September 4, 2005
Cubs 2, Pirates 0
W: Jerome Williams
L: Kip Wells
S: Ryan Dempster
Time of Game: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
First Game: April 9, 2001
Wow, it has been two months since my last entry! Since my last review, I have been to two more new stadiums (both of the new New York parks), so I can once again say I have been to every MLB stadium. I'll write about those much later though. In the mean time, where did I leave off...
Ah yes, the last new park of 2005. After going to an early season game at RFK and a mini three game trip to the Southeast in May, the last stop was not until September of that year. I was in Pittsburgh on Labor Day weekend for the first Notre Dame football game of the season against the Pitt Panthers. My friends and I enjoyed a full day of tailgating, football watching, and postgame celebrating of a big Irish victory. Incidentally, that was the first game of the Charlie Weis era.
I was able to talk some of my friends into going to a Pirates game the following afternoon. Unfortunately, we used up most of our energy the previous day and were totally drained by the end of the baseball game. The game itself didn't help the situation since it was a boring game between two teams who were completely out of the playoff chase. All of that is quite unfortunate because PNC Park is easily one of my favorite stadiums.
PNC Park is situated in an absolutely perfect location, creating quite possibly the most scenic surroundings in all of baseball. The stadium is right next to the Allegheny River, near the meeting point of the three rivers in downtown Pittsburgh. Most of the stadium has a great view of the downtown skyline on the other side of the river. The golden-colored Roberto Clemente bridge adds to the impressive backdrop. Many fans walk across the bridge from downtown to get to the park. From there, they get a great view into the park.
PNC is a very intimate park, a rare characteristic of a newer stadium. It is one of the few stadiums with just two seating levels. It has the second smallest seating capacity in the MLB. Without a middle deck, every seat in the park is relatively close to the playing field. There are not a lot of outfield seats, although there is a pretty good sized bleacher section in left field, which is where we sat for this game. Actually, after sweating in the hot sun for a couple hours, we watched the last few innings from an unoccupied, shady portion of the upper deck.
Besides being a scenic park with great seats throughout, it is also a great place to play. The river beyond the right field seats might be a temptation for left handed sluggers, but very few balls actually make it that far. The tall right field wall is difficult to clear. Overall, the dimensions are very fair for batters and pitchers.
As I mentioned, this was a late season game between two teams going nowhere. Therefore, it was a pretty small crowd for a nice Sunday afternoon. Many of the fans were probably leftovers like us from the football game the day before, as well as the usual large Cubs fan contingency.
Kip Wells got the start for the Pirates while Jerome Williams took the mound for the Cubs. Not a stellar pitching matchup, however they were both sharp on this afternoon. Nomar Garciaparra gave the Cubs an early lead with a solo home run in the top of the second. As usual, Garciaparra had missed most of the '05 season with an injury, but continued a hot streak by hitting his fourth home run in six games. This wound up being all Williams would need.
The Pirates mustered just four hits in the entire game, all singles. It was a rare quality start for Williams, which probably says more about the lineup the Pirates were running out there. A Jeromy Burnitz double in the sixth inning scored Neifi Perez to give the Cubs a two run cushion. Williams continued to dominate into the 8th inning when the Cubs bullpen took over. Ryan Dempster struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to nail down the save and a 2-0 Cubs victory.
This was the Pirates eighth consecutive loss at PNC Park, a record at that time in that park. I have no idea if it has been broken since then, but my guess is it has. The Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992. It is really unfortunate that this franchise has become a perennial loser, unwilling to hang onto their good players, because they have a gem of a ballpark.
I have been to PNC Park twice. I returned in 2007 to see the White Sox beat the Pirates. So I have seen the Pirates lose at home to both of the Chicago teams. I won't hesitate to visit again if the opportunity presents itself. My next entry will move on to my big California trip of 2006.
Next stadium: McAfee Coliseum, Oakland