A new generation of Pittsburgh sports fans have witnessed two Super Bowl wins, a Stanley Cup, the fall of the Pirates and countless other memorable events. We at Pittsburgh Puck Talk have put together our list of the ‘Top 15 Pittsburgh Sports Moments of the last 15 years.’ Today is the first day of the series, with the Implosion of Three Rivers Stadium being Moment #15 …
Three Rivers Stadium was demolished on Feb. 11, 2001, after 30 years of hosting both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers. It alone was responsible for more memorable moments in Pittsburgh sports than any other venue in the city’s history.
From Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit to the Immaculate Reception, the city of Pittsburgh earned great fame for the events that happened there. After its opening on July 16, 1970, Pittsburgh came to be known as the City of Champions because of the success both the Pirates and Steelers had while playing in Three Rivers Stadium.
To get a good feel of how much history actually took place at Three Rivers, here are some facts about the stadium:
- It hosted the first ever night World Series game on Oct. 13, 1971.
- Roberto Clemente recorded his 3,000th hit there on Sept. 30, 1972.
- Franco Harris pulled off the greatest play in NFL history, The Immaculate Reception, at Three Rivers on Dec. 23, 1972. It was the first Steelers playoff victory ever.
- It hosted two MLB All-Star games. The first came in 1974 and the second in 1994.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers won four AFC Championships on the turf of Three Rivers Stadium: 1976, 1979, 1980 and 1996.
- Two Pirates pitched no-hitters there. John Candelaria did so on August 9, 1976 and Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined for the second on July 12, 1997.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers went 182–72 there, including a 13-5 playoff record. In that time they appeared in five Super Bowls and won four of them.
- The Pirates had a overall record of 2,491—2,392 while playing at Three Rivers.
- The Pittsburgh Pirates also won two World Series titles and two National League Pennants (1971 & 1979) there. They also accumulated nine NL East Division titles (1992, 1991, 1990, 1979, 1975, 1974, 1972, 1971 and 1970)
- It also hosted the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL in 1984 and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team in 2000.
Not quite all of these moments resonate with the younger generation, but the respect sure should. Three Rivers was where I began my love of sports. I went and worshiped the likes of Andy Van-Slyke, Jay Bell and Jeff King.
I think almost everyone’s first love when growing up in Pittsburgh is the Steelers. Three Rivers was their home and the place where so much greatness happened. Watching the Hail Mary from Jim Harbaugh fall incomplete was maybe the most exciting time of my life (well … at least the first exciting moment).
During playoff games, no place was louder. The moveable stands on the sidelines were packed with nutso fans that would jump up and down, causing the entire section of seating to bounce like crazy.
Structurally, the stadium was really nothing special. So many in that era were made in the same style. However, it was what went on inside it that separated Three Rivers from every other sporting venue in the nation.
Watching it fall was a bittersweet time. As Pittsburghers we were happy. It was the realization that the Pirates were here to stay and they, as well as the Steelers, would have their own, separate home.
However, when it was reduced to dust and rubble it was humbling. I stopped down to pay my respects to the stadium with my father and take a piece of it with me to have forever. So many people were crying like a family member had passed away.
That’s almost a correct assessment of what that stadium, and the teams that occupied it for so long, meant to the people of the city. I’d like to think its history will be something that is realized by not just us, but generations to come.
And finally, the stadium’s final seconds:
Chris | PPT