Thursday, July 8, 2010

Day Two - My Second Home

Last Friday, Tieff and I made our way to Pittsburgh.  This would be the fourth time I have been at PNC Park.  I was there in 2008 with my older son and my Uncle Elmer to see the Pirates face the Astros.  Last year, Tieff and I were at two games at PNC, a game vs. the Cubs and another game vs. the Mets, both losses for the Bucs.

Before we got to PNC, we were able to meet my Uncle Elmer and Aunt Syl for lunch at an Eat And Park in Etna, which is a town right outside of Pittsburgh.   My grandparents lived in Etna and many a time I made the trip with my family to Etna as my mom would have the family visit her parents.

Basically, my entire family tree is from Pittsburgh.  My mom was raised here along with her brothers and sisters (my Aunt Syl, my mom's sister is the now sole surviving member of the family).   My father is from here and my older brother and older sister were born in Etna. They lived here until the middle 60's when my family moved to Long Island shortly before I was born.

After a good lunch, Uncle Elmer was kind enough to show us the view from Mount Washington, which overlooks Pittsburgh and now is a place for very trendy restaurants.  I had told my Uncle Elmer that I hadn't been there before, but now looking at the pictures, like the one showed, I am pretty sure I was taken there when I was young.

It was good seeing my Aunt Syl and Uncle Elmer, who as I stated I last saw in 2008.  My mom was on that trip and that was the last time they saw my mom before she passed away last November.  Outside of the phone call I made to Aunt Syl Friday morning, we didn't talk about my mom at lunch whatsoever.  They asked about my two boys and gave me presents to give them when I got back.  Tieff enjoyed the stories my Uncle told us about the celebrities he drove around when he was a limo driver and then there was the classic Governor's Island story.

Basically my uncle got us onto an elite celebration at Governor's Island in the early 90's on  July 4th for the Tall Ships, despite not having tickets for it, due to the fact that he hooked up with one of the supervisors who happened to be from Pittsburgh.  We had great food, champagne and met Walter Cronkite, the master of ceremonies for the event.  Mr. Cronkite just happened to be walking around by himself later that day when we saw him.  My uncle, who could never be accused of being shy, walked up to him and ended up talking with us for several minutes.  I took a picture of my Uncle Elmer with Walter Cronkite, and he still has the picture.  Walter Cronkite was one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

After hooking up with my Aunt and Uncle, I parked my car in one of the lots and we walked across the bridge to PNC park.  Then we decided to walk off our lunch and took a long stroll on the PNC Park River Walk.  The Allegheny River walk runs from PNC Park all the way to the Carnegie Mellon Science Museum.  And we did the entire walk.

It's what really sets PNC Park apart from most other baseball stadiums.  People can drive up with their boats, park and take in the game (if they have a ticket of course).  Heinz Field is right along the walk as well.  It's a picturesque with the river, the view of downtown Pittsburgh, PNC Park, the science museum etc etc.

In fact, the city was getting ready for a July 4th weekend regatta and had music and food stands already setup.  There was also a barge setup further down the river for a fireworks show that weekend.  However, I was very upset with all these signs along the river walk.  How did they I know I was going to be there.  And "mooring" can never be prohibited when I am in town (yes, it's a pun on my last name).

As for the game itself, when we walked in to the park we were each given a black box with a P on it.  Cool, a giveaway night.  After we got our food and got to our seats, we opened up the boxes to find we got Pirates Collectible Cereal Bowls.  And we're not talking plastic crap .  These were ceramic and really nice.  Sweet.  What we also noticed when we got to our seats was a sea of red.  Phillies red.  A lot of Phillies' fans made the trip from Philly to Pittsburgh and outnumbered the home folks.

The game featured the Phils' Jamie Moyer vs. the Pirates' Ross Ohlendorf, two pitchers with ERAs around 4.50.  Not exactly Carlton vs. Candelaria on paper.  So we expected a high scoring game.  But that's why they play the game. 

We were treated to a very unexpected pitchers duel as Ohlendorf and Moyer traded goose eggs for the first three and a half innings.  Then in the bottom of the fourth, the Pirates scratched out two runs on three singles, two of the infield kind, a walk and a throwing error by Moyer.

Ohlendorf did the rest, striking out eight in seven innings.  In fairness, Ohlendorf was facing a Phillies lineup missing Chase Utley and Placido Polanco due to injury as well as Shane Victorino not starting.  So the Phillies five through eight hitters weren't very good.   But Ohlendorf was still very effective.  Octavio Dotel closed the game out and Ohlendorf had his first victory of the season in seven decisions as the Pirates won 2-0.

Fireworks shot up in the air as the minority Pirates fans celebrated a rare win.  We walked out of the ballpark with mostly dejected Phillies fans as we made our way back to my car.  And we headed out on the highway to our overnight stay in Toledo, our halfway point to Detroit for the Tigers game on Saturday.  Once again, I said goodbye to my second home, Pittsburgh PA, knowing that I will visit it again hopefully next season.

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