"As American as baseball and apple pie. . ."
It's no surprise
that food and sports go hand in hand in defining the essence of Americana.
Sporting events help define us as a culture by giving communities a
reason to come together, a common team for which to cheer, a focal point
filled with energy and the edge of competition. At its best, it's a
positive, energy-charged experience. Of course, sports also could take
on an edge of aggression, and whether one's leisure pursuit is Pee-Wee
baseball or pro-team hockey, a healthy perspective is required to keep
the focus on physical skill and mental strategy.
has the designation of a "sports town," with "Steelermania,"
Pirate baseball fever, and Penguin ice-hockey excitement. But well before
there was a Terrible Towel or Pirate Parrot, Pittsburgh was hard at
work building its "sports town" reputation.
Collection of Susan Donley
|A view from Allegheny to Pittsburgh with Exposition Park in the foreground on the right.
made their debut as Pittsburgh's professional baseball team in 1876.
They played games at Recreation Park where Allegheny West is located
now and then in 1891 moved closer to the river to play at Exposition
Park. Today the Pittsburgh
Pirates play at Three Rivers Stadium although
even that stadium, barely 30 years old, is being replaced by a new baseball
stadium that will make its debut in the first years of the new Millennium.
stadium, long since demolished, was deemed by many to be "The World's
Greatest Ballpark." Until 1970, the center of Pittsburgh baseball,
the home of both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Homestead
Grays, was that much-loved structure in Oakland called Forbes
Field. Forbes Field was built in just four months in the spring
of 1909, in the Oakland region of Pittsburgh.
Archive of Industrial Society, Hillman Library
|The City Department of Recreation does the World Series play-by-play
via ticker tape and megaphone in the days before radio! c. 1919
also hosted events such as circuses and concerts, even wrestling matches!
For a short time the Pittsburgh Steelers played there too. But it was
in summer that the ballpark gained its fame as the "Old Lady of
Schenley Park." Situated in the middle of the Oakland community,
long-time residents recall lots of enthusiasm and excitement radiating
through the neighborhood on game day.
Of all the
great games played there, probably the best-remembered is the final
game of the 1960 World Series when Bill
Mazeroski hit his famous home run, sealing the Pirates' victory.
Ten years later, on June 28, 1970, the Pirates played a final doubleheader
at Forbes Field although the wall marking Mazeroski's game-saving
home-run still exists, bordering the University of Pittsburgh's law
school building and an open-air parking lot.
Collection of Susan Donley
Postcard of Forbes Field when it was still on the drawing
boards, c. 1909
All that is left of Forbes Field is the right field wall,
which stands near Forbes Quad at the University of Pittsburgh
other residents of the city enjoyed sporting events such as baseball
and football games with the hometown teams, the Hill District responded
to segregation in sports by starting their own teams. One Hill resident named Gus Greenlee
built his own baseball field, named, appropriately enough, Greenlee
Field. He started a baseball team called the Pittsburgh
Crawfords (which along with the Homestead Grays,) carved a name
for themselves in history as an important team in the Negro
Baseball League. Hill District residents treated baseball games
as major events, warranting their best outfits and the team players
lived up to the honor by not only playing exciting baseball games but
also treating the spectators to some showy extras as well!
a popular sport in the Hill, too. It was the home to many Golden
Gloves fights, and even the 1951 World Heavyweight Championship
Joe Walcott and Ezzard Charles. . . but Hill residents still
favored their local boxers best!
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and boxing have a long tradition in this country, one can not overlook
the rising popularity of the game of golf. Residents of Western Pennsylvania,
in particular, have reason to celebrate the game, since Clarion County
is home to the oldest golf course in continuous use in the United States!
In 1887, a Scottish oil tycoon named Joseph Oil Fox brought the game
to this country, earning him the title "the Father of Golf in America."
weightlifting doesn't hold quite the same national appeal as golf
or baseball, Pennsylvania also claims the distinction of being home
to the Weightlifting Hall of Fame. Just off Interstate 83, one can see
a giant weightlifter announcing the location of York Barbell. Pennsylvania
resident John Terpak was a two-time weightlifting champion and past
Olympian, and his accomplishments are chronicled at the museum. Whether
weightlifting is a hobby, or one just decides to visit the Hall of Fame
as a novelty, it's an unusual and amusing roadside attraction.