Sports

To Run or Not to Run in the Pittsburgh Marathon

When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, there were four movie houses on my working-class South Side, so I saw plenty of movies.  I loved then all — the war movies, the romantic adventures, the musical comedies, the biblical epics, the baseball biographies, the hour-long oaters starring Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, but my favorites, …

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Remembering Roberto Clemente

When you are seven, everyone on your team is a hero. Some may be greater than others, but they all are heroes. And not just the players.  I do not know if the Pirates have a traveling secretary today. If they do, I do not know who it is. I do not know what a …

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A Final Chat with Franco

My wife and I were at a party Friday night at the History Center, and after a cocktail, chit chat and getting our picture taken with Santa, we were going to check out the John Kane painting exhibit before the seated dinner.  As we were making our escape from the crowd, however, I saw Franco …

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Is Pittsburgh Still a Baseball Town?

There has been a great deal written about the demise of baseball as America’s game.  After the excitement of last season’s NFL playoff games and the drama of the Super Bowl, sports commentators, lamenting painfully slow and dull baseball games dominated by batters swinging with uppercuts and striking out at a record pace, decided to …

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When Jim Thorpe Almost Became a Pittsburgh Pirate

In the 1912 summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, Jim Thorpe won the demanding five-event  pentathlon and the grueling ten-event decathlon and was roundly declared the greatest athlete in the world.  He added to his stature that fall by becoming a football All-American after leading Carlisle to a stunning upset over a powerful Army team that …

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How Baseball Saved My Life

He dove into a garbage dump exploding with flies to avoid shrapnel from a Commie mortar bomb, lobbed just over the hill in North Korea. Diving into that dump may have saved his life. But what really saved his life was diving after a long fly ball and making an impossible catch. Well, not impossible …

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1972: Triumph and Tragedy for Pittsburgh Sports Fans

The new decade had started off well for Pittsburgh sports fans.  In January 1970,  the Steelers used the top pick in the NFL draft to select Terry Bradshaw, a strong-armed quarterback from Louisiana Tech.  Drawing comparisons to the comic strip character Ozark Ike, he looked to have the talent to lead the Same-Old-Steelers, after decades …

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They Still Come

It’s a harbinger of spring. As sure as robins begin to appear in backyards in Pittsburgh, Pirate baseball’s faithful travel to Bradenton, Florida. But Pirate City in Bradenton is locked down to fans, and the parking lots around LECOM Park are empty. Some still come. They peek through fences for a glimpse of minor league …

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The Homestead Gray’s Vic Harris: Baseball’s Winningest Manager

When ranking baseball managers, historians often use the number of times a manager led teams to a victory in the World Series as a yardstick for measuring their greatness.  By that measurement, Major League baseball’s greatest managers are the New York Yankees Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.  Each led Yankee teams to seven World Series …

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Baseball in Clemente’s Puerto Rico – a Dream Fulfilled

 I had dreamed for years – decades – of seeing a baseball game in the Caribbean. In April of 2017, I spent three unforgettable days in Havana, Cuba, and have been kicking myself ever since for not splurging on a taxi ride to an Industriales game. In January of 2020, just before COVID-19 made virtually …

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Date With Destiny

The Washington & Jefferson football team had its work cut out for it on Jan. 2, 1922. The Presidents had gone unbeaten that year, taking on powerhouses such as Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse. They were invited to play the University of Detroit in a postseason matchup, and after winning that game, touted as a …

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Roberto Clemente

50 Years Ago, Clemente Proved His Greatness

In the spring of 1955, at the same time that I was trying out for my high school baseball team and dreaming of becoming a big league ballplayer, the Pirates were breaking in a flashy rookie outfielder from Puerto Rico. By all accounts, Roberto Clemente was a natural.  Pittsburgh sportswriters described his arm as a …

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Roberto Clemente in Retrospect

The last time Roberto Clemente stepped up to home plate was on a field on Puerto Rico’s west coast where he was teaching boys to play baseball. Locals had coaxed him into taking a swing, and he obliged, hitting the ball out of the park. It’s not surprising that one of the world’s greatest athletes …

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Lovable and Inimitable

Original research for this story was conducted by the author for a book he co-authored with David Proctor entitled “Pie Traynor: A Baseball Biography.” Hunched over a lathe on a steamy factory floor, Pie Traynor — World Series champion, future Hall of Famer, and the man widely considered the greatest third baseman who had ever …

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The Lost Hole of Oakmont

Founded in 1903, Oakmont Country Club is hallowed ground in American golf. In 1987, it became the first course to earn federal recognition as a National Historic Landmark. In August, it hosts its sixth U.S. Amateur and, in June 2025, its 10th U.S. Open. Aside from Augusta National, site of the Masters each year, Oakmont has …

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Pittsburgh’s Greatest Sports Rivalry: Satchel and Josh

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson, who started his professional career with the Kansas City Monarchs, played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers and began the integration of the Major Leagues. This past December, nearly 75 years later, Major League Baseball decided to elevate Negro League Baseball, founded in 1920, from minor-league to major-league …

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Pittsburgh’s First Great Boxing Rivalries and the One-Punch Wonder

While the Pirates may have given Pittsburgh its first major sports championship when they defeated the Detroit Tigers in the 1909 World Series, its boxers gave Pittsburgh its first claim to the title City of Champions. In the first half of the 20th century, there were nine boxing champions with ties to Pittsburgh and the …

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Pittsburgh’s First Great Hockey Rivalry: The Needle and the Great Wall

In the 1950s, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns were well on the road to what eventually became known and celebrated as the Turnpike Rivalry. But that wasn’t the only rivalry at that time between sports teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. While Pittsburgh sports fans were in the early stages of hating the Cleveland Browns, …

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Duquesne’s First Great Rivalry: Slaying Dayton’s Goliath

There have been outstanding college basketball teams and great players in Pittsburgh’s sports history, but only the 1954–55 Duquesne Dukes, led by All-Americans Dick Ricketts and Si Green, won a major national basketball tournament when they defeated a powerful Dayton Flyers team in the 1955 National Invitation Tournament. At that time, the NIT was considered …

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The Steelers’ First Great Rivalry: Those Bloodbaths with the Eagles

In 1933, Art Rooney, in anticipation of the elimination of Pennsylvania’s Blue Law banning professional sports from playing on Sunday, paid $2,500 of his racetrack winnings to purchase an NFL franchise for the city of Pittsburgh. Across the state, Philadelphia native Bert Bell, partnering with his friend Lud Wray, paid $2,500 for a defunct NFL …

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A Day at the Track

As a kid, Dave Palone played competitively in typical high school sports. That changed when his dad bought a few horses to race at The Meadows, a harness racetrack located near Washington, Pa., 25 miles from Pittsburgh. He fell in love. “I love horses so much I decided I wanted to do them right,” Palone …

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Pitt’s First Great Rivalry: Fordham and the Seven Blocks of Granite

When The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated selected their top ten college football rivalries, their lists featured neighboring state rivalries such as Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, and Florida-Georgia. The Sporting News list of top rivalries included the Pitt-West Virginia backyard brawl. Traditional rivalries for Pitt began over 100 years ago when they first started playing West …

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