Sports & Outdoors

Golden Eagles

Invisible superhighways. That’s one way to describe the rising air currents that will whisk raptors through central Pennsylvania during this season’s migration. Golden Eagles, attuned to the subtle relationships between topography and wind, will scan our state’s prominent ridges and deep valleys as they soar southward as they have for millennia. Golden Eagles are vaguely …

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A Flight of Fancy

A casual glance at Tom Erdner’s Gibsonia patio on this fine Sunday wouldn’t reveal anything unusual. But there are a few clues. For instance, on the table where he’s sitting, there’s a pen, note pad, watch, calculator and cell phone.Then there’s the serious look on Erdner’s face as he keeps looking back at the western …

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The Course Loved ‘Round the World

The U.S. Golf Association began staging the U.S. Open — the ultimate national championship — in 1895, and moves it year to year around the country. The USGA requires, first of all, a golf course that offers a stiff challenge, where the rough is deep, the greens fast and par is an outstanding score. It’s …

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The Hummingbird is a Powerhouse

Endurance athlete, feather-weight fighter, acrobat: all describe the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, smallest member of eastern North America’s avifauna and the only hummer to breed in western Pennsylvania. If you could hold one of these tiny birds to your ear, you’d hear a heart beating 250 times a minute—at rest. That rate rockets to some 1,200 beats …

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On Warblers

Spring begins with song, the dawn chorus warming up with a few notes in March and growing into full avian voice by May. Some of our best singers are the wood warblers, migratory songbirds, typically weighing under half an ounce, that winter from South America to the Caribbean and return northward to mate, nest, and raise …

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The Perfect Snow

I’m both amused and dismayed by media weatherspeak. I’m amused by the hyperbole of Storm Watcher Central and Severe Weather Tracker.  You’ve seen the flashing alerts across the screen. The messengers and their moving maps presume to provide detailed information absolutely needed to save family and property from harm in the face of imminent and sure …

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A Different Kind of Hunt

The Christmas hunt was long a holiday tradition. Armed with rifles and shotguns, Christmas guests would choose teams for a “side hunt” and fan out over field, woodland and riverbank. Winners bagged the largest number of birds. In 1900, a new tradition began in response to America’s nascent conservation movement. Birds would remain the quarry, …

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Call Them Crazy

Tony Modzelewski can’t explain why he jumped off the Fort Pitt Bridge in January 1975, but modern psychology has him covered. Modzelewski was 17 years old, celebrating the Steelers’ first Super Bowl victory, and the group of revelers he was with decided to walk across the bridge. “I don’t know how we got started. There were …

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Row Your Boat

You should see Pittsburgh from down here, with nothing but a shell of wood and a few threads of spandex between you and the Allegheny, the water slapping at your elbows and the skyscrapers jutting like exclamation points at the end of the river. Pittsburgh is a city more often looked down onto, as from …

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A Tall Tail

It might be on the desolate plains of North Dakota, a lowland plantation in South Carolina or a rolling field in Pennsylvania. Wherever, it doesn’t take a first-time bird hunter long to realize the majesty and value of a good English pointer. The indefatigable dog zigzags in a euphoric trance through fields of high stubble, …

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Farewell to a Summer Love

August afternoons resemble the blazing passion of new love: intense and torrid. August evenings are the antithesis: gentle and serene. They are a mature experience that is like a long, tender embrace. On August walks I avoid the blistering, high-sky sun of midday and seek shelter in shaded, cool, stream-cut ravines. The forest umbrella blocks the …

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The Tracy Method

On the afternoon of Sept. 21, 1980, a rookie outfielder for the Chicago Cubs cracked his first major league home run over the centerfield wall at Wrigley Field. Four days later, he hit his second homer, and two days after that, a third. “I was on pace,” said Jim Tracy, laughing the knowing baseball laugh …

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Pittsburgh’s Claim to Fame

In honor of the midsummer classic’s July reappearance in Pittsburgh, I pulled out some interviews I did years ago with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Dan Fitzpatrick got many new ones of great National Leaguers of the past and their recollections of the Pirates and Pittsburgh. Many remember the eccentricities of old Forbes Field. Some recall …

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Last of the Romantics

Maybe there never was anything even remotely innocent about football, and to be clear, that’s just an introductory reflection, not a lament on any recent spasm of cheerleader high jinks, or low jinks as the case may be. But if football ever had an age of innocence, it’s ancient enough to have ended prior to …

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Get the Message?

When President George W. Bush tossed the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener of the Washington Nationals in April, it marked the return of Major League Baseball to the nation’s capital after a 34-year hiatus. It also gave a newcomer from Pittsburgh millions of reasons to cheer for a team that plays against the …

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The Dead of Winter

I have often tried to find the beauty in a frigid day. I have frequently searched for loveliness in a meadow swept bare and brown by icy winds. I have repeatedly tried to uncover elegance in snow-wrapped woodlands. My pursuits have always failed. I will always no more than tolerate winter. Each time I make …

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