Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PITTSBURGH: THROUGH THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA

We kicked off this feature last weekend and the plan is that each Tuesday we're going to present a new portrait of Pittsburgh as seen by the photographic eye of Gary Gayda, a native Mt. Washingtoner. By the way, you can order any of these great shots by emailing Gary directly at GMGayda@yahoo.com or if you are going to be in the Mt. Washington area on July 25th, Gary will have a full assortment of prints available at the craft show on Shiloh Street in Mt. Washington. As we get closer to the date, we'll get you more details.
ABOVE:Gary Gayda

Today's shot is a view of Heinz Field during a 2007 Kenny Chesney concert shot from the hillside of Mt. Washington near McArdle Roadway and Grandview Avenues.

PITTSBURGH: THROUGH THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA

#2 NIGHTTIME CONCERT AT HEINZ FIELD



ABOVE: A packed house enjoys some country music at Heinz Field while show lights soar high above the stadium's bowl.

Monday, June 29, 2009

ANATOMY OF A DEAL...OR NO DEAL




ABOVE: Neal Huntington found himself in an impromptu game of "Deal or No Deal" late last week.


The Washington Nationals are apparently in dire need of a leadoff hitter with excellent defensive skills. They're also looking for someone who would be a good clubhouse guy and who most importantly, maintains a clean-shaven head.

ABOVE: Throw a Pirate hat on him and he looks just like Nyjer Morgan. But unfortunately Scatman Crothers is way past his prime.

Since the Nationals canned G.M. Jim Bowden earlier this year, Assistant G.M. of Operations, Mike Rizzo, is handling things on an interim basis. Rizzo apparently is trying to make the most of his opportunity with the Nationals, so he used an ingenious new method to search for a new leadoff hitter. He fed all of the ideal qualities he was looking for into his computer and came up with a name to go after:

ABOVE: In "The Shining", Crothers plays a black man who gets the bejezzus scared out of him by ghosts and a psychotic winter watchman, portrayed by Jack Nicholson. He ends up as another "redrum" victim as foreseen by little Danny.

Unfortunately, after inquiring about Crothers availability, Rizzo found out that alas, the actor who was most famous for playing the part of the caretaker in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" had unfortunately already passed away in real life.


ABOVE: After checking out the grave site, Rizzo knew that he had to expand his search.

"How could my computer betray me so badly," Rizzo snarled at his monitor?

A couple keystrokes later and the adjustment was done. Scatman out, Nyjer Morgan of the Pirates in! "Now we're getting somewhere!" But who to offer to pry away the fleet-footed left fielder?

How about a head case who has never approached his lofty potential, Lastings Milledge? What's that GM's name over in Pittsburgh, Huntington?

"Hello operator, I need the number for the Pittsburgh Baseball Club in Pittsburgh PA."

Seconds later, Huntington was on the phone...

"Hello Neal-o old chap. Mike Rizzo, Washington, here. Ah, I was interested in talking trade with you. I need a lead off hitterand noticed that you have at least two on your team and you need power. How does this sound to you? We'll offer you Lastings Milledge, a left fielder who is just starting to blossom and who is clearly a five-tool guy, for Nyjer Morgan. We feel that Nyjer could be a good fit for us and it would be a great opportunity to get a big potential power bat into your lineup. What do you think?"

"I think if I made this deal even up the people of Pittsburgh would burn me in effigy. Not some stuffed likeness of me mind you, but me personally. Did you see how crazy they got when I traded Neal McLouth for three guys?"
"What, you think the name Lastings Milledge wouldn't be enough? This kid's a helluva player with gigantic five tool potential."

"That's just it, Mike. He has potential. Let's see, he's hit 25 home runs and 113 rbi in four seasons!"

"Well your Nyjer has hit only three home runs and 41 rbi in three years! So what?"

"Hey, you called me. If you want Nyjer, it's going to take more than Milledge. Besides, Nyjer's popular in the clubhouse. I'd be trading a good clubhouse guy for a bad one. You'll have to do better than just Milledge. If you really want Nyjer, I need a good young arm. How about Craig Stammens?"

"Craig Stammens? Neal did you guys start selling reefer at your park (laughing)? Craig Stammens? No way man!"

"Hey Mike, he's a young pitcher, but let's be honest, he's not exactly the next coming of Sandy Koufax either. I mean, in five minor league seasons he has a 1.36 WHIP! His 3.81 ERA isn't that bad but he's 30-32 over five seasons. Not overwhelming stats."


"Well Neal, I guess we agree to disagree. Of course I hope we can keep this conversation just between the two of us....maybe some other time!"

CLICK

"Damn those Pirates."
Thumping fingers on desk.

PAUSE


"Operator, I need the number for the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club in Atlanta, Georgia..."
ABOVE: Don't expect to see Nyjer out of a Pirate uniform anytime soon. At $391,000, he's a Nutting salary treasure: He plays hard, the fans like him, the players love him and he's cheap!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

LEGENDARY PITTSBURGH PITCHMAN BILLY MAYS DIES SUDDENLY AFTER ROUGH LANDING ON USAir


ABOVE: Pittsburgh native Billy Mays with some of his famous products. Mays passed away sometime during the night follwing a hard landing in Tampa yesterday.

In a week of unprecedented passing of Hollywood and television celebrities, Pittsburghers were stunned to learn today of the sudden death this morning of Billy Mays, TV ad pitchman extraordinaire.

Mays, who was born in 1958 in McKees Rocks was onboard a USAir jet that landed hard in Tampa on Saturday. The plane blew out its' front tires at impact with the ground that caused the overhead bins to pop open and some luggage to land on Mays.

"I had something hit me on the head, but I have a hard head so I'm okay," he joked with reporters afterwards.

Early this morning, Mays' wife called paramedics when he was unresponsive. He was ruled dead at the scene at 7:45 a.m. and paramedics stated that he had died sometime during the night.

The passing of Mays leaves a gigantic void in the television pitchman field as he represented such products as OxyClean, Orange Glo, KaBoom and the famous "Shamwow".

Mays started his career in Atlantic City selling products on the Boardwalk there. Later he moved onto the Home Shopping Network. Just a few weeks ago, Mays made a radio appearance on the WDVE morning show with Jim Krenn and Randy Baughman doing cameos of his various advertisements.

ABOVE: McKees Rocks boy Billy Mays. The entire city mourns his passing today.

While the cause of death has not been determined, speculation has already centered around the USAir landing and the blow to the head that Mays sustained. He was just 50 years old.

Friday, June 26, 2009

PITTSBURGH: THROUGH THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA



"P.B. & G."
is proud to announce the addition of a new weekly feature, "Pittsburgh: Through the Lens of Gary Gayda". As everyone who reads this blog is already aware, besides having the best sports teams and being the "Most Livable City", Pittsburgh is also America's most beautiful city. Each week on Tuesday we're going to publish a different piece of photography from our good friend Gary Gayda's collection. For your part, if a particular shot really interests you, you can purchase prints direct from him. Simply send an email to Gary at GMGayda@yahoo.com with the title of the shot and specify what size print you're interested in. He'll get back to you with a guaranteed reasonable price. So enjoy the beautiful views of "America's Most Beautiful City" through the lens of Mt. Washington's own, Gary Gayda. To inaugurate this feature, here's our first example below. Be sure to check back every Tuesday for more interesting shots!


ABOVE: Photographer and friend, Gary Gayda of Mt. Washington.

photo copyright 2009 Gary Gayda

"A ROOM WITH A VIEW"

ABOVE: The Mon River as seen from a Mt. Washington vantage point...from a Duquesne Incline cable car! After a heavy rainstorm, the turbidity of the Mon changes reflecting the swift currents and runoff from the various creeks and streams that feed it. Give it a day or so and things will get back to normal.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A LOOK AT "TWEENER" SEASON

ABOVE: The deadly "Black Mamba," not to be effed around with unless you're crazy like this guy. Pittsburgh now has its' own "Black Mamba" and he's not to be effed with either!

Since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup on June 12th and the Steelers don't open training camp until August 1st, we are officially in the heart of that season, once known as "baseball season" but now increasingly known around here as "Tweener Season"...the season in between the end of hockey and the beginning of football.

So yer Pittsburgh Pirates are basically in their "prime time" right now in Pittsburgh, and I thought it would be interesting to do a review on how things are going for the local baseball club especially since the 49 day "Tweener Season" is already 24.48% over.
Despite the immediate success of number one prospect Andrew McCutchen, a.k.a. Andrew "McClutchen", a.k.a. "The Black Mamba" (for his snake-like quickness, nothing else) Pirate fans continue to grumble over the Nate McLouth trade. The perception is that while Charlie Morton may well work out, the other two players in the deal will probably never see Pittsburgh, so the deal will essentially be Nate for Charlie. So all that we did was assure a few more wins for Lynchburg.

While many have been quick to point out that the Pirates need depth in the minors, Pirate fans are quick to point out that they need players in the majors too. The most common argument over this is the recent debacle that has been right field. "Why couldn't Nate have been moved to right," Bucco fans ask? Wouldn't the team have been stronger with a sure-handed, albeit slower McLouth in right rather than the non-hitting Brandon Moss or the out-of-position Steve Pearce? I sure think so. Best of all, it wouldn't have appeared to be another salary dump to the fans.
If the Pirates needed Charlie Morton so bad (and I'm not suggesting that they didn't) couldn't they purchase his minor league contract? What about a call-up like Brad Lincoln? How can a team with no power trade one of the few that hits homers for them? Granted, he's not Babe Ruth, but he's also not Brandon Moss or Steve Pearce either. Plus he was very popular with the fans.

Of course the biggest joke around town is that McCutchen should be able to fetch plenty of prospects if he keeps playing like this.
Therein lies the biggest frustration among Pirate fans. They can no longer hope to get "attached" to any of their favorite players because if they're any good, they're just going to get traded for prospects because we in Pittsburgh could never afford to sign them. Why is that? Why is it that the two other major sports teams in this city can win championships in their respective leagues and the Pirates can't even break the mythical .500 mark for 17 consecutive seasons?

Why is it that the Steelers and Penguins can draft, sign and retain the greatest players in their respective sports and the Pirates would have us believe that they can't afford to do this? Basically, it's because there's a greedy ownership group in place here. They only want to play with the luxury tax money that they get from major league baseball and keep everything they make at PNC Park. They only need keep up the illusion that they are trying to field a competitive team and they can continue to walk away with millions upon millions of dollars.

When the Pirates bring up a McCutchen and trade a McLouth, make no mistake about it, they are once again lowering payroll in the process. Very soon you can expect to see Jack Wilson, Freddie Sanchez and Adam Laroche going through this "minor league restocking process" as they have contracts that are either too expensive for the Pirates' taste buds (Wilson) or have contracts that are about to expire (Sanchez and Laroche).

The Nutting family is highly invested in the newspaper business and with papers dropping like flies these days, it's not a stretch to believe that some of the profits being raked out of the Pirates franchise are being used to keep other Nutting enterprises afloat. Pirate fans should have noted the major purchase of the Seven Springs Resort as further evidence that the Nuttings are diverting cash away from the Pirates. The Pirates will remain as a gigantic cash cow for the Nuttings as long as they keep salaries among the lowest in baseball. Of course, while they're doing this, they're also insuring that there will never again be a winning baseball team here.

This exasperating process will continue as long as Pirate fans continue to buy tickets, hot dogs, Cokes etc. As long as the Nutting family owns the Pirates, they will never put a winner on the field, ever. But their bank accounts will continue to overflow with untold millions in profits.

Isn't it a shame that a city that supports its' teams as rabidly as Pittsburghers do, has to have an ownership group here that really doesn't care about winning? The way the system is structured now, the Pirates can generate millions for the Nuttings each year just by them showing up to play! Nobody ever said that the Nuttings were dumb, they're actually very smart. The Pirates, as their salaries are structured now are a cash cow, pure and simple. Why should they change that as long as they can keep getting crowds with fireworks, bobbleheads and concerts?


ABOVE: Bob Nutting: The guy who is continuing the tradition of pathetic ownership that he inherited from former "superfan" owner Kevin McClatchy.

Meanwhile it's "Tweener Season" here in Pittsburgh. Last night, incredibly, over 30,000 fans jammed PNC Park for a good look at Andrew McCutchen and the hated, last-place, Cleveland Indians. The Bucs played a scrappy game, won 3-2 and sent the crowd home happy. The Pirates are six games below .500 and in last place, but the park is full, the hot dogs are grilling and the Cokes are ice-cold.

It's "Tweener Season" in Pittsburgh and life is good if your last name is Nutting. Only 35 more days until a meaningful season begins!

ABOVE: A rare shot inside the vault at PNC Park. "P.B. & G's" crack photographer, Dave Navis, managed to sneak in last night posing as a security guard. "Each week, Nutting orders the cash transferred to an unknown site in the hills of West Virginny," said a "fellow" security guard. "God knows how much they have stashed there".

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN PHOTO OF SIDNEY CROSBY IN BED WITH HIS LOVER!!!



SHE'S BEEN KISSED REPORTEDLY BY HUNDREDS OF BEARDED MEN, BUT HE DOESN'T EVEN CARE !


ABOVE: "Ahhh, sweet dreams oh Prince of Hockey." The only woman you'll ever love is in your bed with you now. How many thousands have lusted after her, never to get to this intimate moment? But there are several unanswered questions as you'll soon learn below.

So you thought the Stanley Cup was named after a man? How about this part of the story: Lord Stanley had it crafted initially as a gift to the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. In fact, Stanley was so smitten by her that he went back to England so that he could put her out of his mind, she was that smokin' hot and that drop dead beautiful. But Stanley was married. After he left Canada, he wrote back and told his son that he wanted him to use the gift (that only he knew) was intended for the lust of his life as the prize for the fledgling hockey association.

Stanley died in Great Britain as one of the richest men in the world, but for all of his wealth he would never consort with the most beautiful woman in all the world. Now here's the really strange part of the story. Her first name, amazingly, was Sydney.So what's going on in the picture above? Is Lord Stanley's spirit, alive and contained in the Stanley Cup, finally experiencing the moment he had always waited for...making love with his goddess Sydney? Or in some twisted way, is Lord Stanley himself a bi-sexual who is irresistibly drawn to Sidney Crosby and getting his dream moment with Pittsburgh's most eligible bachelor?

I personally prefer the first part of this tale to the latter (as I'm sure the "Face of Hockey" would as well). But there's more to this story...

There are several unanswered questions created by this picture. First off, where is Sid sleeping? Is he in his own bed at Mario's place or is he shacked-up in some no-tell motel? Second: If he is in a motel, how would he sneak in the Stanley Cup for some nocturnal activities without being seen?

Thirdly, and even more intriguing, someone else knew about this liaison because they TOOK SID'S PICTURE AS HE SLEPT! This was either done by: a) A jealous lover of Sidney (of which there is no shortage of those around Pittsburgh) b) Mario (who no doubt slept with the cup too and remembered how good it was) or c) Austin Lemieux (who constantly likes to yank Sid's chain).


ABOVE: This unsigned note was found in Mario's kitchen after Sidney's garage door was vandalized by a graffiti artist in Sewickley. Another Austin prank? Hmmmm.

Being an intrepid journalist and all, I figured there was only one way to get to the bottom of this: I'd go to the NHL and find out whose day it was with the cup two nights ago. If it was Mario's night, then we know the picture was taken either by Mario or Austin. But if it was Sid's night? Good Lord he could have been anywhere and any of these ten thousand crazy chicks that follow him around Pittsburgh could have done this.

After calling the NHL office, I got through to the guy who manages the dates for the Stanley Cup. It literally took at least a half hour of being shifted around from one person to another, until finally, finally I got this fellow on the phone who seemed to know what he was talking about. After explaining the whole Lord Stanley love story, the picture of Sid and all the speculation, I got to the point of explaining why I needed to know who had the Cup on Saturday night.

Just as he began speaking there was this loud humming sound that grew louder and louder. What was this? Was it the Canadian government jamming my call? I had to hang up or I thought my head might explode. Immediately after pressing the "end call" button I slapped myself on the forehead. I had finally realized what that horrible humming sound was... it was the sound of a garage door opening! Of course! Now I know why Mario first called it a, "Garage league"!

Obviously, we'll never get the whole story behind this surreptitious photo, but make certain of one thing: This picture will one day be considered one of the most famous sports photos in Pittsburgh history. I, of course will never reveal my source being a journalist and all, but investigative reporter? Ah, no.

One word of advice for Sid: If you're getting people snapping your picture when you're in bed with a trophy, you'd better watch yourself when the "Real McCoy" comes along!

ABOVE: Yeah, I guess the sound I heard had to have come from the NHL's garage door.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"I SEE A BETHPAGE AND I WANT IT PAINTED BLACK"



PURE PERFECTION GETS TRASHED BY MOTHER NATURE


"I see a golf course and I want it painted black,

no birdies anymore, not here at Bethpage Black..."

Course Superintendent's Theme Song

---with apologies to the "Rolling Stones"


Let me start off this column by telling you that I am, on a good day, a very lousy typist. This despite the fact that I obtained a degree in journalism and had a newspaper business and sports magazine in the early '80s.

On top of simply telling you that I'm a lousy typist, let me give you this added contributing factor into my lousy typism (newly created word). Not more than 48 hours ago I had surgery on BOTH of my ring fingers for a major nuisance called "trigger finger" where your fingers decide to bend and stay bent whenever they feel like it. Not wanting to go through two separate anesthesias, I bit the bullet and decided to have both surgeries done at the same time. When I get over this I'll think it was a good idea. Today? Ahh, no.


ABOVE: This is an example of trigger finger easily found on "GOOGLE". I don't know what's worse, having this or going through the surgery to correct it.

Yesterday was a day of unimaginable misery, but today I'm beginning to start on the road to recovery and thank God for that! But being a faithful blogger, I had planned to do a story on the fabulous U.S. Open at the reknowned "Bethpage Black" golf course on Long Island, New York. For months I've been reading stories about how the U.S.G.A. spends a couple years getting each of these Open venues "Tiger-proofed." The line of thinking is that the U.S.G.A. wants to make these courses so tough that par is considered a great score. Each year, golfers come to America from all over the world to compete on a course that has been honed to sheer perfection and that is considered the most severe challenge for golf professionals anywhere.

Enter Mother Nature.

It's amazing how a few million gallons of water can de-fang a golf course when guys this good are playing. Of course for bad amateur players such as myself, I always hated playing on a wet course. I needed every inch of roll that I could get and the old "hit and plug" routine did nothing to help my game. On top of the hitting and plugging came the inevitable ten pound divots that I would routinely carve out of fairways. Yes, I was a greens keeper's nightmare.

But with these pros, the exact opposite seems to happen. They don't need roll to get anywhere and the softened greens allows them to "shoot fish in a barrel" as they aggressively go after the flag sticks with complete impunity. The result is that suddenly the leader board starts dropping well below par and lo and behold the pros are back to looking superhuman again... to the point where Ricky Barnes, hardly a household name, shot a 67 in the first round and a 65 in the second, the lowest first two rounds in the history of the U.S. Open! I can just imagine the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is going on in the course superintendent's office over that. They sharpen a golf course to incredible dimensions only to see rain, of all things, stick a fork in their efforts.


For around $30 you can get a set of these. That is if you dare step foot on the hallowed ground of Bethpage Black with a golf club in hand.

Johnny Miller himself said that he had never seen greens that were softer than the greens at Bethpage Black and he's been coming to U.S. Opens since the early '60s!

Over the last couple days stories have been circulating about how the U.S.G.A. had brought in superintendents from all over to assist with getting the course back in shape all night long after Thursday's deluge. On Friday morning, Bethpage Black was able to host the world's greatest players when virtually any other course in the country would have been closed due to the excessive amount of rain...already five inches worth in June...that it had received. It was a miracle that the U.S.G.A. managed and one which they more than likely will have to keep repeating. Looking at a doppler weather report for Long Island, there is a massive weather front the size of the state of Ohio heading their way. In between dodging additional downpours, the final two rounds are going to be a test of character and endurance...not just for the golfers, but more importantly for the grounds crew.

ABOVE: The famous sign that they use to scare off the amateurs at Bethpage Black. Good golfers can tend to be elitist snobs. Greens keepers don't like us either.

So I'll just sit back and recuperate my ring fingers and enjoy my Father's Day too. My fingers have been telling me for at least a half hour that I've already overdone it. Let me finish by saying that, the moral of the story is when you constantly take, not beaver pelts but entire beaver bodies on the golf course, it's going to take its' toll on you someday. I'm walking proof of that. Enjoy the remainder of the Open, it just started raining again.



ABOVE: This is the badge that poor Tiger Woods has been forced to wear by the U.S.G.A.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

ROETHLISBERGER SHOOTS 81 FROM BETHPAGE BLACK PRO TEES


ABOVE: Big Ben, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jordan will compete along with an amateur player in the "Golf Digest Challenge". I'll let you figure out who's who in the picture above.

By now you would think that people would know not to bet against Ben Roethlisberger.


Not Tiger Woods apparently.

Roethlisberger, appearing on ESPN's "Pardon The Interruption" with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, revealed that Tiger bet him that he "Wouldn't break a hundred" on the famous U.S. Open track. The Open will be played there beginning tomorrow and Roethlisberger played the course, "From the pro tees and with Sunday pin placements".


The round was a part of the "Golf Digest Challenge". Big Ben, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jordan were all to play along with an amateur player voted on by "Golf Digest" readers.


How much he won from Woods wasn't revealed, but Ben did have some good help, last year's U.S. Open runnerup, Greensburg native Rocco Mediate. "I was thinking pars and bogeys would be good and laying up would be smart. That was my strategy. But Rocco was my caddy. He had me going for it all day. I even birdied two holes, ten and fifteen I think."

ABOVE: Natalie Gulbis, Big Ben's on-again, off-again girlfriend and LPGA pro herself, poses during a break in the action while holding Big Ben's flagstick.

Roethlisberger, currently ranked number 120 among celebrity golfers, shot a surprising 81 on the extremely difficult course. "Oh, it's long. I'm not used to hitting driver and four iron on this many holes. The rough is very tough and you'd better hit it straight."

But where does Big Ben's heart truly lie, on the golf course or throwing passes to Hines and Company? Would he rather win the U.S. Open or another SuperBowl?

"Oh, another SuperBowl, no doubt. In fact, I want to win three more." Kornheiser, doing some fast arithmetic, noted that that would give Roethlisberger five when added to the two he already has won.

"You'd pass Bradshaw! Three more Lombardis huh," continued Kornheiser?

"Yep" Big Ben shook his head.

So now we know that Roethlisberger's career goal is to be the winningest quarterback in Steelers history and to have more SuperBowl wins than any other signal caller ever. With two rings on his fingers, Big Ben is already 40% of the way there. Don't bet against him doing it either, not with an organization like the Steelers, with a coach like Mike Tomlin and with the arsenal of weapons he has at his disposal.

Above: Big Ben hits the practice green. I'd rather see him in pads throwing a last second touchdown to Santonio!

Thanks Ben for giving us a big jolt of Steeler fever in mid-June!

Big Ben's match will be broadcast on Sunday from noon til 1:30 on the same network that refused to allow Penguin games on Mario's t.v.. There will be no jumbotron available at Heinz Field either for this event. Don't even think about it.

MARIO LEMIEUX HAS A LITTLE POOL PARTY

Well brace yourself Pittsburgh, the candid photos are starting to make the rounds. Here's a bunch of pictures from the Casa de Lemieux last Saturday where they had this one special visitor who was last there 17 years ago. Once again, this visitor went for a dip in Mario's pool as you will see...

There's a guy who owns a hockey team in Pittsburgh who throws a big party at his house whenever his team wins the Stanley Cup

His house is very regal in appearance, almost as if he's a Duke or some type of royalty.


His special friend, Lord Stanley came a calling on Saturday. It was a beautiful day, so why


... not take a dip in Sir Mario's pool? What was once legend is now hereby documented!!!



Here, Lord Stanley demonstrates his ability to do the back float to a gaggle of swimming Penguins. "Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley...you float rather handily".

As nighttime approaches, the guests leave the pool and engage in, well...


It's not like Sir Mario doesn't have enough wine!


He also has no shortage of awards.


Gino says,"Come home with me to Russia, I show you biggest thing in Moscow!!! Does his shirt say "I came to leave?"



Another view of the fabulous Lemieux estate. Gino is toting a glass of Mario's finest vintage and why not, he is the Conn Smythe winner!


"Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, bring me your brandy!"


MARIAN HOSSA POSTCARD


VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO SANDY M. and DAVE W. FOR SENDING US THESE GREAT PICTURES!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NEW SLOGAN FOR PITTSBURGH !!!


ABOVE: And so it begins. Hey we have every right to boast. I'm sure these are licensed by both leagues too! Special thanks to reader Dave W. for sending this pic.

Monday, June 15, 2009

WHAT A DAY FOR A PARADE!!!


CLEARING MY DESK

sports commentary
by Angelo Spagnolo, Editor



ABOVE: Get ready Pittsburgh, there could be an avalanche of celebrations coming your way!

On a picture-perfect day with 80 degree temperature, low humidity and not a cloud in the sky, it was another great day to be living in Pittsburgh...and another great day for a parade.

Pittsburgh has become synonymous with three things: Championship teams, fireworks and parades. Of course, we have long had our St. Patrick's Day parade and Thanksgiving parade, but lately, we've gotten good at throwing these gi-normous championship parades.

The Steelers just had one in February and now, just four months later, here comes a tribute parade to the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. Pittsburgh has improved as a parade center. When you think back to the last Penguin championships there were no parades, just a rally and speeches by the players in Point State Park.

Today, the city is not only throwing a parade, but in tribute to the fans who viewed the games OUTSIDE of Mellon Arena, it erected a huge jumbotron screen to enhance the entire event. When the Steelers had their parade, students were still in school, and although many "were off sick" that day, today there will be no excuses necessary. This crowd could possibly exceed the 350,000 would attended the Steeler parade.

Truthfully, the Penguins have boggled the collective imagination of Pittsburgh fans. Their youth, engaging personalities, exciting style of play, incredible skills, their amazing owner and unbelievable journey through the Stanley Cup Playoffs made this championship one that will be savored for decades to come.

It is fitting that the town that is once again being called the "City of Champions" would honor their champions in the grandest style possible. Between the win in SuperBowl XLIII, the Penguins' third Stanley Cup win and the recent announcement that Pittsburgh will be hosting the prestigious G-20 summit in September, it is safe to say that the Burgh is on a roll like never before. With Heinz Field, PNC Park, the new Consol Energy Arena on the way, plus a world class convention center and the Rivers Casino soon to open and our many museums and stunning scenery, Pittsburgh is rapidly developing into a first class tourist destination.

Who would have thought that a city that was once more infamous for its' pollution could have come as full circle as Pittsburgh has? Seriously, we've never thought of our city as being a tourist destination, but that's indeed what it is rapidly becoming. It also doesn't hurt that Pittsburghers, along with being wildly supportive of their sports teams have also become known as among the friendliest people to be found anywhere in the world.

On a day like today, it certainly makes you proud to be a Pittsburgher. There are a lot of things that have been done "right" in this city over many years for it to be in the position that it is in now.

But could you possibly imagine the celebration that would break out for the Pirates if they were to win their next World Series?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

FROM:"THE PEN'S IN YOUR HAND" TO:"THE CUP'S IN YOUR HANDS"

As the Pittsburgh Penguins dressed for last night's game against the Red Wings, each player was given a shirt to wear under his game jersey that read, "The Pen's In Your hand". Dan Bylsma's message was abundantly clear. The team would write their own destiny on this night and it was up to them to write the ending to this epic series that they wanted. I'd say that Bylsma clearly got his money's worth out of those tee shirts as game seven ended with the Stanley Cup in their hands.

Despite saying that they planned a fast start to this game, the Pens started slowly as nerves were clearly evident. The champion Detroit Red Wings tried playing the role of the aggressor early as Zetterberg was stopped by Fleury and there were several big hits by assorted Wings.

It wasn't until the 10;40 mark that Pittsburgh started to relax and really play good hockey. Tyler Kennedy was stopped twice by Osgood, then at 8:35 Detroit's Stewart was called for slashing. The Pens had the first power play of the night, a gigantic opportunity.

You could sense the urgency in the team's play as they began a relentless assault of Detroit's net. After an extended time in the Detroit zone and tremendous pressure, the Penguins managed two good shots, but no goal. But the shots now stood at 5-4 Pittsburgh and the Pens were now carrying the play. Kennedy and Staal were both stopped by Osgood, then with under two minutes Fleury stopped Maltby with a glove save from point blank range.

At the :30 second mark, Max Talbot had a great opportunity that as it turned out would have been the first goal of an eventual hat trick, had it gone in. The period ended at 0-0, but given the way games have gone for the Pens in Detroit, I thought it was an excellent start. Fleury seemed to have his "A" game and the team's play had gotten stronger as the period progressed. There was plenty of reason to feel optimistic as there were only 40 minutes separating the Pens from their third Stanley Cup.

ABOVE: The gladiator, max Talbot. He has a way of silencing crowds at away games.

The second period saw Max Talbot score right out of the box at the 18:45 mark as Max scooped up a turnover from the left corner behind the Detroit goal, wheeled around and wristed it past Osgood for the first score of the game. The pace quickened shortly thereafter as Malkin was robbed by Osgood. Fleury returned the favor to Filpula, then Matt Cooke became the surprised beneficiary of a breakout pass but couldn't convert. With the shots 13-7 Pens, Pittsburgh was looking stronger than ever when disaster struck.

Johan Franzen crashed into Sid along the sideboards with a vicious hip check that unbeknownst to the fans in attendance and the world watching on NBC would turn out to be a knee injury. As Crosby left the ice in obvious pain, a great cheer went up from the Detroit crowd in an obvious display of bad sportsmanship. Several minutes later, during an in-game interview by NBC's Pierre Maguire, Bylsma would say that Sid had suffered "an injury to his mid-section" but would return. He never came back in the second period. Did Bylsma know it was a knee or was he just being evasive?


But the Pens never looked back. Max Talbot, now moved to center the Crosby line, combined on a two on one breakaway using Kunitz as a decoy. Talbot rifled the shot from Osgood's right side over his left shoulder for his second goal of the game. Osgood appeared to be slightly out of position, but no Penguins were seen to be complaining as the local boys went up 2-0.

Detroit has had a multitude of offsides in this game and their entire offense had taken on a disjointed appearance. Then, in the final 2:30 of the period, the Wings suddenly regained their stride and began piling on the scoring chances. Datsyuk was robbed by Fleury at 2:12 and Zetterberg and Datsyuk again were stopped as time expired in the second. Had this period gone another 20 seconds, Detroit would have more than likely scored.

Meanwhile attention turned once again to Sidney Crosby, who had never returned after his injury. For Crosby to have missed 15 minutes of the second period, his injury either must be very severe or is not responding to pain killers I speculated.

With the score 2-0, NBC's Mike Emerick noted that in the entire history of game sevens there have only been three shutouts. Could M.A.F. get number four? Against this team, it seemed like too much to hope for.

To my surprise, Sidney Crosby came out for the third period warmups, but you could tell that he was being being very cautious with his movements. I wasn't expecting much.

In the third, Mark Eaton was called for tripping at 17:22 but that penalty was killed with no damage. At about the 10:00 mark, Sid was successful in lobbying for some ice time but quickly removed himself after it became apparent that he couldn't keep up with the Datsyuks and Zetterbergs of the world.

At the 8:41 mark there was a tv timeout and by this time, the Red Wings had taken on the look of a very frustrated and desperate team. The Penguins, meanwhile had gone into a quasi- defensive shell so as not to allow any odd man rushes. By the time the 7:00 mark had rolled by, the shots were 5-0 Detroit. Could the Pens possibly hang on?

Less than a minute later Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson would give the big crowd at Joe Louis Arena some reason for hope as he beat Fleury on a slapper to make it 2-1. Detroit was right back in the game and their intensity level automatically was wratcheted-up. At 4:15, Evgeni Malkin completed the Pens' offensive showing of the period by collecting their only shot. For Malkin, who created some good opportunities in this game, he would be held off the score sheet for the second time as would be the injured Crosby.

At 3:23, Crosby sat on the bench, obviously unable to go in this biggest game of his young career. The Red Wings were buzzing like angry bees at an attacking bear and we only had a one goal lead. This game had suddenly taken on the appearance of a potential overtime finish...or even worse.

To reinforce what I'm saying about the gravity of the situation, Niklas Cromwell slammed a shot off the crossbar at 2:10 that bounced up and away and not down and into harm's way. The same hockey gods who earlier in the series had the Penguins hitting posts were now exacting their sweet revenge on the Wings. Yes, sometimes the breaks do have a way of evening themselves out.

At 1:17, Detroit called a timeout and immediately thereafter they pulled Osgood. In the waning seconds of this landmark series, Detroit's Zetterberg and Datsyuk again managed to get very dangerous shots on Fleury, the final one a save for the annals of Pittsburgh hockey history as he dove across the crease to make an incredible stop to end the game.

As the pandemonium broke loose among the Penguins, the Wings dropped their heads or put their heads down on their arms against the top of the boards near their bench. After the Penguins finished celebrating among themselves, the fine tradition of shaking hands began. Marian Hossa had an ashen look on his face. After not scoring a goal and gathering only one assist in the finals, his series against Pittsburgh had been an unmitigated disaster. Not only that, Hossa more than likely cost himself many millions of dollars in the long run as it's highly unlikely that he would again be able to command the same near-insane bidding for his services that went on last year. With his one year contract up and the Detroit media all over him, it would be surprising to see Hossa re-up in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Detroit's Mike Babcock was very gracious to Sidney Crosby. He could be overheard in the line congratulating him and saying, "You showed great leadership out there." While Babcock's style can have a way of sometimes irritating the media, I have found him to be very forthcoming in his assessments. For example, after game six he said, "I thought they dominated the first 32 minutes," and..."Yes I thought our guys looked tired."After the handshakes were over, the Detroit players vamoosed to their locker room...except for their coach. He wanted to see his former player, Dan Bylsma, get to lift the Stanley Cup. Again, a classy gesture on his part. Last year the Penguins watched the cup presentation.
ABOVE: If the shoe fits, Detroit, then you'll have to wear it!

As for the Detroit fans in supposed "Hockeytown", they showed little of the class that the Penguins fans had shown a year ago. Last year, after a heartbreaking loss in game six, the Penguins fans sat in their seats as the Stanley Cup made its' appearance. They politely applauded the superior Red Wings team that had defeated their beloved Penguins.

In fact, Detroit's fans showed zero class. They nearly booed Commissioner Gary Bettman out of the arena and continued booing as Sidney Crosby was handed the beloved cup. Sidney, God Bless him, appeared to be unaffected by this classless act. Either that, or he has a hearing problem that none of us is aware of. However, when asked later at the podium by a Detroit writer whether he heard the cheering when he was coming off the ice hurt, Crosby said that, "He really wasn't paying attention and was thinking about his injury." Later he added that, "I play in a lot of tough buildings, so I don't let crowd noise affect me." True. After hearing "Crosby sucks" chanted by classless hockey fans everywhere, you would kind of get numb to it after awhile. To the writer's credit, he noted that, "As a Detroiter, I was very disappointed by that."

ABOVE: We could be seeing a lot of these shots over the next decade!

But nothing was going to ruin this night for "The face of the NHL". He had finally won his treasure, the first of surely many to come. With a young cast around him, and a terrific coach, general manager and owner/s, and a new arena coming, the sky is the limit for this franchise. I fully expect this team to win the cup again next year at Mellon Arena. In the last series ever to be played there, the Penguins will amazingly go up against Detroit again next year in the finals as the battle for league supremacy continues between the NHL's two top teams. For the "rubber match" though, the Pens will win it on home ice and then the venerable, old, Mellon Arena will be retired. GAME NOTES:Evgeni Malkin received the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the playoffs...Meanwhile, Crosby became the youngest captain in the history of the NHL to raise the cup...The last team to win a game seven on the road after trailing 2-0 in any sport was the 1979 Pittsburgh Prates...The last man to raise the cup, in another in a long line of classy moves by him, was Mario Lemieux. Mario received a thunderous ovation from the remaining Detroit fans as well...Alby Oxenreiter had his finest hour as a sportscaster as he doggedly collected interviews on the ice. Oxenreiter, though, ran into an exuberant equipment manager Dana Heinze on the runway to the locker room. Heinze, not realizing that he was on live television gushed, "Alby, I can't f___ing believe it!. Meanwhile, back in the surprisingly calm environment in the locker room, Evgeni Malkin was chugging champagne from a magnum bottle. Those Russians know how to handle their alcohol...The scene switched to the South Side of Pittsburgh where a delirious sea of yinzers was celebrating in the middle of Carson Street. Rick Earle, WPXI's reporter was swallowed up by this mob of humanity. Back in the studio, David Johnson looked genuinely concerned for his colleague...Back in Detroit, Paul Steigerwald, dressed to look like an undertaker, waxed eloquently on the Penguins season. Meanwhile, WPXI's camera signal kept repeatedly breaking up which was a major distraction to the production....The scene shifted back later to the South Side where a phalanx of motorcycle police and officers on horseback were determined to clear the streets of the revelers. Dressed in full riot gear, they were prepared for the worst kind of altercation. It seemed like excessive overkill. There was no violence or damage, only people who had too much to drink celebrating...Back in Detroit, Sidney Crosby was now on the podium. He disclosed that he had jammed his knee and that he couldn't stop or turn properly. "I didn't want to cost us the game," Crosby said. I'm playing against Dytszuk and Zetterberg. One misstep and they're gone."...With this victory in a championship, Pittsburgh's sports teams continue their amazing winning percentage. When the chips are on the line, they are now 9-1 in games that decide a championship (either a SuperBowl or game seven). Their overall record in championship situations over the last 50 years is 12-2 (6-1 Steelers, 3-0 Pirates and 3-1 Penguins for an amazing combined championship winning percentage of .857. After another Steeler title in February followed by a Stanley Cup in June, is it any wonder why Pittsburgh is once again being called,
"The City of Champions"?
ABOVE: After an interminably-long absence since 1992, the Cup will be back where it truly belongs, above a bar on Carson Street. Get used to seeing this for the next, oh, ten years or so.