THE THREE RIVERS STADIUM YEARS
The changing of the decade also brought along a change to the home ballpark of the Pirates. After playing in cavernous Forbes Field since June 30, 1909, the Bucs began play at a multi-purpose stadium located at the confluence of Pittsburgh's three rivers. The aptly named Three Rivers Stadium played host to its first game on July 16, 1970, with the Pirates losing a 3-2 decision to the Reds.
During the 1970's, the Pirates were again among baseball's premier teams. In that 10-year span, they won six division titles and finished as low as third only once. In the first 25 years of divisional play, the Bucs won more games (2,100) and finished first more often (nine times) than any other N.L. East club. The Pirates put together a 2,100-1,878 record during that period (.528 winning %).
The Pirates captured two more World Championships during the 1970's. Their 1971 victory over Baltimore was a showcase for Clemente, who batted .414 and received the Series MVP award.
In 1979, the Pirates became only the fourth team in history to erase a three-games-to-one deficit when they again bested the Orioles in seven games. Hall of Famer Willie Stargell took home MVP honors - as he did during the regular season - with a .400 batting average, three home runs (including the Series' deciding blow in Game Seven) and seven RBI. It was a fitting conclusion to the decade for Stargell, who was the leading home run hitter of the 1970's (296). While the Pirates brought two world championships back to Pittsburgh during the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers also came to prominence. The Steelers won four Super Bowls during the 70s, which, coupled with the Pirates success, helped garner Pittsburgh the "City of Champions" label.
On October 2, 1985, the Galbreath family and Warner Communications sold the club to Pittsburgh Associates; a group of private investors who were committed to keeping the team in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Associates was made up of 10 investors representing
six corporations, three individuals and Carnegie Mellon Univer- sity. The group included the Aluminum Company of America, Mellon Bank, PNC Financial Corporation, PPG Industries, USX Corporation, Westinghouse Electric Company, Eugene and Raymond Litman, John McConnell and Harvey M. Walken.
After several lean years in the mid-eighties, the Pirates returned to contention in 1988 when they finished in second place and broke the club's 28-year-old attendance mark.
With players like Barry Bonds, Doug Drabek, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke, Pittsburgh started the decade of the 1990's in fine fashion, winning the N.L. East title three straight years. The Bucs became the first team to win three straight division titles since the Philadelphia Phillies accomplished the feat between 1976 and 1978. Bonds captured MVP honors in 1990 and 1992, while Drabek won the Cy Young award in '90. Manager Jim Leyland took home N.L. Manager-of-the-Year honors in both 1990 and 1992. In his 11 seasons at the helm, Leyland won 849 games, placing him third on the club's All-Time Managerial win list.
Pittsburgh was on the brink of a World Series berth in both the 1991 and 1992 season, but the Pirates lost the seventh and deciding game each year to the Atlanta Braves. In 1992, Pittsburgh came within three outs of the Fall Classic. But in the bottom of the ninth inning at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, the Braves triumphed with three runs and won the game 3-2 and the series, four-games-to-three.
The people of Pittsburgh and the surrounding Tri-State area responded well to the club's success in the nineties as the Pirates drew in excess of two million fans in both 1990 and 1991.
A crowd of 59,568, the largest ever to watch a professional baseball game in Pittsburgh, witnessed the 65th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, played at Three Rivers Stadium on July 12, 1994. In one of the most thrilling All-Star Games ever to be played, the National League prevailed over the American League in extra frames. Fred McGriff helped send the game into extra innings when he delivered a two-run, pinch- hit home run off Lee Smith in the bottom of the ninth inning that tied the score. After the American League failed to score in the top of the 10th inning, the National League broke its six-game losing streak when Tony Gwynn scored on a double by Moises Alou.
A new chapter of Pirate history began on February 14, 1996, when Kevin McClatchy and his group of investors purchased the storied franchise from Pittsburgh Associates.
Picked by many publications to finish last in 1997, the Pirates remained in the division race until the final weekend of the season and the club was named USA Today's "Organization of the Year" at the conclusion of the season. Major League Baseball also
underwent a change in 1997 with the birth of Interleague play. That season, the Pirates welcomed the Kansas City Royals to Three Rivers Stadium on June 13 for the club's first interleague matchup, which Pittsburgh won by a score of 5-3.
While the Bucs contended for the division during the entire 1997 season, one of the most memorable moments of the season came on July 12. That night, pitchers Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon thrilled Pirates fans with the only combined, extra-inning no-hitter in major league history. The game ended in the bottom of the 10th inning when Mark Smith delivered a three-run home run for the 3-0 win.
The 2000 season brought an end to a full century of great moments, a 100-year period which began with three straight National League pennants and ended with an aura of hope and dreams of more championships to come. With a new home on the horizon, the Bucs said goodbye to Three Rivers Stadium with their final game ever played there on October 1, 2000. Three no-hitters, Clemente's 3000th hit, two All-Star Games, countless playoff games, two World Championships and endless summer evenings can be associated with no other place in the history of Pittsburgh than Three Rivers Stadium.
The Pirates closed out their 30-year tenure at Three Rivers Stadium with a 10-9 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the final game of what was the club's home since 1970. Pittsburgh native John Wehner smacked the final home run in the history of the ballpark off Chicago's Jon Lieber. Ironically, Wehner also grounded out to third base for the final out ever at Three Rivers. With the loss, Pittsburgh closed out Three Rivers Stadium with a record of 1,324 wins and 1,082 losses.
In the early morning of February 11, 2001, Pittsburgh bid farewell to Three Rivers when the home of the Pirates and Steelers was imploded.