Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pittsburgh Town

This is the seventh and final part of the Summer of '04 series, chronicling my first serious baseball road trip.

Friday, June 18

It's probably a blessing in disguise that Brian has a lunch date with his former advisor, because immediately afterward, we're hitting the bars for some pre-game drinks.

Chiodo's TavernNot surprisingly, this is where the journal entries end. Just as we did during our 1998 trip to Chicago, Brian and I kind of overdid it during the daylight hours, the highlight of which was a visit to Chiodo's Tavern, in the Pittsburgh suburb of Homestead. The place was one of Brian's favorites during his days at graduate school, and on this day, we were lucky enough to meet its 86-year old owner, Italian immigrant Joe Chiodo.

Joe has since passed away, and Chiodo's Tavern is no more, but it was a Steel City landmark in its day, known for the hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of memorabilia hanging from its ceiling.

I do remember deciding on this trip that Pittsburgh's PNC Park was, perhaps, my favorite ballpark. I later adjusted my thinking, because let's face it...with exception, all of the new parks are great. Some have better concession options, while others have done a better job with space. Some are a little more visually appealing than others, but all of them have good sight lines. That is, all seats priced moderately and up provide a good vantage point for the on-field action.

So, what made PNC Park stand out so much to me? Honestly, I believe it was Pittsburgh itself, particularly the view of the city from the stadium, especially those trademark yellow bridges. Unfortunately, the photo below is the best I've got, and it doesn't really do the view justice, but I hope it will give you an idea of just how aesthetically appealing the view from inside PNC is. It's just too bad that the Pirates haven't produced a winning season since going 96-66, and losing the NLCS in seven games to the Braves, in 1992.

PNC Park

The day after the game, while driving Brian to the airport, I felt that all-too-familiar crunch of brakes that have worn all the way through the pads. The trip was nearing its end, but I was still 600 miles from home. So, instead of risking driving that far on brakes that were shot, I decided to play it safe and drive only 400 miles to Poughkeepsie, NY.

That's actually not as crazy as it sounds. Driving a car with a manual transmission on a route that was almost entirely interstate highways, I was able to downshift when absolutely necessary, so that I barely had to use the brakes at all. $90 spent at Auto Zone and a little help from my brother-in-law and I was back on the road for the 200 miles that would return me home safely, and bring my first serious baseball road trip to an end.

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