” We had ’em allllllllll the way”

You know – there is a joke about Pittsburgh, my home town, that goes like this – ” How many Pittsburghers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? ” ” Three- one to screw in the bulb and two to remember how great the old bulb was.” Kind of funny but if you know Pittsburghers, you know it is true. Especially in sports. We love our teams and can remember the good old days of the Steelers( the Immaculate Reception by Franco) and the glory days of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

My pal J.B. Loughney posted a video the other day on the 60th anniversary of the 1960 World Championship Pittsburgh Pirate’s victory over the New York Yankees. The famous home run by Bill Mazeroski is still revered around here to this day. When I saw that video, it brought tears to my eyes seeing all those great players who I so admired in my younger years attending the games with my dad at Forbes Field. And to hear that voice again of Bob Prince, pictured above, the voice of the Pirates on KDKA Radio, really choked me up.. Bob’s famous line after we won a game was……” and we had am allllllllllllthe way”. I can still hear that in my mind and to hear it on this video was so gratifying. I remember how great the old bulb was. J.B remembers too. His grandfather was Joe Barr- the Mayor of Pittsburgh back in the heyday of the Pirates.

From the University Club News

I can remember seeing all those players in the video many times during my youth and marveling at the talent of a guy like Dick Groat, who played basketball for Duke and then spent his career with the Pirates playing professional baseball. I was a catcher in minor league, little league, and pony league. The only position I ever played and Smokey Burgess, the catcher for the Bucs, was a hero to me.

One of the cool things that my dad did for me was to take me to the University Club for the Father and Son Baseball Nights. We would meet many of the Pirates and listen to Bob Prince, who usually was the speaker. Then eat dinner and go to the game. The Pirates like Bill Virdon, Donn Clendenon, Dick Groat, Harvey Haddix, Vernon Law, and many others would take the time to come to the event before the game to meet all the fathers and sons and sign autographs. For free!! No paying a fee for an autograph in those days and the players were happy to do it. We were all enthralled at the stories that Bob ” the Gunner” Prince would tell us about the ins and outs of Pirate baseball.

Following dinner, we all would line up in the driveway of the U Club and begin a march to Forbes Field behind one of the great jazz trumpeters of our time- Benny Benack. He would play with his quartet and we would march in a row behind him singing songs like ” Oh the Bucs are going all the way, all the way, all the way this year” Kind of cornball but whatever. I can still see it in my mind 50 some years later. Time flies but boy do I remember that old bulb.

Yes- those were the good old days of my youth and those players were true heroes to me. In those days, they played for the love of the game. There was no greed, holdouts for better contracts, or any of the other issues that plague professional sports today. Those guys loved baseball and were honored to play for the Pirates and sign autographs for a fat little catcher like me from the North Hills of Pittsburgh. That video really got to me folks and I watched it over and over as those days with my dad came alive for me again. So yes, I am the typical Pittsburgher remembering, and once again- thinking how great the old bulb was. Thanks for reading.

” The Coach”

photophotophotophotophoto I was passing the soccer fields the other day and daydreamed back to the days when Eden Christian Academy was looking for coaches for the youth soccer program. My son Jack was involved and I volunteered because they were desperate for bodies. I didn’t know a thing about soccer but at that age, if I could get some kind of organization among the kids, get them some exercise, and keep them from just huddling around a moving ball, I was ahead of the game. We organized practices and the games were usually Saturday morning which was always an anticipated time around our house. Jack was a big kid for his age and he was able to handle the ball and score goals at will. It was co-ed soccer, so sometimes the smaller female players ran into Jack and became somewhat of a pinball as they bounced off him and onto the ground with tears ensuing. But all was well until he grew a little older and my usefullness as a coach was outlived. He became part of the school program and youth soccer was in the rear view mirror. My last season as coach, I had them line up in a wall when the other team had the ball and when our team got possession, I told them to shoot it no matter where they were. “You can’t score if you don’t shoot. Pretend Bin Laden is in the goal.” That didn’t go well with the academy faculty and it was time for me to move on and let the school coaches take over.

Baseball was another experience. My friend Dave Blahnik called me and asked if Jack was interested in playing baseball. Would I be interested in coaching with him? Dave wanted to know if I had any experience with baseball because he knew I was kind of an outdoors guy. I told him proudly that I played minor league, little league, and pony league all as a catcher. I was a little chunky as a youngster and it was good for me to put on the “tools of ignorance” as my dad would say and get behind the plate where all the action was. So, I had experience being knocked into the chain link fences by the bigger kids trying to steal home, getting foul tips in the face, throwing kids out at second base, and being the receiver of some pretty fast adolescent pitches. So there I was coaching third base as the games for the McCandless Athletic Association began. I had this habit of waving runners through third base only to be thrown out at home. Dave would look at me with dismay and ask why I would ever wave them on when there was no chance that they would be safe? I said, ” Dave- the fun is to see if maybe they could make it and the thrill on their faces was worth the chance that maybe, just maybe, they would score a run.” In most instances, they were thrown out and I was surely the turnip to the parents in the stands. But, I loved the moment of wildly waving them on with my smiling face and their smiling face as they raced for home only to be defeated at the tag at home plate. Dave replaced me at third and I ended up at first base where I did the same thing with the kids trying to steal second base. Thrown out again and again, my timing was off in my coaching and Dave finally said for me to be the dugout manager and make sure the kids got their turn at bat. An inauspicious ending to my baseball coaching career but nonetheless rewarding.

Chuck Noll, the Super Bowl winning coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, had many famous quotes, but the one that struck home to me was when he referred to the process of the game. He said that,” the thrill isn’t the winning, its the doing.” This was my mantra for youth sports. I wanted the kids to have fun. I was not really interested in the score as much as the process of learning the fundamentals of the game, improving from week to week, and having some success in the process. The kids would have plenty of chances to be competitive in the years to come as was the case with my Jack. But at the youth level, I made it known that although I had limited experience in team sports, I had a passion to work with the kids and make sure that they had fun- first and foremost.

Right before my mom passed away, I was talking to her about coaching baseball and she asked me,” What do you know about baseball? Did you ever play?” It dawned on me that she never saw me play because she only had interest in watching my swimming meets as a kid because she was at the pool anyhow. Baseball games were not her gig and when I showed her my old pictures, she was amazed. The field was right across the street from where I lived but mom never made the trek to see her fat little Patrick behind the plate. We all had a good laugh but those days honed my interest in coaching at the youth level. As the kids got older, I was out of my league and faded to the stands as a spectator. But the memories of the smiling faces, the lessons learned, and the skill improvement, will always bring a smile to my face. ” What was the score,Pat?” ” I don’t know, I am just the coach.” Thanks for reading.