2010 Summer

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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A Rhapsody in Blue

This summer, as Pittsburgh hosts World Environment Day and the world focuses on biodiversity, a small river 90 miles north of the city will do what it has always done. Quietly, its waters wind along a 117-mile path from Chautauqua County, New York, into western Pennsylvania, where it joins the Allegheny River at Franklin. And …

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Protecting Cook Forest

Anthony Cook has a name that carries responsbility. He is the fifth generation of the Cook family—and the fourth named Anthony—involved in the creation and preservation of Cook Forest State Park. The story began in 1826, when John Cook, Anthony’s great-great-grandfather, ventured to the rugged hills of western Pennsylvania on a surveying expedition for the …

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The Indigo Bunting

Let me lead you to the bird. It is neither bluebird nor blackbird but may look like both. It is the Indigo Bunting. Follow these directions to one of two destinations. Head toward Squirrel Hill and the curve where Beechwood Boulevard bends into the car lot for Frick Park. Once there, walk just a bit, …

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The Ligonier Valley

Located in the heart of the Laurel Highlands, the Ligonier Valley rests between the northern stretches of Chestnut Ridge and Laurel Ridge. Its pastoral scenic beauty includes productive farmland, historic farmhouses, and fields and woods crossed by the Loyalhanna, Indian and Tubmill creeks. The borough of Ligonier—site of a central battle of the French and …

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Anatomy of a Tar Baby

Move over, David McCollough and make room for Ken Gormley, another native son who brings honor to Pittsburgh as a narrative historian of the highest order. Gormley, the new dean of Duquesne University’s law school, clearly shares McCullough’s belief that “history is the story of people,” and manages to transform one of the more shameful …

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Art in the Trees

Junior high woodworking class is as close as many of us have ever gotten to making something with our own hands. We developed a tactile awareness of the silky smoothness of well-sanded wood and that need to run our fingers over the soft warmth of a finished piece of walnut. John Metzler never out grew …

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Workers Wanted: The Marcellus Shale

It’s early, the sun is just peeking up over those western Pennsylvania hills, and it’s cold and bleak as he pulls into the brightly lit service station-cum-convenience store to fill up the pressed-steel canyon that is the fuel tank of the company-owned Cummins 3500 pickup he’s driving. There’s nothing in the world that Shawn Clark …

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Dramatic Movement

In an empty annex of the Strip District’s typically post-industrial Gage Building, propped against a supporting beam on the hard factory floor, disparate objects sit like the sad leftovers from a garage sale. Karla Boos, founder and artistic director of Quantum Theatre, surveys the items with Jed Harris, veteran Pittsburgh written theater experimentalist and director …

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Burfitt, Cassell, Guess, Barrett, Tucke, Mansourian, Morrison, Nace

Gregory Burfitt is president and CEO of Allegheny General Hospital and The Western Pennsylvania Hospital. Burfitt grew up in Warren, Ohio and comes to Pittsburgh from Denver, where he was president and CEO of Centura Health, Colorado’s largest integrated healthcare delivery system.Prior to Centura, he was chief operating officer for Inova Health System in Falls …

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A Comfortable Classic

This is my dream house” says the owner of a classic limestone mansion in Squirrel Hill. “I used to drive by with my agent and say that’s the house I want to buy.” But it wasn’t on the market, until one day the call came. “We’re listing it tomorrow, but if they want to come …

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Considering the Alternatives

In 1926, much of Pittsburgh was still bathed in gaslight, and in that warm, industrial glow, Jim Ferry saw a future for himself, his family, and the city. The gutsy young entrepreneur formed his own business with a $160 loan that his mother signed using her furniture as collateral. He found his first customers by …

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The Art of the Haberdasher

It’s been almost six months since John Lohr, a salesman from Brooks Brothers, passed away, but I keep thinking about it. I don’t know what shocked me more. Was it that I had purchased a couple of shirts and ties from him the day before he died? Was it that, at 53, he was just …

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The Wright Way to Fly

A top Kill Devil Hill on North Carolina’s windswept Outer Banks stands a massive granite monument that reads: “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Conceived by genius; achieved by dauntless resolution and incomparable faith.” Wilbur Wright would have had a problem with the word genius, it …

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Savoring Digestifs

Is it wrong that one of my favorite childhood chores was running to the A&P for my grandmother and buying her a bottle of Fernet-Branca and a box of snuff? It’s probably not the kind of wholesome memory most people hope to create for their kids, but I can’t help but look back fondly on …

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Johnny’s Restaurant

There is a relationship that regular patrons have with Johnny’s Restaurant in Wilmerding that is a lot like the one shared by old married couples. They promise each other not to be the first to go, because the survivor will be lost until the end. And after a yearlong hiatus, Johnny Fusilli is back at …

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Bidding Farewell to a Difficult Decade

Though some purists might argue that the first decade of the new century did not begin until Jan. 1, 2001, and will not end until Dec. 31, 2010, the great mass of humanity marked the end of that decade last Dec. 31. Most observed its passing with relief. The last 10 years have been called, …

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Sarris, Stever, Height, Poupko, Bold, Stewart, Rust

Frank Sarris, 78 Sarris was a self-made man whose generosity helped a spectrum of his fellow citizens—from community organizations in his hometown of Canonsburg to the University of Pittsburgh, where he donated $5 million to the liver transplant program. He and his wife Athena were a team, and in the 1950s they began experimenting with …

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Parks for the Future

When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County’s parks were special places to me. I learned to ski at Boyce Park, and my family had fall picnics at Hartwood Acres. As an adult, I’ve explored them in different ways—mountain biking, rollerblading and going to concerts. And since November, when I became executive director of …

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My Summer “Reading” List

The first time I listened to a book was after a cocktail party. For a variety of reasons, I couldn’t get out of the party. The trouble was, I also had to be in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a noon meeting the next day. So, while it was not a great idea, I …

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Our Endangered River

It’s a crisp November morning, some 25 years ago.  Bob Ging and Don Gales are hunting on a ridge in Lower Turkeyfoot, Somerset County, where green hemlocks mingle with bare winter hardwoods. “Boy, this is beautiful,” says Ging as sunrise reveals the emerald waters of Laurel Hill Creek in the valley. Gales has a timber …

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