Hans Remembers- Thursday July 16, 1970- 50 Years Ago
In Pittsburgh a new multi-purpose stadium opened- Three Rivers Stadium opened as the Cincinnati Reds spoiled the Pirates debut 3-2 before 46,846 fans. A couple weeks ago I wrote a feature on the closing of old Forbes Field which was a bittersweet occasion. Many were sad to see it close but a lot of folks were excited about the new stadium opening.
I wasn’t at the first game at Three Rivers Stadium but I was delighted when my friend David’s family invited me to go with them to the third game two days later. That Saturday they lost again to the Reds but as I nine year old I could overlook that loss because of the excitement of going to the new stadium.
The excitement of Three Rivers Stadium quickly wore off. I wish I had a dollar for every time in the next thirty years I heard fans comment on how they missed Forbes Field. Three Rivers Stadium was one of the cookie-cutter stadiums build in the late 60’s early 70’s which were meant to host baseball, football, concerts etc. The best thing I can stay about Three Rivers is- during the 70’s the Pirates won a couple World Series and had great teams and of course the Steelers won four Super Bowls and over the years there were always fielded a competitive team.
I saw hundreds of Pirate games there including playoff games and the three World Series games played there in 1979. I only went to one Steelers game- I am not a fan of going to football- you see things much better on television. I saw The Rolling Stones, The Who and U2 there- not a great concert venue. Anyway- there were a lot of great memories there but it was because of the Pirates and Steelers teams not due to the stadium. Three Rivers Stadium was drab, no atmosphere. In the 20 years since it’s demise I haven’t heard anyone moaning about the new [if 20 years is new} PNC Park which is a jewel- and no one says they miss Three Rivers Stadium.
While I didn’t see game one at Three Rivers Stadium I did see the final game there. The game wasn’t memorable but the end was. After the game they brought about dozens of players from the Pirates history at Three Rivers. The one I kept waiting for was my all-time favorite player- Willie Stargell. Willie was ailing and I wondered if he would be there. At the end they introduced Kent Tekulve their great closer in the late 70’s and early 80’s- as they announced him they said -the way to close the stadium is -to have the Tekulve close it like he did so many games. Tekulve took the mound and then announced there was only one way to properly close the stadium- to have Pops Stargell do it. An ailing Willie Stargell came out to tremendous applause. He was clearly a dying man. He would die the next spring on the day that PNC Park opened.