Sports can be magical. Some times they can be better than a Hollywood script. One of those magical moments took place for the Pittsburgh Pirates on October 1, 2000.
October 1, 2000, was the end of an era in Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. This was the day that the franchise played their final game at Three Rivers Stadium.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had called Three Rivers Stadium home since 1970s. For three decades Pittsburghers watched the team have success at the stadium. From winning a pair of World Series Championships and six division titles in the 1970s, to capturing three consecutive National League East Championships in the early 90s, Three Rivers Stadium was good to the Pirates. One Pittsburgher who not only watched the Pirates have this success, but also played at the stadium for the Bucs, was John Wehner.
Wehner was born in Pittsburgh on June 29, 1967. After a successful collegiate career at Indiana University, he was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates in the 7th round of the 1988 MLB Draft.
Nine of Wehner’s 11 MLB seasons were spent in a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform. The two he spent away from his hometown came with the then Florida Marlins in 1997 and 1998. Playing for his former manager in Pittsburgh, Jim Leyland, Wehner was a member of the Marlins’ improbable 1997 World Series Championship club.
During his MLB career, Wehner was always known for his glove. He was a super utility man that was able to play all over the diamond, and this is what kept him in the Majors for 11 seasons. During his 11 year career, Wehner hit for just a .249/.311/.315 slash line with four home runs.
Despite being a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates 1991 and 1992 division championship clubs, many fans know him best for his work after his playing days ended. After spending three seasons as the hitting coach for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate the Altoona Curve, Wehner found his way to the broadcast booth in 2005. Since then, he has become a mainstay on the Pirate broadcast team.
However, this is not what Wehner should be best known for. What he should be best known for is a home run he hit on October 1, 2000. Because on that fall afternoon, in a moment that Hollywood could not write, the Pittsburgh native hit just his fourth, and final, career home run. So, what made this home run so great? It was the last home run ever hit at Three Rivers Stadium.
That day at Three Rivers Stadium was all about nostalgia. It was about celebrating all of the great moments in the stadium’s long history. Thanks to Wehner, the Pittsburgh Pirates had one last great moment for Three Rivers Stadium.
Even though a 9th inning rally came up short and the Pirates lost 10-9 that day against the Chicago Cubs, the game is still remembered fondly by the 55,000+ fans who were in attendance. A big reason for this is Wehner’s home run.
Seriously, just think about this. You have a player who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A player who for their entire life has breathed Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. This player entered this game with just three home runs in his 10 MLB seasons. Yet, in the bottom of the 5th inning with the game tied at 5, Wehner launched a ball over the left field wall for the final home run in the history of the ballpark he grew up watching his favorite team play at. That is pretty damn special.
Even though the Pirates went on to lose that day, and Wehner committed an error in the game in addition to grounding out to end the game with two runners on base, it is still a day he will never forget. It was still a day that provided a special moment for both Wehner and Pirate fans. Hopefully, baseball will be back to creating special moments like this again sooner rather than later.