15 years ago today, PNC Park played host its first Major League Baseball game. We look back on some memories from the ballpark’s first 15 years and look to it’s future.
Fifteen years ago the Pirates, much like today, played a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds. That game was of course very different than the one that took place this afternoon. Most obvious of these differences is that the game was played in Pittsburgh and the temperature was in the 70’s. However, the reason we remember this game today is because it was the first regular season baseball game played at PNC Park, the Pirates beloved home stadium.
Just like today, the Pirates lost that day. They would finish that season with exactly 100 losses and would have many more as the dark years continued. That day, the Reds jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the First inning when Pittsburgh-native and future Pirate Sean Casey hit a 2-run Home Run. Other than that there wasn’t much scoring until the later stages of the game. While the Pirates had pulled within a run to make it 3-2 Reds at the end of the Seventh, Cincinnati added a run in the Eighth and four runs in the Ninth and came away with a blowout 8-2 victory. The Pirates would get their first win in their new home stadium two nights later when they beat the Reds 6-5.
Personally, my first time of many visiting PNC Park actually came prior to this game. The Pirates hosted the New York Mets in a couple of exhibition games prior to the season beginning and I had the fortune of attending the first of the two on March 31st. Since then, I estimate that I’ve attended about 75 games at PNC Park since it opened, with the majority of those coming after I began attending the University of Pittsburgh in 2009. I’ve sat in almost every area of the stadium, though not those choice seats just behind Home Plate, and I have yet to encounter a bad seat. I typically opt for the cheap seats along the Third Base line near the top of the stadium where the view of downtown is the best. I’ve seen much in the last fifteen years at PNC Park, as I’m sure many of you have as well. Among the more notable occurrences I’ve personally experienced at PNC Park have been that first exhibition game, watching Freddy Sanchez clinch the NL Batting title to cap off an otherwise meaningless season, being increasingly frustrated as the Pirates were No-hit by Homer Bailey, and seeing Pedro Alvarez hit a Home Run into a boat but not really seeing it because I was in the stadium.
My favorite moment is unsurprisingly the only playoff game I’ve attended at PNC Park. Sitting in seats underneath the scoreboard that I didn’t even know existed until I arrived at them I watched the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 5-3 in Game 3 of the 2013 NLDS to take a 2-1 series lead. The electric atmosphere at PNC Park for that game is the exactly what this wonderful stadium deserved, but never received through its first decade plus of existence due to the ineptitude of the team. Here’s hoping that there are many more games at PNC Park with that type of atmosphere in the next 15 years than there were in the first 15 years, and feel free to share any of your personal memories in the comments section.
Timeline of Events at PNC Park
April 7, 1999 – Ground is broken at the future site of PNC Park.
March 31, 2001 – The first Exhibition Game at PNC Park is played between the Pirates and the New York Mets. The Mets defeat the Pirates 4-3.
April 7, 2001 – A new statue of former Pirate great Willie Stargell is dedicated outside the Left Field gate. Stargell is unable to attend due to health concerns and dies of a stroke 2 days later on the day the Pirates open PNC Park.
April 9, 2001 – The Pirates host the Cincinnati Reds in the first Regular Season game at PNC Park. The Reds defeat the Pirates 8-2.
July 6, 2002 – A Home Run is hit into the Allegheny River on a fly for the first time. The Home Run is hit by Daryle Ward of the Houston Astros off of Pirates pitcher Kip Wells.
June 26, 2006 – The Highmark Legacy Square, an exhibit celebrating Pittsburgh’s Negro League teams is added in the Left Field entrance.
July 11, 2006 – PNC Park hosts the 2006 MLB All-Star Game. The American League defeats the National League 3-2 after Michael Young of the Texas Rangers hits a 2-run Triple in the top of the Ninth.
October 1, 2006 – Pirates Third Baseman Freddy Sanchez goes 2 for 4 and beats out Miguel Cabrera of the Florida Marlins on the last day of the regular season to win the National League batting title. Sanchez finishes the season with a .344 Batting Average. It’s the first Batting Title by a Pirate since Bill Madlock in 1983.
March 2008 – The iconic Outback Steakhouse is removed from Left Field. It is replaced by a bar and restaurant that is open to all ticket holders. The removal reduces PNC Park’s capacity by 134 to give it the currently published figure of 38,362.
September 5, 2010 – A statue of Bill Mazeroski is added outside the Right Field entrance in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his World Series-winning Home Run. The statue replicates his celebration as he rounded Second Base after hitting the Home Run.
September 28, 2012 – Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds throws the first, and so far only, No-hitter at PNC Park. The Reds would win 1-0, scoring the only run of the game in the top of the First.
June 2, 2013 – Garrett Jones hits the second Home Run into the Allegheny River on a fly and becomes the first Pirate to accomplish the feat. Jones hits the Home Run off of Jonathan Broxton of the Cincinnati Reds.
October 1, 2013 – PNC Park finally hosts its first playoff game as the Pirates defeat the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 in the National League Wild Card Game.
May 9, 2015 – The Pirates turn the first recorded 4-5-4 Triple Play in baseball history in the Second inning of a 7-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
May 19, 2015 – Pedro Alvarez hits what the Pirates declare to be the third Home Run to be hit into the Allegheny River on a fly. Though the ball reaches the river, it lands in a boat and never actually goes into the water.
October 7, 2015 – The current record attendance at PNC Park is set as the Pirates host the Chicago Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game. 40,889 people watch the Cubs defeat the Pirates 4-0.
PNC Park All-time Roster
I decided to look back at all those who wore a Pirates uniform over the past 15 years and come up with a PNC Park All-time Roster. While it would probably be easy to just fill the team with players from the past three seasons, I wanted to try to come up with a more representative team. Longevity was an important consideration when I attempted to make this roster, so John Jaso will not be at First Base, even though he may be legitimately the best option. Feel free to tell me where I screwed up and any players I should have had instead. The years given are the years that PNC Park was the home ballpark for the player.
Catcher – Jason Kendall (2001-2004)
First Base – Adam LaRoche (2007-2009)
Second Base – Freddy Sanchez, Infielder (2004-2009)
Third Base – Aramis Ramirez (2001-2003, 2015)
Shortstop – Jack Wilson (2001-2009)
Outfield – Jason Bay (2003-2008)
Outfield – Andrew McCutchen (2009-Present)
Outfield – Brian Giles (01-03)
Russell Martin, Catcher (2013-2014)
Starling Marte, Outfielder (2012-Present)
Pedro Alvarez, Infielder (2010-2015)
Garrett Jones (09-13)
Neil Walker, Infielder (09-15)
Francisco Liriano (2013-Present)
Gerrit Cole (2013-Present)
A.J. Burnett (2012-2013, 2015)
Oliver Perez (2003-2006)
Jeff Locke (2011-Present)
Mark Melancon, Closer (2013-Present)
Tony Watson (2011-Present)
Matt Capps (2005-2009)
Jason Grilli (2011-2014)
John Grabow (2003-2009)
Joel Hanrahan (2009-2012)
Salomon Torres (2002-2007)
Future of PNC Park
Unlike the other, similarly aged, stadium on the North Shore, people are not already discussing a replacement for PNC Park. Though no longer one of the newest ballparks in the country, it is still consistently considered one of the, if not the, best stadium in the Majors. I’ve been to about a third of the stadiums currently used by Major League teams and none of those hold a candle to PNC Park. As long as it is able to keep up with any changes, technological or otherwise, that may arise in the ensuing generations, I hope that the Pirates never call another stadium home.
After 15 years, PNC Park has hosted 1,221 games, with the Pirates winning 627 and losing 594. 10,504 runs have been scored in those games, with the Pirates scoring 5,137 of them and their opponents have scored 5,367 of them. Over 29.2 million people have attended those games. Through all of that there are still some things that have yet to occur at PNC Park. The Pirates have yet to record a No-hitter and there has yet to be a Perfect game. A visiting Pitcher has never hit a Home Run and a visiting player has never hit an Inside-the-Park Home Run. The one thing that hasn’t happened yet at PNC Park, but that I’m sure all Pirates fans would like to see soon, would be a World Series game. Given expectations and the start to the season, maybe 2016 is the year this happens.