Richard “Pete” Peterson is the co-author, with his son, Stephen, of “The Slide: Leyland, Bonds, and the Star-Crossed Pittsburgh Pirates” and “The Turnpike Rivalry: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.”

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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Bill Virdon: He Made Everything Look Easy

In the spring of 1956, I was a senior at Pittsburgh’s South High and the starting center fielder for the school baseball team.   For aspiring high school center fielders, the decade of the 1950s was a great time to be playing baseball and dreaming of a big league career.  In the National League, there were …

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The Pittsburgh Dodgers: In the Wake of Jackie Robinson

My memory of going to my first Pittsburgh Pirates game with my father is so vivid that a number of years ago, on a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame, I asked Tim Wiles, the Director of Research at the National Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, if he could find the box score …

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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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Remembering Our Ethnic Heritage

I was born in Pittsburgh in April 1939, less than five months before Hitler began World War II by invading Poland.  I entered first grade in September 1945, a month after the end of the war.  I was a member of the war-babies generation, the pre-baby boomers, who would grow up searching for an identity …

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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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Edinboro, By Any Other Name

After graduating from South High in 1956, I spent the next five years in Pittsburgh drifting through mind-numbing jobs in gas stations, factories, and warehouses, until I finally ended up working as a stock boy in Gimbels Downtown department store.  The only distraction from my misery was playing softball, touch football, basketball, and volleyball at …

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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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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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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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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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August Wilson and the Joe Louis-Billy Conn Title Rematch

Pulitzer prize-winning dramatist and Pittsburgh native August Wilson dramatized the modern history of African-Americans in 10 plays, often called the Pittsburgh cycle, for each decade of the 20th century. In “Seven Guitars,” set in the Hill District in the 1940s, the key historical moment comes when his characters gather to listen on the radio to …

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