Favorite Live Moments at PNC
Because I live so far away, I’ve only seen 14 games in person at PNC. Despite some poor Pirate teams, I’ve had decent luck when it comes to seeing things I’ll always remember. Here are the most memorable things from each of those games.
Bucs Test Vlad’s Arm, Twice
June 23, 2001
Pirates 7 – Expos 4
My first ever game at PNC. Bucs vs Expos. My brother and I are down the right field line and get to watch the Pirates run themselves into outs in two straight innings testing the arm of Vladimir Guerrero. In the fourth, with Brian Giles on second and Aramis Ramirez on first, John Vander Wal singles to right. Giles scores but Vlady nails Ramirez at third. In the fifth Kevin Young singled and moved up on a sac bunt by Todd Ritchie. Young is gunned out at home trying to score on a single by Derek Bell. On the bench, Lloyd McClendon figures out that the Expos RF can throw a bit. Two weeks later, Bell would play in his final game ever.
Bergeron Goes Off
June 24, 2001
Expos 11 – Pirates 4
Peter Bergeron enters the Sunday afternoon game hitting just .116. Bergeron goes 4-5 off Joe Beimel and the Pirates bullpen, igniting a tear that will see him raise his average to .266 in less than one month. Troy Mattes gets his first career victory for Montreal.
Maybe Hermansen Will Work Out
May 25, 2002
Cardinals 6 – Pirates 3
Chad Hermansen homers leading off the game. I turn to my brother and say, “Maybe Hermansen will work out.” I was wrong. The former first round pick is hitting a shade over .200 in late July when he is traded to the Cubs for Darren Lewis who retires instead of reporting to Pittsburgh.
Release Mike Benjamin
May 26, 2002
Cardinals 7 – Pirates 3
My brother and I are wondering the concourse prior to the start of the Sunday game. Out in the right field section near the kids playground area, a Pirates marketing person is asking people to fill out customer satisfaction surveys. My brother and I oblige when we realize that for doing so, we’ll each receive a PNC Park inaugural season key chain that was obviously over-ordered last year, leaving the Pirates with a ton of inventory. In the comments section under the question “Do you have any other ideas on how to make the PNC Park experience more enjoyable,” my brother writes: “Release Mike Benjamin,” who at the time was hitting .170. During the game Fernando Vina bops a second inning grand slam off Josh Fogg.
Duff, Irish beat Boilermakers; Robinson loses ML Debut
September 7, 2002
Pirates 4 – Marlins 1
My very pregnant wife and I drive to Pittsburgh to sit in Bayer Corporation’s private box (my first chance to sit in a corporate box). On the drive through the foothills of the Appalachians in Eastern Ohio, I have trouble keeping the radio signal of the ND/Purdue game. Much frustration with the signal and with my college team’s offense as Notre Dame’s defense has kept them in the game. I drop my wife off at the hotel lobby to check in while I park the car. While I’m gone, the Bucco Babe watches on the lobby TV as Vontez Duff returns an interception for what turns out to be the game clinching score with 5 minutes to go. At PNC later that night, Josh Fogg out pitches Nate Robertson in the latter’s Big League debut.
Giles Makes Greatest Catch I’ve Ever Seen
June 21, 2003
Pirates 7 – Indians 6 in 15 innings
Sitting in the Bayer box, my brother and I witness one for the ages (or at least the ages when your club can’t make the post-season). With the Bucs trailing 5-4 and one on in the 8th, Brandon Phillips launches a drive down the left field line. Brian Giles tracks the ball, launches himself with one foot off the wall and catches the ball before it lands in the second row. Great catch. Best I’ve ever seen in person without question. The Bucs tie the game in the bottom of the 8th on a homer by Reggie Sanders. The Tribe score once in the 9th and then commit a pair of two out errors in the bottom of the 9th to allow the Pirates to score again. Julian Tavarez tossed five innings of no hit ball as the game went to the 15th inning (the previous night’s contest did so as well). Abraham Nunez tripled leading off the 15th inning and scored on a wild pitch by former Buc Dan Miceli. Hands down the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed.
June 22, 2003
Indians 8 – Pirates 5
After missing most of 2002 with injuries, Ryan Vogelsong makes his first start of 2003. This is just his 20th career appearance in the Show. The Bucs stake him to a 2-0 lead after one, but Vogelsong doesn’t make it out of the sixth inning, allowing seven runs and losing to C.C. Sabathia. Jeff Reboulet mans second base with Pokey Reese out with an injury. The definition of having a thin farm system is when a 39 year old career back up is your best choice to play 2/3 of the season after your starter goes down. Carlos Rivera made his ML debut. Despite Vogelsong’s clunker, it was a great weekend. Neither team was any good in 2003, but the Cleveland – Pittsburgh rivalry was obvious as 35,000 were on hand for both games.
Mack’s Big Weekend Continues
May 29, 2004
Pirates 10 – Cubs 7
Rob Mackowiak became a dad for the first time on 5/28/04. He celebrated later that day by aiding the Pirates sweep two games from the Cubs. In the first game he hit a walk of grand slam. He stroked a pinch hit two run homer in the night cap and Craig Wilson won it with a homer in extras. The next day, Mack drove in five runs and pushed the Pirates record to 23-22.
The Swoon, Part 1; Burnett Makes His Debut
May 30, 2004
Cubs 12 – Pirates 1
Sitting at one game over .500 following a huge three game barrage from Rob Mackowiak, the Cubs salvage one win in the four game set by crushing the Pirates. Things were going okay through five as former first round pick Sean Burnett made his first ever MLB appearance. But the Pirates bullpen and defense imploded, allowing 11 runs, only three of them earned in the last four innings. What happened in the following month would be even worse as the Bucs would win just 4 of their next 25 games.
Farewell to Kris
July 16, 2004
Pirates 6 – Marlins 2
Kris Benson picks up his last home victory as a Pirate, beating A.J. Burnett and the Marlins as my wife, my son and I watch from the Bayer box. Jason Bay and Rob Mackowiak homer in support. About two weeks later the Ty Wigginton era begins in Pittsburgh.
Old Man Franco Does It
June 4, 2005
Braves 1 – Pirates 0
My brother and I are sitting straight away centerfield as Kyle Davies and Mark Redman lock up. Redman allowed just three hits through 8 innings, but gives way to Mike Gonzalez who gives up a game winning double to Julio Franco in the 9th.
The Swoon, Part 2
June 5, 2005
Pirates 5 – Braves 2
Oliver Perez threw seven strong innings and Matt Lawton, after three hits on Saturday night, has three more on Sunday, including a solo homer. The Pirates win four of their next five to move to 30-30. Then they win only four of their next 19 games. And depression sets in.
Nice Customer Service
June 3, 2006
Pirates 6 – Padres 4
On what is billed as the 1971 reunion weekend by the Pirates, my brother and I try desperately from one state away to find out details on the happenings for Saturday’s game and Sunday’s game. Nobody from the Pirates returns our phone calls. Nobody returns our e-mails. We tried several departments. No reply. Unacceptable. It’s one thing to put a bad team on the field. To add poor customer service on top is atrocious. Before the game we spot Bob Veale, Jackie Hernandez and Bob Johnson walking around the concourse together. On the field, the Pirates get to Padres rookie Mike Thompson for five first inning runs and hold on to win. Up in the stands, a teenage/college age guy is wearing an actual replica batting helmet for reasons unknown to anybody around us. We all become keenly aware of this as another guy, roughly the same age, and sitting a few rows behind the dude with the batting helmet begins to unmercifully heckle “batting helmet boy”.
On the Bright Side, We Got Herges; The Swoon, Part 3
June 4, 2006
Padres 1 – Pirates 0
Former Pirate farmhand Chris Young stifles the Pirates offense on two hits through 8, carrying a no-no into the sixth. With San Diego winning 1-0, Bay triples with one out in the 7th. Epitomizing the whole season Jeromy Burnitz pops out and Bay is stranded. It’s officially strange hat weekend as a guy wearing a Panama Jack hat is sitting a few rows in front of us. The Pirates win five of their next 23 games.