Day 4 of this roadtrip and another early start for me with a 5:45 AM bus out of Cleveland to Pittsburgh.
I slept a good deal of the trip and for the parts where I was awake, I had a really nice conversation with a man sitting next to me who lived his whole life in Pittsburgh and was returning home from a trip to visit his daughter in Albuquerque. He couldn’t travel by plane because of all the medical monitors he had to bring with him wherever he went. Pretty crazy stuff. But his stories were really interesting and entertaining and he taught me a lot about Pittsburgh’s history.
My room was finally ready and I checked in around 11. A really nice one – (The Kimpton on Wm Penn Place) but maybe a bit snooty seeing as the room service menu had a separate page just for dogs with entrées over $25. Around 11:15 ish I headed over to PNC Park which was only a 10 minute walk from where I was staying. A crowd of folks wearing black and gold Pirates colors grew along the way and they all converged at the 6th Avenue (aka Roberto Clemente) bridge to cross the Allegheny River to the park. Traffic is closed on game days, which means you’ll have the lanes to yourself. The first views of the park from across the river were really stunning. To me, this is the ideal setting for a sports stadium.
The scene on the streets surrounding the park pre-game was very party like with entertainers, vendors and exhibits all getting the fans attention (and money). I’m not sure if this is the scene before every game or just for weekends and holidays, but it was a lot of fun and energetic. Pittsburgh is one of the top sports towns in the US with the Bucs probably playing second fiddle to the Steelers (and maybe even the Penguins and Pitt football/basketball)
that honor the team’s all-time greats. The Bill Mazeroski statue (rounding the bases after hitting that famous HR to win the ’60 series) is near the Right Field Gate, the Honus Wagner statue is near the Home Plate Gate, the Roberto Clemente statue is near the Center Field Gate and the Willie Stargell statue is near the Left Field Gate. I entered through the center field gate into the main concourse where I was given a nice Gerrit Cole camouflage jersey as the SGA and greeted by two pierogi mascots who were posing with fans as they entered the concourse.
The inside of the park doesn’t match the aesthetic grandeur of the outside, but that bar is really high. It is nonetheless roomy, clean and pleasant. The best part of the park to walk through is easily the River walk beyond the outfield fences. Here you can take in some really sweet views of the Allegheny and the city while trying to decide which of the exceptional food choices to make.
PNC Ranks high on the list of food choices with lots of great local Pittsburgh favorites in particular Primanti Brothers whose location on the Strip is a must stop for anyone passing through the Steel City. Other stops worth visiting are Tootie’s Famous Italian Beef stand and Manny’s BBQ which is on the Riverwalk behind centerfield and is the namesake of the beloved former Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen. Similar to Boog Powell’s BBQ in Camden Yards, on occasion Manny himself comes out from time to time to ‘sling the hash’. They have a Pulled Pork Pierogi slider which is so good that it’s hard to describe. Beer wise, PNC is a bit limited on crafts – lots of local beers – especially Iron City and Riverstone – both which are very drinkable. Despite the cultural renaissance of Pittsburgh over the last couple decades, they haven’t lost their blue-collar roots and still love their ‘IC’.
The Bucs had this game in hand the whole way. Pirate starter Francisco Liriano befuddled the Mets, striking out 9 in the first 4 innings, 10 in the first 5 and 12 overall. With the score knotted at 1 in the bottom 5th Pirate star Andrew McCuthchen deposited a Jonathan Niese pitch into the bullpen making the score 3-1. Starling Marte later launched a 3 run bomb off of reliever Eric Goeddel and the Pirates cruised to a 9-1 win.
Post game – there is lots to do around the park and in the city. Nearby watering holes / restaurants include Jerome Bettis 36 Grille and Mullen’s Bar (usually packed before and after games). Some good choices for fun in the city (especially on such a gorgeous Sunday) are hanging out on ‘The Strip‘ or Station Square, taking a Duck Boat Tour or taking a ride on the Duquesne Incline.
It was another long day for me. This trip is actually wearing me down. One more stop before I head home. I’m taking another long bus ride tomorrow morning , this time to Cincinnati for a Memorial Day matinee at Great American Ballpark.
Fans – B+ – Friendly and knowledgeable.
Features – A+ – Amazing views of the river, bridge, skyline. Architecture of stadium, statues, outfield promenade, concourse – Picture perfect ballpark
Location – A+ – How much fun walking across the bridge from downtown with a virtual army of fans. Loads to do before and after the game around the park – by foot or by boat
Food – B+ – Lots of delicious options, pierogis, pulled pork, Primanti Bros, etc. – Craft beers may be a bit lacking
Game – C – Not too thrilling watching my beloved Mets take a pounding and being ribbed about it by the fans
Overall Experience – A+ – Great way to spend a memorial Day Sunday – beautiful clear skies and watching my Mets play at a beautiful park in a great city.