baseball

The Pirates’ First Great Rivalry: The Dreyfuss-McGraw Feud

Sports rivalries usually develop between teams that are competing with each other for league championships. For the Pirates, it was the Reds in the 1970s, the Phillies in the 1980s, and the Braves in the 1990s. Once the teams are no longer contenders, the rivalry fades away. The most intense and bitter rivalry for the …

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Larimer Field

Before every game, before they hit us infield, the coaches yelled, “Line up,” and both teams, twenty-eight Little Leaguers, formed a skirmish, from the plate, down the left field line until it ended at the cyclone fence on Lenora Street where the old Abruzzese who didn’t speak English, and didn’t know baseball, except DiMaggio, sat …

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For the Joy of It

I recently read that the audience for baseball is shrinking. The author did not cite any particular franchises or cities where there were fewer fans in the stands, nor did he cite any reasons or statistics. As someone who loves baseball, I wondered what prompted the article. Could the author have seen the proliferation of …

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Best Stadium in Baseball

It was a bone chilling January afternoon when Kevin McClatchy climbed to the top of Three Rivers Stadium in 1996. McClatchy, the new owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates, posed for some magazine photographs with the cavernous soup-bowl-shaped stadium that within two years would become rubble. He smiled frequently, shivering in the cold wind as he …

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When Clocks Have No Hands

I am a returnee by nature. Over the years I have returned to neighborhoods where I once lived, to rooms in dormitories that were mine, to Mirror Lake in the Adirondacks where I caught my first trout and to a grade school playground where I competed in kickball (soccer), softball and football. Although I enjoyed …

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Play Ball! Faster Please

Major League Baseball’s department of Faster Play, fearing that people will think the game has become sluggish and dull and will quit watching, has devised yet another new rule to perk things up, as Pirates fans might note this season. This one’s about mound visits. Like when the catcher goes out to the pitcher and …

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Our Changing Pastime

On a snowy night, I’m tossing winter batting practice in a gym to nine-year-old boys who play for Steel City Select, an elite Pittsburgh travel baseball club. We’re getting ready for the 2018 season, another chapter in the history of a game invented by Americans almost two centuries ago, and which has deep roots in …

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“The Slide” chronicles the tough years of the Pittsburgh Pirates

For some locals, October 17, 1979 was the date parents all over southwestern PA let their kids stay up late. That night baseball fans young and old got to witness Willie “Pops” Stargell homering against the Baltimore Orioles, propelling the Pittsburgh Pirates to their most-recent World Series title. The sound of pots and pans being …

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The Beauty of Commitment

Bob Coward, dog-eared scorebook in hand, hurries through the turnstile at PNC Park for what will be his 2,600th-and-something Pittsburgh Pirates home game. A compact man who once worked as a prison guard at Western Penitentiary (now SCI Pittsburgh) on the city’s North Side, Coward darts through the thickening crowd, greeting ushers and vendors as …

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The Black Diamond

Before the civil war, what black community existed in Pittsburgh largely included Northern-born free blacks and runaway slaves, many of whom had traveled the Underground Railroad. This small black population would preside over a new generation of African-Americans arriving from the South. In that first Southern, black migration, the city’s African American population grew from …

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The Payoff Pitch

Nellie King is lying on a hospital bed, his once-sinewy muscles flaccid, his face ashen. The man who once hurled sinking fastballs past Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks is so weak from pneumonia that he can barely draw a breath. He has this terrifying sensation of his skin separating from his skeleton. His youngest daughter, Amy, …

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Eye on the Ball: Centerfielder McCutchen

Tuesday night, Aug. 25, 2009. There are 17,049 paying customers in PNC Park. If they are baseball fans, they are getting their money’s worth. True, the Pirates are out of pennant contention. They are the sole resident of last place in the National League Central Division, as they have been for much of the past …

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Now Batting: Roberto Clemente

Among the baseball bats, telegrams and uniforms displayed in Lawrenceville’s Engine House No. 25 is a 1960 photo some say predicted Roberto Clemente’s legacy. The former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder is leaping up to catch a ball, the cumulus clouds behind him forming what looks like angel’s wings. Twelve years after the picture was taken, Clemente, …

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Who is That Guy, Anyway?

Collecting is an addictive passion. My wife and I collect architect-designed chairs, carved and inlaid wood items, textiles, bakelite dress clips, pre-Revolutionary maps of New England, miniature hats and, perhaps the strangest, glass swizzle sticks with a Pittsburgh provenance. My main collecting interest over the past 25 years has been fine art prints and watercolors of …

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Pittsburgh Roars & the Pirates

On a pedestal: Pittsburgh roars ahead Western Pennsylvania has never been a place where marketing held much sway.  The companies that supplied the oil, steel, glass, aluminum and money for America’s expansion didn’t need to market. America called on them. Marketing may even have been somewhat distasteful in Pittsburgh, where understatement is a virtue. Times …

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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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