Pittsburgh Pirates: Clear The Deck! Interview with Greg Brown
By Cody Potanko
Rock’s memorable home run
This next question I must warn you, be prepared to have chills, goosebumps, and a tear in your eye. I wanted to know what was one of the most memorable games Brown has ever called in his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"BROWNS RESPONSE: “The one that gave me chills as I was witnessing it. I got to know John Wehner when I was in the minor leagues in Buffalo, and we all know John as a Pittsburgh Carrick guy in the Pirates Minors. I got to know his story and his mom and dad. He says to this day he’s lucky to even be alive, let alone a player and now an announcer because he grew up in such a bad part of Carrick.” Continued: “As luck would have it, he grew up a big Pittsburgh sports fan, and he goes to Indiana University and gets drafted in the later rounds by the Pirates. He played with the Pirates, and then in 97, Jim Leyland brings him on the Marlins, and then at the end of his career, he’s back with the Pirates, and it so happens that in 2000 they were finishing up their last game at Three Rivers.” Brown continued, “now this is a stadium I grew up in as a kid and as a young adult. I spent years there and knew every nook and cranny, and it was my baby. Now the last game there was October 1st, 2000, and I’m very emotional. I’m torn because I’m looking forward to the new ballpark, but Three Rivers was my baby and playground.” “I went into the clubhouse, and I had a blank scorecard and had each player that was starting that day sign it. I get to the starting third baseman, and low and behold; it’s John Wehner. The manager of the Pirates, Gene Lamont, did a class act by letting the kid from Pittsburgh start in the final game at Three Rivers.” “I sat down next to John and had him sign it, and I said do you believe this!? John then said some of the guys are kidding me, saying I should hit a home run today. John Wehner hit a total in his ten year Major League career of four home runs. He was known for his defense, and he was more of a contact hitter than a power guy. “I remember I was doing the T.V side of things that day, and I go to Bob Walk in the press room while we ate dinner we were reminiscing, and I told him about John’s story about hitting a home run, and we both laughed and wondered how great that would be. I was in the T.V booth with Steve Blass and Nellie King, who they brought on for Nellie and Steve to reminisce about the old days.” “The game was meaningless in terms of a playoff race; both the Chicago Cubs and Pirates were out of it, but the place was rocking with 56,000 people, and the place was rocking. 5th or 6th inning comes rolling around with two outs and a couple of runners on. As Steve and Nellie were talking about the good ole days, here comes John Wehner to the plate.” “All of the sudden, I look down and see John Wehner swing at a pitch from John Lieber, the Cubs pitcher, and I tell this story of when a great moments happen, things just slow down, and everything goes quiet. That’s what happened for me when John swung, and the ball went towards the left field wall. It’s like time stood still for me, and all these things are running through my mind. The years in Buffalo, John’s story, John’s a friend of mine, not a home run hitter, last game at Three Rivers.” “I went absolutely bananas, and I was awestruck by that moment. After the inning, we went to commercial break, and who comes up from the radio booth?! Bob Walk and he and I looked at each other, and I ripped my headset off and jumped into his arms like Steve Blass in 1971! That moment encapsulates why baseball and sports, in general, are great because moments like that can happen.”"
I truly hope that you had your tissues ready, because during this story, I shed a few tears, and even when the interview ended, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If you ever doubted Greg Brown’s storytelling, here is an example of how incredible he is at not just telling a story but setting it up as well.