It was one of those summer days. I had a rare off day at McDonalds and wanted to do something not only relaxing, but fun as well. My neighbor, Eric has been a good friend of mine for the past 17 years, as long as we’ve lived right next together in Youngstown. He is a big fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. We’ve always had heated arguments amongst our college football loyalities. Him with the Bucks and me with the Mountaineers. We’ve both been busy these past few weeks. I’ve been home from college for nearly a month and he just finished his junior year of high school. He stays busy in the summer working out for football and he practices nearly everyday. Theres a slim chance we have a day off on the same day, me at McDonalds and him on the field. If you’ve ever read my “About Me’ section in my blog you know that a day trip to Pittsburgh is my idea of fun and relaxation. Even when there is no Pirates game or any sporting event for that matter. On Friday Eric and I ventured out to the Steel City for a day of dobouchery.
Our day started off in the Strip DIstrict of Pittsburgh. I’ve mentioned the Strip before in some entries, I have a great affection for this area of Pittsburgh. Its home to many fine restraunts, shops, bars, eateries and entertainment outlets. Its very authentic of a big city with the markets hustling and bustling serving hungry Pittsburghers. I treated Eric to one of my favorite Burgh eateries, the original Primanti Brothers.
It was his first time tasting the unique Pittsburgh treat. He enjoy his cheesesteak topped with fries, cole slaw and tomato. He gulfed it down before I could barely breathe. He loved it all and washed it down with an ice cold glass of water.
We took a stroll down the lane of the Strip. It was packed with people walking shoulder to shoulder enjoying the beautiful 80 degree day. People were sitting outside at restraunts eating gourmet meals, people were waiting for meat and other deli products at the markets, but a majority of the people were at stands like this one, searching for the latest Pittsburgh
sports gear. As you can see alot of the paraphernalia is that of the Penguins. Pens gear was flying off the shelves. Eric and I were caught up in the spree and we each purchased a Pittsburgh pride shirt. I bought a yellow one reading “City of Champions” featuring a caricature of a penguin on ice skates and a football player. Eric bought an Evgeni Malkin shirt with his smiling grill on the front and “Malkin” spelled in Russian on the back. I purchased a “Got Crosby” shirt for my little brother. To commemorate the day we also bought a pair of Stanley Cup Champs shot glasses. I was pleased to see this little nugget of merchandise perched away on a shelf in one of the Strip District stores.
Ah, a sight for sore eyes. THE West Virginia Mountaineers. Partially covered by a Stanley Cup Champs shirt they gray WVU hat still poked its way out and into the Western, PA atmosphere. It reminded me of Morgantown and the life I live down at college. Its great getting a breath of fresh air during the summer but I love my Mountaineers and my university-West Virginia.
With the blue and gold pride rushing through my body I wanted to release it on a convienent rival, the Panthers of Pittsburgh.
Pictured to the left is the prestigious Cathedral of Learning on the campus of Pitt. As much as I hate Pitt, it is my civil duty to hate them. It is a very nice campus. It is located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It was my first time traveling down to that area of the Burgh and I am quite pleased. The area is a nice mix of suburban and urban qualities. Somewhat reminiscent of Morgantown, I really liked the campus. However, I am a Mountaineer through and through. WVU’s biggest rival is the Panthers of Pittsburgh. As much as I love the pro teams of Pittsburgh the Panthers will forever taint the quadrilateral in terms of sports teams. Its just something about them that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe its the fact that they seem to upset the Mountaineers in every opportunity. In my two years at West Virginia University I have yet to see the Eers defeat them in basketball or football. We did beat them in teh Big East Tournament but seeing a game live and being defeated by the Panthers is humiliating. Don’t get me wrong they are solid in all aspects of their athletic department. On the court with players like Same Young, DeJuan Blair and LeVance Fields and on the field Bill Stull and LaSeasn McCoy, they always outplay the Mountaineers. However I can sense the tide turning. Both Bill Stewart and Bob Huggins, coaches of the WVU football and basketball team respectively are gearing up the Mountaineers and their fans for good things to come in the future. The Panthers better sharpen their claws if they hope to keep up with the Mountaineers.
All this rage against the University of Pittsburgh made me do something drastic.
I took their beloved Panther out for a spin. The Panther was hot as he had been soaking in the sun of the 80 degree weather all day. Of course I always have a Mountaineer Magic rally towel on hand in case any situation such as this would arrive. Eric felt bad for the stinking kitty and fed it a snack.
Maybe it felt better, but I hope the Panther will forever feel the spirit of teh Mountaineers. The statue is located outside Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, and unfortunately the Pitt Panthers. The stadium is located on the North Shore, we made our way there after our stops in Oakland.
We took a stroll around the stadium and actually got to go inside. Alot of the main concourse was blocked off but we did manage to catch a glimpse of the team store.
As you can see Eric is a pretty big guy. He will be entering into his senior year of high school and continuing on his prestigious football career. He is being recruited as an offensive lineman by such schools as Bowling Green, Ohio and Toledo. Having grown up right next door I know his family well and they are very supportive, he has a good head on his shoulders and he will strive no matter where he goes.
From Heinz Field we mosied along the river and to my favorite landmark of Pittsburgh.
Thats right…PNC PARK. SInce there was no game today it was cool to see the quiet side of the park. There was no crowd and I enjoyed the surrounding layout of the stadium. And let me tell you, it was realxing just seeing the park so sturdy in all its glory. Eric and I took some noteworthy pictures of parts of the park that we normall do not see on a regular gameday.
To our surprise the right field gate was opened. The general public is actually allowed to enter through the right and left field gates of the park to cut through and enjoy the ambiance of teh scenery. We took full advanatge of this opportunity and snapped some once in a lifetime pictures.
We were taking orders at Manny’s BBQ in center field inside the park. Usually bustling on gamedays Mannys is a delicious spot for food at PNC Park. It rivals many of the cities actual gourment barbecues but here the service always comes with a smile. Manny Sanguillen himself is out there taking orders and signing autographs. He is one of the most beloved Pirates of all time and always has time to fondly remember the good old days.
As cool as it was walking around the best ballpark in America on a non-gameday I still missed seeing Nyjer Morgan steal a base, Jack Wilson make a diving stop and Freddy Sanchez lining a drive to the center field gap. Through the gate I could see people hovering around homeplate. Couldnt see exactly what was going on but it looked like it was the grounds crew digging up something around homeplate.
Perhaps the saddest part of the day occured outside PNC Park at Firewater, a bar outside the left field fence. I had put back on my Pirates jacket. We walked past a group of middle aged guys enjoying after work drinks. One of the guys hollered out “Go Bucs!” I turned my head and acknowledge but was quickly corrected. He was in fact paying homage to Eric’s Ohio State Buckeyes shirt. Instead of a “Go Bucs” it was a “Go Bucks” Even in the shadows of their own home the Pirates still are hard pressed to recieve respect.
We left the North Shore and departed to the South Side. I wanted to see where I was last Friday during the Penguins Stanley Cup celebration. SIcne it wa spitch black and packed with thousands of people I couldn’t drink in the area. My goal was to feel the vibe on a regular, average day.
We crossed the Andy Warhol bridge back into the heart of the city.
The South Side had a feel much like that of Oakland. It was home to many boutiques and specialty stores. Many people were hanging out outside smoking, reading and eating. The crowd ranged from young hippies to older businessmen. The bars and clubs were not quite hopping yet as it was still late afternoon but nontheless activity was still booming.
That little dumby up top obviously is actually quite smart. He was in the window of a bar called Rumshakers donning his Crosby jersey cheering on the Pens.
From our brief tour of the Southside we directed ourselves back to the North Shore for a big dinner. We patronized another of my favorite restraunts, Jerome Bettis Grille 36. Before entering the beautiful establishment we saw a staple of any big city, the Just Ducky Tours.
They are very fun no matter if your on the boat or walking along the street. They offer a great view from all aspects of the city by land and water. I was on one in Baltimore and really enjoyed it. I’m sure the passengers enjoyed the tour of the Burgh today as well.
It was Eric’s first visit to Jeromes and besides running up a bill of 23 dollars he enjoyed every minute. From watching college baseball on the big screens, to going to the bathroom which he said was “like a nightclub with urinals.” We spent a good hour in there talking and enjoying the hip scene.
It was a superb day and a great way to spend a day off. i love this city and can be a tourist although I know the ins and outs fairly well. There is more to the City of Champions than its sports and there is plenty more to see and do than all I got done in one day. I can’t wait til my next Pittsburgh cruise, although then I plan on seeing the Pirates, live and in person.