The Great North American Baseball Road Trip rolled into Pittsburgh ahead of storm systems surrounding the Ohio and Pennsylvania area. Most of the day up to game time was spent fretting about whether the game would even get played. The GNABRT weather powers were surely going to be tested this night.
Despite some steady rain a couple of hours before the game, I prepared for what was an important game for both teams in the standings; the last game before all of baseball takes a 4-day break for the All-Star game.
The hotel shuttle instructions for pickup seemed confusing, but the driver made it simple for me. Cross the Roberto Clemente bridge, turn right and walk until you couldn’t go straight anymore. One warning: the last shuttle pickup would be 11:30 to midnight. I looked nervously up at the sky; a rain delay would surely make me miss the ride back.
Turns out, rain wasn’t my real issue. Though the game was spent with intermittent drizzles, the true danger lay in the evenly matched teams. The previous night they played 14 innings; this one, unbelievably, went to extra innings as well. Oh, my poor shuttle!
As the game ended, I power-walked towards the pickup point, weaving between clumps of happy, but slow-moving Pirate fans. Didn’t these people know I needed to get to my shuttle? Now, power walking and jeans are not the best combo, but I managed to get to the pickup point and saw…no one.
With a pang in my heart (and a possible dent in my wallet from having to call a cab), I dialed the hotel for shuttle pickup. I got a recording. Uh oh. Just as I was beginning to despair, I saw a shuttle roll into the driveway and all was well with the world.
The city: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you ever wanted to know the actual “Three Rivers” of previous Pirate stadium fame, they are the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio.
From a natural resource perspective, Pittsburgh was always destined to be a major player in the industrial revolution, Timber, iron, coal, natural gas and limestone were plentiful in the area. Before they became steel town, however, glass was the major production commodity. In 1883, the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company was formed (known as PPG today).
The city’s name has an obvious and fairly unremarkable origin. In the war between the British and French, in 1758, General John Forbes had Fort Pitt built on the ashes of the razed French Fort Duquesne and named the adjacent river area “Pittsborough”.
As the city’s role in America changed, it gathered many names: “Gateway to the West”, “Iron City”, “Steel City”, “Smoky City”, etc. Fortunately, Pittsburgh was the name that stuck through all those changes.
Andrew Carnegie, wealthy already, became really wealthy plying the steel industry in Pittsburgh and developing what would eventually become US Steel.
Foreign competition decimated the steel industry in America and Pittsburgh, like many of its “Rust Belt” brethren, suffered mightily with company shutdowns, layoffs, massive unemployment and population leaving the city.
Out of all that turmoil, Pittsburgh managed to transform itself with civic improvements and cultural efforts to become a popular and prosperous place to live and operate, with many of the most successful technology companies choosing to operate there.
Pittsburgh’s sports legacy is also strong, with the Steelers (NFL), Pirates (MLB) and Penguins (NHL) all winning championships for the city.
The game: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals. Opening up a four-game series between the first place St. Louis Cardinals and the second place Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals won the first game on Thursday to take a commanding 5.5 game lead in the NL Central.
Pittsburgh then won the next two games, including a thrilling, 14-inning affair on Saturday. That set up Sunday night’s nationally televised game (ESPN) as critical. If St. Louis won, it would effectively negate Pittsburgh’s heroics, leaving them 4.5 games out (right where they started). If Pittsburgh won, the Pirates would go into the All-Star break only 2.5 games back and have all the momentum.
As expected from two teams so evenly matched, the game went back and forth. St. Louis took the first lead, then Pittsburgh surged back on top. St, Louis tied it and Pittsburgh squeezed back into the lead. St. Louis tied it again and the game went into extra innings for the second night in a row.
In the top of the tenth, the stadium went briefly silent as St. Louis scored two runs to take a 5-3 lead and they had their closer ready to come in to pitch the bottom of the tenth. This pitcher had an infinitesimal ERA of 0.86, meaning he gave up a fraction of a run every nine innings and the Pirates needed three runs in one inning to win.
The stadium roared to life to root their team on and got really excited after a leadoff single. Then the next two players (including their hottest hitter) made outs and the hopes sagged. Some people sitting in front of me got up and left (like the 90 seconds they saved would mean something) and I mentioned to the woman beside me they were going to feel really bad if Pittsburgh came back to win.
And, of course, that’s what they did. Single, Single, Single, Walk, Single. All with two outs. All against one of the best closers in the game. Pirates win! Pirates win!
The 6-5 come-from-behind, extra inning win was the best game so far on the GNABRT and stopped my losing streak at two, putting the record up to 13-6 and also removing any possibility of a jinx surrounding the GNABRT t-shirt. That will be back in play for Detroit in five days.
The tab: Ticket, $39; Soda, $3.75; no dog (not hungry); Total – $42.75
Miscellany of Day 46:
– A day after noting the cool thing Cleveland did on their scoreboard, I have to mention the cool nerdboy thing Pittsburgh provided.
Next to the pitcher’s pitch count and speed, the Pirates also list horizontal and vertical movement of the ball. This won’t mean much to non-baseball fans or even moderate fans, but for hardcore fans, this is way cool, allowing you to see if and how effective the pitch was as a curveball (horizontal) or a slider (vertical) or simple movement of the fastball.
– I was advised during the game the I must go to have lunch at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches. The Pittsburgh natives claimed they were World Famous, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of them. I’ll see if I can stop by today or tomorrow.