Top 20 moments in PNC Park history: 10-6
By Joe Smeltzer
The 20th season of PNC Park should have been celebrated last year, and since the season ended up taking place, I guess, in a way, it did.
Since there were no fans and the season was the most screwed-up baseball ever has (and hopefully ever will) see, I don’t count it. Besides, PNC Park opened in 2001, and it is now 2021. I’m no Einstein, but I think that equals 20 years.
With the 20th anniversary of PNC Park coming up, as well as the 20th season with fans, it’s time we list the 20 greatest moments in stadium history.
I was born in 1998, and my family has had Pirates season tickets since 1994. Until 2007, we had a full 81-game plan, and have had a 40-game plan ever since. I’m trying not to make this list about myself, so I won’t point out every moment that I witnessed on this list, but I was on-hand for quite a few of them. Some children take to singing at an early age. Some can dance. Others can play instruments or are athletically gifted.
Aside from being a semi-decent singer, I couldn’t do any of those things. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer yet and certainly didn’t have experience in radio or TV broadcasting. What I could do, and all I wanted to do with my summers were watch Chris Stynes bat with one foot out of the box, Josh Fogg give up six runs over four innings and Abraham Nunez be the best Abraham Nunez he could be.
As bad as the Pirates have been for 85% of PNC’s existence, it was still hard to think this through. With every baseball season being so long, something cool is going to happen at some point in a given year, whether the home team is the ’27 Yankees or the ’62 Mets. The Pirates have had plenty of terrible baseball teams over the past two decades (and a few good ones,) but one thing that’s been a constant is that every season has, at least for a moment, given us something great.
Not every year in PNC’s history will be represented on this list, but plenty of moments from forgettable seasons will be. This is part three of a four-part series. I started with No’s 20-16, continued with 15-11. Now, it’s on to 10-6. COMON.
10.Mac has enough
June 26, 2001
Terrible call + Angry manager = Literal stolen base. Unlike Lou Piniella a decade prior, Lloyd McClendon didn’t have a full-on meltdown. To me, that makes the moment even better. McClendon didn’t need over-the-top theatrics to get his message across. He just needed the base.
9.Welcome back, Cutch
May 11, 2018
The greatest Pirate to ever play at PNC Park won’t spend his entire career in Pittsburgh, and that’s hardly a surprise. Nonetheless, seeing Andrew McCutchen come to the plate at PNC in the top of the first inning, not the bottom, didn’t feel right.
Different as it was, one thing stayed the same; McCutchen was cheered. Cheered maybe as loudly as he ever was in his eight-and-a-half seasons with the Pirates. Now, it’s likely that some fans were applauding Cutch at least partially out of venom for Mean Mr. Nutting. Regardless of any underlying motive, McCutchen deserved to have every foot– roughly 70,000 of them– standing for him, and all 70,000 or so hands clapping.
8.Jameo strikes out cancer
June 12, 2017
It didn’t happen before a sold-out crowd, but that didn’t lessen the impact of Jameson Taillon’s return from testicular cancer.
A little more than a month after surgery, Taillon’s first start back was at home. Against a strong Colorado Rockies lineup, Taillon pitched five scoreless innings for the win. Unfortunately, Taillon’s bad luck with the Pirates, which was well-documented before his diagnosis, didn’t stop after it. This past January, the organization traded its 2010 first-round draft choice to the Yankees, ending a run that, thanks largely to misfortune, never lived up to its potential. Despite the rotten hand Taillon’s career has dealt him, he hasn’t let anything stop him from inspiring.
7.”Mack Whack Tallywhack!”
May 28, 2004
Give that dog a bone! Pirates’ announcer Greg Brown tends to go off his rocker when something good happens for the home team. For Brown’s first decade or so as a play-by-play man especially, there were times when he’d go bananas (sorry, b-a-n-a-n-a-s, thank you, Ms. Stefani).
Is Brown’s enthusiasm always warranted? Probably not. On this day, however, I think we can give him a pass.
The Pirates took on the Cubs for a doubleheader May 28. That morning, Rob Mackowiak’s wife, Jennifer, gave birth to the couple’s first child. If the Pirates lost Game One 11-3 and Game Two 7-1, it still would have been one of, if not the best day of Mackowiak’s life.
Thankfully, the baseball portion turned out a little better than that. Mackowiak hit a walk-off grand slam to win the first game. Now, even if the Pirates lost 16-3 in the nightcap, it would have unquestionably been Mackowiak’s best day ever. Somehow, it got even better.
With the Pirates down 4-2 in the eighth inning of Game Two, Mackowiak again flashed his new dad power, hitting a game-tying homer. The night ended with Craig A. Wilson’s walk-off blast.
Today, Garrett Mackowiak is an MLB draft prospect. Here’s hoping he makes it to the show. If he does, here’s further hoping he has a day as good as his dad did almost 17 years ago. I wouldn’t bet on it, however. For any one of us to have just one day as good as Rob Mackowiak did in 2004, we have as good a chance at winning the Powerball.
6.”They’ve done it again!”
July 12, 2015
Now, here’s an instance of Brownie going over the top. In his defense, he was less than 24 hours removed from calling the best regular-season game in PNC Park history (more on that in Part IV), and what happened the next night was almost as good.
With two outs in the last of the 10th, the Pirates were down 5-3 to St. Louis. They ended up winning 6-5. Brown’s description of Gregory Polanco’s walk-off single won’t remind anybody of Vin Scully. It was borderline incoherent. In Brownie’s defense, however, his reaction matched those of every Pirates fan on Planet Earth at that moment.
Stay tuned for Part IV
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