored and ended Pittsburgh's season, it would have created a bitter ending to the career of Jerome Bettis, who would have been blamed with costing Pittsburgh the win with his fumble. Instead, Pittsburgh won and Bettis got to later return to his hometown, Detroit, and win his lone championship ring before retiring. Bettis did, however, state that if Pittsburgh lost the Super Bowl or did not reach it that he may have returned for one last season.
- After Roethlisberger's tackle, the game was saved a second time by cornerback Bryant McFadden. On 2nd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 29, Colts QB Peyton Manning fired to the corner of the endzone, looking for star receiver Reggie Wayne. McFadden matched Wayne stride for stride into the endzone and just as Wayne appeared to make the catch, McFadden got an arm between Wayne's arms and knocked the ball free. As it hovered in the air, both Wayne and McFadden dove for the ball, as McFadden foiled two subsequent attempts by Wayne to catch the tipped ball as they went to the ground.
- Harper's wife, Daniell, had been arrested the night before the game after slicing his knee during an argument. The injury required three stitches but did not prevent him from playing the next day.
The Interception/Immaculate InterceptionEdit
With 18 seconds left in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals were on the Steelers' 2 yard line and threatened to take a 14-10 lead into halftime. The Cardinals sent receiver Anquan Boldin on a quick slant route and Larry Fitzgerald on a quick post route, hoping to shake a defender and allow a quick scoring pass. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner's pre-snap read was an all-out blitz by its linebackers and defensive line. In order to avoid the impending pass rush, Warner threw the ball to Boldin. However, outside linebacker James Harrison had in fact faked the blitz and dropped back into coverage, right in the passing lane to Boldin. Harrison intercepted the ball on the goal line and started to return the pick. After almost running into fellow Steeler Deshea Townsend, Harrison darted down the sidelines, following his blockers and hurdling Cardinals players down to the goal line. Fitzgerald, after bumping into teammate Antrel Rolle who had wandered from the sidelines onto the field of play, still caught up to Harrison on the Cardinals' 5 yard line. He and fellow Cardinal Steve Breaston grabbed Harrison but were unable to bring him down before he scored on the longest play in Super Bowl history—a 100 yard interception return as the clock ticked down to zero. Harrison, exhausted, lay on the ground for a while before getting up. The play ultimately was a 14-point swing, allowing the Steelers to go to the locker room up 17-7.
The Catch (The Tampa Toe-chdown)Edit
In the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals stormed back from a 20-7 deficit to take a 23-20 lead on two touchdowns by All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald as well as a safety caused by a holding penalty against the Steelers in their own endzone. Trailing for the first time in the game, Pittsburgh then marched down the field in impressive fashion to set up a potential go-ahead touchdown with less than one minute remaining. On second-and-goal from the Arizona 6 yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw high to the right corner of the endzone where receiver Santonio Holmes made an incredible diving catch on his toes and miraculously kept both feet in bounds while maintaining control of the ball. The Steelers went ahead 27-23 and proceeded to win their record sixth Super Bowl title.
The Act (Nedney's Flop)Edit
- (January 11, 2003, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans, AFC Divisional Game)
One week after an unforgettable victory over the division rival, Cleveland Browns, the Steelers traveled down to Tennessee to face the second seeded Titans. The Titans were coming off of an 11-5 record, and were heavily favored in the match-up. Early on, it looked as if that were the case. The Titans took an early 14-0 lead over the Steelers. But Titans running back, Eddie George fumbled, mid-second quarter, giving the ball to the Steelers in their own territory. Quarterback Tommy Maddox connected with Hines Ward for an 8-yard strike on the second play of the drive. It was a dog fight from then on. The game saw three lead changes during the remainder of regulation. After a failed Steelers drive, Titans quarterback, Steve McNair was given the ball on his own 20 with 1:43 to go, and the game tied at 31. He took his team right down the field, and set up kicker, Joe Nedney with a 48-yard field goal attempt with just three seconds remaining. The first kick was good, however, Steelers Coach, Bill Cowher had called a timeout, right before the ball was snapped. Nedney was forced to attempt the kick again. He missed it, wide right, and the game went into overtime. The Titans won the toss, and McNair was given another shot. After two long pass plays, the Titans offense had set up Nedney with another field goal attempt. This one from just 31 yards out. Nedney missed it wide right, yet again. However, after the kick took place, Steelers cornerback, Dwayne Washington was pushed into the legs of Nedney, and Nedney fell. A flag was thrown on Washington for "running into the kicker". A 5-yard penalty was forced, and Nedney went on to make the 26-yard attempt, giving the Titans a 34-31 victory. The replay of the first kick, however, showed that Washington had not even touched Nedney. Head coach Bill Cowher was furious with the call. A week later, the NFL issued a written apology to the Steelers organization.
The Save IEdit
On April 13, 1991, Pittsburgh Penguins backup goalie Frank Pietrangelo made an incredible diving glove save against Peter Stastny, who was shooting toward an open net, in the first period of Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at New Jersey during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pietrangelo's stop helped the Penguins to a 4–3 win and forced a seventh game, where he proceeded to shut out the Devils 4–0. Although shortly thereafter Pietrangelo relinquished the starting goalie job to Tom Barrasso, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Penguins took a 3-0 lead over the New York Islanders in the conference semi-finals, just as the rival Flyers also won their series 4-0 for an expected All-Pennsylvania Eastern Conference Finals. The Penguins proceeded to lose four straight to the Islanders for the first 0-3 comeback in the NHL since the 1940s.
Million Dollar ContractEdit
Dave Parker of the Pirates became the first $1 million/year player in sports on January 26, 1979.
The first trade in hockey was completed on January 28, 1908 between the two city teams Bankers and Pirates.
Pittsburgh became the first and still only city to have all pro teams don the same colors, when the Penguins completed the process on January 30, 1980.
White House Double visitEdit
President Carter hosted both the Steelers and Pirates in a single ceremony to celebrate their championships on February 22, 1980.
#1 pick to win his first gameEdit
Kris Benson of the Pirates became the first in #1 pick in National League history (second overall) to win his first game on April 9, 1999. It was the first time in Major League history in over 25 seasons.
Back-to-back Hall of Fame broadcastersEdit
On April 10, 1976 Milo Hamilton announced his first Pirates game taking over for fellow hall-of-famer Bob Prince, the first major league team to have back-to-back hall of fame broadcasters. During this same season both hall of famers Myron Cope and Mike Lange also announced for the Steelers and Penguins respectively.
Native Bill Doak introduced the modern glove to baseball on April 14, 1920 as his Cardinals played the Pirates.
First pitch homerEdit
May 7, 1922 Pirates rookie Walt Mueller becomes the first in baseball to hit a homerun on his first major league pitch.
Home Run only gameEdit
May 7, 1973 the Pirates record only five hits, all homers in a 5-0 win against the Dodgers, the first such game in baseball history.
Boo birds to World Series manager and MVPEdit
The Pittsburgh drug trials took place in 1985 and were the first investigation in sports doping and drug use. It all began on May 23, 1984.
On April 15, 1952 the Pirates became the first baseball team to don batting helmets for protection.
May 6, 1906 the Pirates at Exhibition Park vs. Chicago.
12 inning perfect gameEdit
Most modern-era triplesEdit
May 30, 1925 the Pirates hit eight triples against St. Louis at Forbes Field, the most in the World Series era.
Most runs in consecutive inningsEdit
June 6, 1894 the Pirates beat the Braves with 21 runs scored in just the 3rd and 4th innings, along with 4 home runs in a single inning, major league records.
3000th off a 20 game winnerEdit
June 9, 1914 Pirate hall of Famer Honus Wagner gets his 3,000th becoming the first player with a documented 3,000th hit and the only one to get it on a 20-game winner.
Hall of FamerEdit
June 12, 1939 Honus Wagner becomes one of the four first players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving the second most votes.
LSD No hitterEdit
June 12, 1970 in San Diego Pirates hurler Dock Ellis pitches the franchises fourth no-hitter, with the Bucco's winning the game on two Willie Stargell single shot homers. Years later Ellis will admit he was high on LSD the entire game.
June 19, 2010 the Pirates become the first sports team in world history to fire a "perogi", dubiously during a series with rival city Cleveland.
Most Consecutive Hits allowedEdit
June 23, 1930 the Pirates pitcher Heinie Meine sets the dubious baseball record for most consecutive hits allowed against the Dodgers.
June 27, 1967 as Hollywood cameras roll for the film The Odd Couple Pirates legend Roberto Clemente backs out of the film after producers insist he ground into a double play. Bill Mazeroski is instead cast for the blopper against the Mets.
NL Grand Slam SingleEdit
July 5, 1886 Pirates slugger Fred Carroll gets 9 hits against Baltimore.
Back-to-back homers to start a GameEdit
July 5, 1980 and July 6, 1945 the Pirates become the only team to start two games with them against the Astros and Braves respectively.
All Star Game multiple homersEdit
July 8, 1941 Pirates slugger Arky Vaughn becomes the first to hit multiple home runs in Baseball's All Star Game.
Sausage assault arrestEdit
July 9, 2003 Pirates slugger Randall Simon is arrested after jokingly "batting" away a Milwaukee Brewers sausage racer.
Family in the Hall of FameEdit
Walk off inside the park grand slamEdit
African American managerEdit
June 21, 1961 the Pirates name Gene Baker as the first African American manager in sports.
June 4, 1940 the Pirates beat the Braves 14-2 at Forbes Field the first game under the lights in history.
Night-game Season OpenerEdit
April 18, 1950 the Pirates and Cardinals become the first teams to open a season under the lights.
Hall of Fame waiverEdit
The first player to enter a major sports hall of fame before the mandatory five year waiting period was Roberto Clemente who was voted into Cooperstown on March 20, 1973.
The Penguins won the first ever NHL Winter Classic in 2008 at the Sabres, with Sidney Crosby scoring the first Classic game winner. Three years later the Penguins hosted the first prime time Winter Classic, first to be held in an NCAA Football Stadium and first to use a cable-cam, as well as the first Winter Classic alumni game.
The Penguins played to a sellout crowd taking on the Soviet Dynamo team on January 4, 1986, at the height of the Cold War.
"Miracle" Coach suspendedEdit
Pens coach Herb Brooks, made famous as the coach of the 1980 US Hockey Olympic Team miracle was suspended by the NHL on January 16, 2000 after confronting a Denver broadcaster after a game with the Avalanche.
Ruthian Home RunsEdit
No mask goalieEdit
April 7, 1974 Penguins goaltender Andy Brown is the last of the "ironmen netminders", the last NHL player not to wear a mask.
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