Top 20 moments in PNC Park history: 5-1

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, and then 10-6. Now, we’ve reached the conclusion. COMON.

Review 20-16 by clicking here

Review 15-11 by clicking here

Review 10-6 by clicking here

5.”It’s a three-homer night for the rookie!”
Aug. 1, 2009

This was Andrew McCutchen’s coming out party. His first month-and-a-half in the big leagues went well, but it was his three-homer game against the Nationals at PNC Park that let the world know that Cutch was going to be a big-time player.

He came into the night with three career major league home runs and doubled that total in just six innings. McCutchen hit a solo shot off Craig Stammen to lead off the bottom of the first, a two-run homer off Tyler Clippard in the fourth and a three-run bomb off Logan Kensing in the sixth. The third homer was especially epic, as Cutch waved his hands in the air as if to say “I am The Man.”

The rookie had a chance to complete the first home-run cycle in MLB history in the eighth when he came up with the bases loaded but grounded into an inning-ending double play instead.

Many point to Cutch’s walk-off homer off Brad Lidge 25 days later as his arrival, but this was a whole night of dominance, and that’s why it cracked the top five.

4.Alvarez beats Siegrist
Oct. 6, 2013

20 seasons. Two home playoff wins. This hit won the second one. You can’t say “El Toro” didn’t have his moments.

3.”Count ’em”
July 28, 2001

“Six, seven, eight, Giles makes nine! Bucs win! There was nooooooooooo doubt about it!”

It’s one of the top calls of Lanny Frattare’s 33-year run as Pirates’ broadcaster. One of the greatest moments in PNC Park history completed the largest comeback in PNC Park history.

The Bucs were down 8-2 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and nobody on base. It’d be hard to imagine the ’04 Red Sox coming back from that, let alone a team that ended up losing 100 games. But things started to happen.

Kevin Young doubled. Pat Mears homered. Then a trio of singles made it 8-5. Astros’ manager Larry Dierker didn’t want to screw around anymore and sent for Billy Wagner.

“Billy the Kid” hit Jason Kendall to put the winning run at home plate. Houston now had a problem, and that problem was Brian Giles.

Giles rifled Wagner’s 1-0 pitch over the Clemente Wall, making the unthinkable a reality.

Sadly, we’ll never know where it landed, as the camera decided to key in on Giles and not the home run ball.

2. Cutch’s finest hour

July 11, 2015

Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski all had October moments of glory. Alas, Andrew McCutchen never did.

In eight postseason games, Cutch never homered, never got a game-winning hit and never made a game-saving defensive play. The closest thing Cutch ever got to a “Mr. October” moment happened on a late-night turned early morning in July.

No. 22 capped off the best game in PNC Park history with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th. Sure, it pales in comparison to Maz’s walk-off and Clemente and Stargell’s Game Seven home runs in Baltimore in the grand scheme of Pirates history. For post-1992 Bucco baseball, however, there haven’t been many better nights.

Oct. 1, 2013

Expect anything different? I know lists aren’t as fun when the No. 1 choice is obvious, but how could I pick anything else?

Trying to describe what Oct. 1, 2013 means to Pirates fans to an outsider is like explaining the plot of “The Godfather” to a preschool student. In a night laced with euphoria, Johnny Cueto dropping his baseball was the ultimate high. Unless the Pirates win a World Series or a National League pennant at PNC Park, this will stay No. 1. In short, this might stay No. 1 for a long, long, long time (hehe hehe).

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