Even Pirates marvel at PNC Park atmosphere for wild-card game
Even Steve Blass could not believe the intensity.
“I've never heard that much sustained noise,” the Pittsburgh Pirates announcer and former pitcher said on Wednesday, a day after the team hosted and won the first playoff game here in more than two decades.
“I was blown away. (Pirates announcer) Bob Walk and I were up in the booth, and we were nervous as cats,” he said. “I was afraid I was going to stumble over the lineup. It affected us, and we'd been in that arena. It was nervous excitement to look down and see all that black and gold.”
Pittsburgh has turned upside-down. The once mighty Steelers are 0-4, and the formerly woebegone Pirates dominate the conversation. A city starving for a winner is a baseball town. Again. Finally.
Just ask Matthew Sauter, who recently made a business decision that once seemed unthinkable: “We brought all our Pirates gear to the front and sent the Steelers gear to the back.”
Sauter, 23, sales manager at Yinzers in the Burgh, a sports memorabilia shop in the Strip District, said it seems “like everyone forgot about the Steelers. Even when the Pens win the cup, everyone's focused on the Steelers. This year, it's completely different.”
Losers no more, the Pirates beat Cincinnati, 6-2, in a one chance, do-or-die wild-card game on Tuesday night to advance to a National League Division Series showdown against the Cardinals starting Thursday in St. Louis.
Urging them on was a record raucous crowd of 40,487, including thousands with standing-room-only tickets. Fans with barely a view of the game, or none at all, lined the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
“Nothing compared to (Tuesday) night at PNC,” Sauter said. “I have tickets for every (remaining home) playoff game. You could make $1,000 selling them, but I just want to go. I want to be there. I want to experience this.”
The game captivated not only the largest crowd in PNC Park's 12-year history, but also a good portion of the metropolitan area watching on TBS. The cable network reported a robust 33.7 rating in Pittsburgh, its seventh-highest local rating for a postseason telecast since they began in 2007. The other six were for league championship series games and a Game 4 of a division series.
In the champagne-soaked Pirates clubhouse afterward, the main topic was neither Francisco Liriano's brilliant pitching nor catcher Russell Martin's two home runs. It was the noise and the atmosphere.
“I've never seen anything like it anywhere,” said Martin, an eight-year veteran who before this season played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. “To have an opportunity to play in front of a crowd like that was amazing.”
The fans' intensity led many to believe they had a direct impact on the game — particularly in the second inning, when the crowd began loudly chanting the last name of Reds starter Johnny Cueto just after he had given up a home run to Marlon Byrd. Cueto dropped the ball and had to retrieve it when it rolled off the mound. On the next pitch he yielded a homer to Martin. He later claimed not to be rattled, but Martin was not convinced.
“I've never seen a crowd actually get to a pitcher to where he drops the ball,” Martin said. “The next pitch was — I don't know. He made a mistake with the next pitch.”
Sidney Crosby, the Penguins' star player who knows a thing or two about hostile fan environments, called the atmosphere at PNC Park “incredible.”
“That couldn't have been fun to be in a Reds uniform and to go out on that field,” he said. “That looked like a really tough environment.”
Second baseman Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native who has spent time in PNC Park as a fan and player and in Three Rivers Stadium as a young fan, said he never experienced such a ballpark buzz.
“Absolutely not,” Walker said. “It was pure energy from pitch one to the last out. Even when they announced the teams. … This is a sports town. This used to be a baseball town. I wasn't surprised that people were as into it as they were. They, we, just haven't had the opportunity to do this in two decades.”
Fans are snapping up everything with a Pirates logo at Yinzers, Sauter said.
“We just ordered another $20,000 in hats — just hats,” he said. “Business has been wonderful.”
Cheryl Borus, 55, of Observatory Hill said co-workers at Giant Eagle are allowed to wear sports jerseys on certain days of the week. In past years, one, maybe two workers would don a Pirates jersey.
“But (Tuesday) it was like everyone went out and bought a Pirates shirt,” she said.
Blass can't wait to see what the crowd is like on Sunday, when the Division Series returns to Pittsburgh.
“My god, it just seemed to all come to a crescendo in one night, tightly packed into a game where it's win or go home,” he said. “It's like all that intensity was bottled up, and then the top popped off. I don't know if I'll ever see something like that again.”
Bob Cohn and Chris Togneri are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cohn can be reached at 412-320-7810 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Togneri can be reached at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com. Staff writer Josh Yohe contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Fans flock to what they hope will continue ‘magical season’
- PennDOT to install art murals along Route 28
- First overnight closure of the Parkway West begins Thursday
- Point State Park honored as top-notch public space
- Advocacy groups call for closer scrutiny of charter schools
- Spokesman for India’s PM tells Pitt audience of pro-business agenda
- Peduto hails proposal for federal money to boost education for preschoolers
- $5M Penn Avenue reconstruction project is ‘killing everything’
- Hotel still a possibility for August Wilson Center
- Newsmaker: David Spigelmyer
- Controller recommends hiring to reduce 911 center overtime