Hocking Hills State Forest:
With an off day in between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, we went to Hocking Hills State Forest in south-western Ohio. Starting near “Old Man’s Cave,” which is a huge rock structure where a man lived in the 1800s, we hiked over 5 miles alongside naturally eroded gorges and tall rocky cliffs within the vast forest. With a creek to our right, we followed trails over these rocky formations and through the heavily wooded hills with some beautiful sights and sounds along the way. Here’s Old Man’s Cave on the left, and apparently this “old man” named Richard Rowe is buried somewhere beneath a cave ledge in the woods.
When my dad began the morning by saying, “a day without baseball is like a day without sunshine,” he didn’t realize how right he would be… it rained for a good amount of our trek. But it was still a great way to spend our day off.
With yet another ballpark situated just feet from Downtown, we walked from our hotel underneath “The Three Sister” bridges along the Allegheny River, and climbed the steps to cross the third one: the Roberto Clemente Bridge (formerly called the Sixth Street Bridge), with PNC Park just on the other side. You can see right into the stadium from the bridge, so we were excited to see what the views were like from inside the park.
On the other side of the bridge, in front of the right field gate of the stadium, is a huge statue of Clemente, who’s basically considered a God here in Pittsburgh (pretty much all around the baseball world, too). Today’s actually the 39th anniversary of his Hall of Fame Induction, which was just months after his outstanding career was cut short in a plane crash, while he was bringing relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on New Year’s Eve in 1972. In his 18 years as a Pirate, he was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner (consecutive years ’61-’72), 4-time batting champion, collected exactly 3,000 hits, and had a career batting average of .317. And he wasn’t even done playing. His number 21 was retired at the beginning of the ’73 season, and PNC Park’s right-field wall is 21-feet high in his honor.
Around the stadium are a few other statues of Pirate legends, including Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner and Bill Mazeroski, whose statue depicts one of the most amazing moments in baseball history. In Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, the Pirates and Yankees were tied 9-9 in the bottom of the 9th when “Maz” led off the inning with a blast over the 406-ft sign on the outfield wall to win the Championship – the only time any World Series ended with a walk-off homer.
Behind this statue is an awesome view of the city over the river, with the bright yellow Clemente Bridge to the left.
Inside one of the entrance gates is Legacy Square, where stars of the Negro League are honored with bronze statues and interactive screens highlighting their achievements. Pittsburgh was home to two of the greatest Negro League teams, and was considered the hub of black baseball in the early 1990s. We definitely appreciated this exhibit more because of our stop at the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. Here’s Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, two of the most talented players to ever play the game.
Another cool tribute to a Pittsburgh great is a bronze casting of Ralph Kiner’s hands holding a bat. He ranks 2nd on the club’s home run list with 301, and in each of his 7 years with the Bucs – from 1946 to ’52 – he either won or shared the National League home run title, the longest streak in all of baseball to this day. It was sort of a weird placement for this display, though, right in front of these dumpster bins.
We were early enough to watch some batting practice from the left field wall, which was so low to the ground and gave us our first glimpse of the city views from PNC. And when we went upstairs to the middle deck, the view was even better.
For some reason, Pittsburgh is known for pierogies, which are a Polish, potato-filled ravioli-type food. My dad got them with some sour cream on the side, but I got them on top of a pulled pork sandwich on a pretzel bun with a sweet onion marmalade… which was amazing. And we tried a sandwich from the famous Primanti Bros. Sandwich shop, which was roast beef topped with french fries and cole slaw. Not the best sandwich, but a good idea.
Pierogies are so loved around this city, they even race around the field during one of the breaks:
The Pirates haven’t made the playoffs, or even had a winning season since 1992, which is why our field-level seats were so cheap. We were behind the visitors’ dugout (which was down the 1st base line instead of 3rd, probably because the Pirates want the awesome view of the city), and only about 10 rows back.
But from our side, the views were amazing still, especially as the sun started to set.
This year, Pirates starter Erik Bedard hasn’t been as good as he has been in the past, with an ERA around 4.5 and a 5-12 record. But today he pitched a gem, allowing just 2 hits through 7 innings and not letting anyone ever touch third base. He outpitched D’Backs All-Star pitcher Wade Miley, who allowed an unearned run in the 4th after speedy Andrew McCutchen took advantage of 2 errors on the same play, ending up on third with a would-be single.
Final score: Pirates 4, D’backs 0
Starting pitchers: Erik Bedard – 7 IP, 2 H, 5 Ks; Wade Miley (L) – 6 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 R (0ER), 2 Ks
Homers – none
Before, during, and after games, the Roberto Clemente Bridge is closed to vehicles so everyone walks right down the middle of the bridge with a cool nighttime view of the city. And walking down the riverside, looking back at the stadium was really nice too. Overall, definitely some of the best views out of all the ballparks we’ve visited.