The 10 Worst Moments in Pittsburgh Sports
Much of what you hear in the media about Pittsburgh sports teams are generally positive, after all, it's the City of Champions. This is a town full of well-blessed fans who expect only two things from their teams: hard work and championships...I suppose loyalty would be the third.
But this isn't the land of milk and honey where everything goes your way year in and year out. Pittsburgh fans have all tasted the agony of defeat and the heartbreak of loss, both on and off the center stage.
This list highlights the 10 most memorable black letter days in the city's storied sports history, whether it be good or bad. After all, success is not final and failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts!
2008 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 6
Right from the get-go, the championship finals had the Penguins seeing red. Detroit took a 2-game lead in the series but Pittsburgh eventually took game 3 and then game 5 in triple overtime.
In game 6, the Red Wings Brian Rafalski scored a power play goal in the first period before Valtteri Filppula extended the lead with a goal at 8:07 in the second. The Penguins had an opportunity to get their first goal later in the first period, with a 5-on-3 advantage, but could not convert.
Pittsburgh finally cut the lead at 15:26 of the second period with Evgeni Malkin's power play goal. However, a third period shot by Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg squeezed through the legs of Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who, after noticing he was not covering the puck, fell backwards and accidentally knocked the puck across the goal line for the Red Wings' third goal.
One last ditch effort came on a shot off rebound from Sidney Crosby to Marion Hossa in the final seconds. The puck went behind the goalies' back but failed to cross the netting. It was Pittsburgh's first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 16 years.
Steelers up for Sale???
A thought too frightening for any Steelers fan to imagine, the ownership of Pittsburgh's beloved team could have ended up in hands other than the Rooney family.
During the summer of 2008, the NFL passed strict guidelines that prohibited team owners from engaging in gambling business ventures outside of football. Since Dan Rooney's brothers, all stakeholders, ran racetracks in New York state, he needed to buy back their shares to keep the team in the family and abide by league regulations.
Stanley Druckenmiller, a billionaire financier, was in the running to buy the shares but dropped out due to economic forces and a prolonged process. Fortunately, Rooney retained control and dismissed the four month scare from the public eye.
1976 AFC Championship
One week prior to this game the Steelers had steamrolled the Baltimore Colts 40-14 and out gained them by 356 yards. But a dominating performance does not guarantee playoff victory. As fate would have it, running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were injured during the game.
The run game was the offense's bread and butter in the early seventies, without it the Raiders took advantage. Pittsburgh ran straight in to a brick wall while the defense alone could not stop Ken Stabler's passing attack.
Jack Lambert was later quoted as saying "Just give me a six-pack and 30 minutes to rest and lets go out and play 'em again"
Forbes Field Bids Farwell
Built in 1909, this ball park predated the construction of Fenway, Wrigley and Yankees Stadium. The original "House of Thrills" saw legends like Honus Wagner and Pie Traynor play our country's favorite past time when the game was young.
Although it was built in a secluded part of town, the surrounding area soon became too congested and the stadium showed signs of aging. Presented the option of repair, the city chose to build a new stadium that would house the football and baseball teams.
The last remaining section of the stadium still intact was left outfield wall where Bill Mazeroski hit his 1960 World Series winning home run. The section of the wall has since been moved brick by brick to the Pirates current home, inside PNC Park.
Super Mario Steps Down (The First Time)
The man who brought the Penguins from nothing when he was drafted to back-to-back Stanley Cup champions faced his fiercest opponent in 1997, cancer.
It was the Magic Johnson syndrome, a team leader now in a fight for his life. The hockey world was taken by surprise with his entry in the NHL, it was only fitting his exit would cause such a stir. The city could not even imagine a Lemieux-less Penguins.
But their was a silver lining and in three years he was back in the ice. His final retirement from hockey wouldn't be quite as painful, the next time he would be the team's owner.
A City Losses It's Voice
Yoi and Double Yoi are common phrases during football season and it's all thanks to one man, Myron Cope. From the early 1970's to 2004, Cope was the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Let's face it, his voice could cut through concrete but what he meant to millions of fans made it oh so sweet. And of course, who can forget his enduring contribution to the teams fan base, the Terrible Towel.
A philanthropist, he donated all the proceeds of towel sales to the Allegheny Valley School which provides care for nearly 1,000 people with mental and physical disabilities.
Cope resigned due to health problems but he never stayed too far away. Cope passed away on February 27, 2008 in Pittsburgh. Two days after his death hundreds of people showed up on the steps of city hall for a towel waving ceremony to honor the late broadcaster. It was a way for fans to bid farewell, just like he ended his broadcast's "Bye Now"
The 1994 AFC Championship game; Pittsburgh was back on top, yet fell agonizingly short of a trip to the Super Bowl. Imagine the number of times Greg Lloyd contemplated his failed coverage that put the Steelers behind to stay.
With the Chargers leading 17-13 in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh marched from their own 17-yard line to San Diego's 3 with a chance at a potential game-winning touchdown. However on fourth down, Chargers linebacker Dennis Gibson sealed the victory by swatting down Steelers QB O'Donnell's pass intended for running back Barry Foster.
It was head coach Bill Cowher's first AFC Championship game and the close loss was a bitter one to swallow.
Super Bowl XXX
The Pittsburgh Steelers ....actually lost? ....in the Super Bowl? For a franchise whose been to seven of them, losing one might have been inevitable.
The Dallas Cowboys were the clear favorite to finally beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl and march back to Texas with their third Lombardi Trophy in four years. America's Team was likely to win but that is why they play the game.
An onside kick by the Steelers set up a fourth quarter touchdown by running back Bam Morris and the Pittsburgh was back in the drivers seat. With their next possession, the Steelers were driving down the field with 4:15 left in a 17-20 game in favor of the Cowboys.
It was a late errand pass from Neil O'Donnell that was picked off by Cowboys corner and game MVP Larry Brown. What would have happened had O'Donnell not thrown his last interception is up for debate. Emmit Smith punched the ensuing Dallas possession in and the final score read 27-17, a much closer game than most anticipated.
Safe, Safe, Safe!
1992 NLCS, Game 7, bottom of the 9th...
Braves pinch hitter Francisco Cabraira hit a single to left for one of his runners to score. Then-Pirate Barry Bonds threw the ball to home plate just behind Bream. His "slide" is now one of the iconic images in the Atlanta Braves organization.
Sid Bream was actually a member of the Pirates in the previous season. Since that loss, the Pittsburgh has not had a winning season.
The Loss of Roberto Clemente
One of the best baseball players to play the game and a symbol of inspiration, Roberto Clemente dazzled crowds at Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium for 18 years. He collected two World Series championships, MVP honors and numerous awards during his years as a member of the Pirates.
On a mission to help earthquake victims in Nicaragua in 1972, his plane fell in to the waters of the coast of Puerto Rico, his home. Though many attempts were made, his body was never recovered.
Today his legacy carries on with baseball facilities donated in his memorial fund to provide a play for children to play the sport. He is also the only player to have exactly 3000 base hits. Sadly, his last at-base hit in the regular season was the one he took before his plane crash.
In his honor, a 21' bronze statue in his likeness and the naming of the bridge next to PNC Park have been dedicated to Clemente. PNC Park's outfield walls are also 21 feet tall in remembrance of his 21 jersey number.
Pittsburghers identified with him as a hard working and loving man who cared about his team more than himself. Losing a man such as Roberto was difficult but his legacy endures in the city proudly represented.