Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Greatest Moments in Pittsburgh Sports over the last 30 yrs

Everyone Pittsburgher knows about Maz's homerun to win game seven of the 1960 World Series, the Immaculate Reception, four Super Bowls, World Series, and National Championships, but the blog contributors were not alive for any of them.  Here is a list I have compiled of the greatest moments in Pittsburgh sports history over the last 30 years.  It is difficult to rank them since there are different sports and the moments mean different things to different people so I will organize the moments by team.

Santonio Holmes game winning catch against Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII
James Harrison's 100 yd interception return for touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII
Ben Roethlisberger's game-saving tackle on Colts DB Nick Harper in 2006 AFC playoffs

Other Considerations:  2009 - Troy Polamalu's INT against the Ravens in the AFC Championship to secure the Super Bowl berth.
2006 Super Bowl XL - Willie Parker's 75 yd TD run to put the Steelers up 14-3 over the Seahawks.  The run was the longest in Super Bowl history.
2006 Super Bowl XL - Taking a reverse WR Antwan Randel El made a 43 yd TD pass to Hines Ward putting the Steelers up 21-10


Mario Lemieux's breakaway goal in Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals against Minnesota
Mario Lemieux's game-winning goal in Game 1 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago.  I believe a Blast Furnace author was there
Marc-Andre Fleury's last second save against Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom to preserve 2009 Stanley Cup win
Lemieux's first game:  1st goal on first shot of first shift against Boston 10/14/84 
Lemieux scores 5 goals five different ways against New Jersey 12/31/88:  even-strength, power-play, short-handed, penalty shot, and empty-net

"The Save" Down 3 games to 2 in the '91 playoff series against the Devils, Frank Pietrangelo makes spectacular save against Peter Stastny in Game 6.  Pens would go on to win game and win series
One of the longest games in NHL history.  Petr Nedved scores in 4th overtime to defeat the Capitals 3-2 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the '96 playoffs and tie series 2-2 on 4/24/96.  Note:  Lemieux was ejected earlier in the game and bought pizza for teammates between an overtime period.

Other Considerations: Darius Kasparaitis' game-winning OT goal to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in Game 7 of the '01 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Ron Francis scores an OT goal to beat the Rangers 5-4 in the  '92 Patrick Division final
4/24/89 - Lemieux ties two NHL playoff records with five goals and eight points in a 10-7 victory against the Flyers.
3/4/91- The Trade:  C Ron Francis, D Ulf Samuelsson and D Grant Jennings traded from Hartford to Pens for John Cullen, Zarley Zalapski and Jeff Parker.  Propelled Pens to '91 and '92 Stanley Cup Championship

Not too many great moments over the last 30 years.  Many can just think of the disappointing playoff runs capped-off by Sid Bream sliding into home plate.....other than that???  I just wish I could add more.
Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined no-hitter in 10 inning game vs Astros on 7/12/97.  Mark Smith blasted the game-winning homerun in the tenth in the year dubbed the 'Freak Show.' The last season the Pirates were close to a .500 season
Photo courtesy of
7/28/2001 Brian Giles hits a walk-off grand slam off of Houston Closer Billy Wagner that capped a rally from an 8-2 9th inning deficit.  Pirates defeated Houston 9-8.  Considered one of the best games at PNC Park 
Other mentions:  Barry Bonds first career homerun against the Atlanta Braves on 6/4/86.
Rob Mackowiak's double header against the Chicago Cubs on 5/28/04 where he hit a walk-off grand slam in the first game and a game tying 9th inning homerun in the second game.

Pitt Football
4th and 5 on the Georgia 33 yard line with 42 seconds remaining down 20-17 Dan Marino connects with John Brown for a touchdown to win the 1982 Sugar Bowl 24-20.  Pitt finishes season 11-1 and ranked # 2.
The 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl played on 12/1/2007 featured the # 2 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers against the 28 point underdog Panthers.  The Panthers pulled off  one of the biggest upsets in history winning 13-9 and denying WVU a trip to the National Championship game.
11/13/1999 Final Game at Pitt Stadium.  Incredible atmosphere to close down the 75 year old venue.  Pitt defeated Notre Dame 37-27 on a perfect fall afternoon.  The stadium played host to 9 National Championship teams, 24 College Football Hall of Famers, 6 NFL Hall of Famers, and 83 All Americans.

Other Considerations:   1997 - Pitt defeats WVU 41-38 in the third overtime.  'Pistol' Gonzalez threw a touchdown pass to Terry Murphy on 4th and 17 to win the game.
2000 Pitt vs Penn St - Rod Rutherford catches 62 yard TD pass in the only TD of the game.  Pitt wins 12-0
2002 - Pitt vs Virginia Tech:  Larry Fitzgerald's coming out party in Blacksburg, VA.  The freshman caught three TDs and had 105 rec yds in a 28-21 victory over the # 3 ranked Hokies.
2006 - Darrelle Revis 73 yd punt return against West Virginia.  Nominated for play of the year by the ESPYs and won College Play of the Year.

Pitt Basketball
"Send it in Jerome!" Considered one of the most famous dunks in basketball history.  Pitt's Jerome Lane shatters the Fitzgerald Field House backboard against Providence on 1/25/88

Pitt's Levance Fields hits a step-back 3 pointer to defeat Duke 65-64 in overtime at Madison Square Garden on 12/20/2007

Other considerations:  Dejuan Blair flips UConn star center Hasheem Thabeet after grabbing a rebound as # 4 ranked Pitt defeated # 1 ranked UConn on 2/16/2009 in Hartford, CT. 
2001 - Julius Page dunks over 7 '0'' Ruben Boumjte Boumjte as Pitt upset # 9 Georgetown.  The young Panthers were starting to show signs that they were going to turn the program around.
2003 - Pitt's first Big East Tournament Championship over UConn 74-56.
2008 - Ronald Ramon's buzzer beater 3 pointer against West Virginia to win 55-54

Feel free to share some of your favorite moments.


  1. This is the best article on the sight so far, nice job Korn. It's tough to pick a favorite. I thought it would be Lemieux's goal against the North Stars, but I have to go with Holmes's catch in the Superbowl.

  2. That was a very good list. I have to admit, they were all memorable in terms of me actually remembering them as well as being worth remembering.

    Penguins: When I was at the Blackhawks Stanley Cup game I think I was too young to really realize that it was so great. I remember Le Magnifique banking the goal off of Ed Belfour's leg as well. Maybe it had something to do with the Pittsburgh sports tradition that as soon as a game is over everyone has to rush out to beat the traffic?

    I also would add when Fleury denied Ovechkin in game 7 off the 2009 Cup year to the list.

    "The save" - everyone remembers that. I will never forget the name Peter Stastny.

    Steelers: I agree with all of those plays.

    Pitt football: Again, agreed except I don't actually remember the 80's games. I would add the Rod Rutherford standing up Jonathan Vilma against Miami on Thursday night.

    You could put just about any Larry catch on the list as well, but my #1 may be against Oregon State in the Insight Bowl.

    Pitt basketball: Again agreed, except I don't remember seeing the Lane dunk.

    My number one would have to go to the Ontario Lett dunk against Syracuse at the Fieldhouse during the game that solidified Pitt as a dominant team in the Big East. This game started it all.

    I also liked when Brandin Knight slid to steal the ball at th end of the UCONN game. Also, even though it was in a loss, when Knight tried the half court shot while limping will always be in my memory.

    Pirates: Honestly, aside from "knick knack, Mackowack" I don't remember too many Pirate plays by memory. I guess I would put Randall Simon hitting the Italian sausage in Milwaukee.

  3. There were way too many Penguin moments to list, I didn't include: the save by Fleury on Ovechkin, Talbot's fight against Carcillo, Kevin Stevens OT goal against the Caps in Game 2 of the '91 playoffs, Jagr's goal against Chicago in Game 1 the '92 Cup Finals where he walked around 3 'hawks. Crosby and Malkin moments.

    Pitt - many great bball games, football many great individual plays ie Fitzgerald, Bryant, McCoy, Lewis, Ironhead, Curtis Martin, etc

    Pirates - McCutchen's 3 hr game, Alvarez's game against Colorado, I'm sure there were many pivotal games in late '80s early 90's

    Steelers - onside kick recovery against Dallas in Super Bowl

  4. I also would add Game 3 Pens/Caps 2009 Cup Year in OT. 3 authors were there and I felt like that was the best game I saw in person and was old enough to appreciate.

  5. How about Pitt winning the 1976 NCAA football championship?

    Great list! I've been watching some and am enjoying them throughly. I'm gonna save the rest so I have something to look forward to tomorrow at work when I need a break.

  6. @_Steller I wanted to keep this list post 1980 thus eliminating moments such as Pitt's National Championship, 4 Super Bowls, Maz's homerun, 2 other World Series, Tony Dorsett, etc. There can be a whole other list for those since they were such great moments in PGH sports.

  7. Oh ya, it says 30 yrs right in the title. My fault haha.

  8. Great list. My #1 is the last game at Pitt stadium.

  9. That might be my favorite too, MattyV. It was such a perfect autumn afternoon and played against a traditional team, and Pitt won. Wouldn't have been as excited had they been playing someone like Cincy or USF. The over capacity crowd was fantastic.

  10. I was at both the Mackowiak double header and the Giles grand slam games, plus the game against the Phillies in '09 when McCutchen hit a walkoff homer, so those all have special significance for me. Plus, I remember staying up all night on a school night with my dad to watch the Nedved game, so that's another personal favorite.

    But, if I had to choose the moments that are the most vivid, that I had the most emotional reactions to and which are still most fresh in my memory, it is the three Steeler ones you highlighted. Each one just blew my mind at the time and my order of preference would probably change each time you asked me. All just fantastic.

  11. Korns, weren't you guys at the Mackowiak double header with me? Remember my friends from VT who are Cubs fans and came into town for it?

  12. Yes, I was at the Mackowiak doubleheader, I think BPDave was there too

  13. As a goaltender, the pietrangelo save is my personal favorite but the harrison and holmes plays in SBXVIII are far and away the best. Anyone notice the similarities between fleury's save against lidstrom and Lemieux's goal against belfour - both set up by a rebound from the point with goalies moving left to right in the crease (except fleury's outstanding lateral movement allows him to come up with the game-saving play). btw, including Pitt's 12-0 victory over PSU for consideration is ludicrous. That game was an embarrassment to both teams, If I were using this rationale to make a PSU list, I'd include the '04 Iowa-PSU game that was won 6-4 by Iowa. The score came by way of two Iowa FGs and two PSU safeties - quite possibly the worst football in the forward pass era.

  14. I was really going more for the Rutherford touchdown rather than the game itself. The game was pretty uneventful, but it was the last game b/w the two teams and it was a big play.