What, you expect the All-Star break means no baseball posts for you, Faithful Reader? Think again. It’s actually an opportunity to return to Essentials—like what a fine thing a baseball stadium, this patch of green, can mean to the heart of a city, not to mention its fans.
Earlier this month, while I was in town for a short visit, my oldest brother drove me down to PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. I am a bit too young to recall Forbes Field, the team’s home for six decades, but I do remember Three River Stadium, which, with its artificial grass, was one of those trends that Seem Like a Good Idea at the Time. (Of course, in retrospect, knowing how the fake grass converted groundball outs into hits—not to mention how it caused injuries to infielders—the story is different.)
Now, of course, in contrast, PNC, taking a page from the Baltimore Orioles playbook, is a fitting representative of the neo-traditional style in stadiums. The highest seat is just 88 feet from the field, so fans are truly up close to play on the field.
I didn’t get to watch a game the day I took this picture (and others to follow later this week), since the Pirates weren’t in town, nor get a tour of the stadium. But the experience sure left me enthralled with the ballpark’s classical shape and sightlines. The Kansas City-based design team of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK), Inc. evoked Forbes Field through a series of masonry archways extending along the entry-level facade and decorative terra cotta tiled pilasters.
And now, it seems, this wondrous stage for baseball might have a cast fit to play in its confines. Accent on the word “might”: The last two seasons, they were in first place in the NL Central Division at this point in the season, only to nosedive the rest of the way and finish fourth.
Yet, as Ben Reiter points out in the cover story of the new Sports Illustrated issue, the presence of the Pirates’ “Sharknado” bullpen is giving the long-suffering Pirate faithful reason to hope to believe that at least 20 consecutive losing seasons—the longest such hopeless streak in professional sports—might be coming to an end, and maybe even a playoff appearance might be in the offing.