|We watch the game on T.V. for a while, have a couple beers and then Dickie announces, “Okay, we’ll see yinz later. Hey, we’re gonna borrow these for a while.” “Sure Dickie! See yinz later!” Dickie picks up two yellow rain slicks with “Electrician” emblazoned on the back. We leave and as soon as we get outside he says, “Put this on, it’s like Superman’s Cape. We can now go anywhere.” I wasn’t too sure what he meant until we walked up the sideline and took a seat at the end of the Steelers Bench! We have the heat blaster blowing on us and Steelers milling around waiting to be called by Noll. Dickie says, “Act like you belong here.” Belong here?! That’s Jack Lambert…right, I mean right there! This is my first Steelers game! I don’t belong here but I act composed and quiet, pretending to be bored at the most exciting moment of my life! We wander around to all parts of the field, sometimes pretending to check wires. This storybook day ends with the Steelers beating the Seahawks securing a spot in the playoffs. At least I thought that was the end…
After congrats and the rush of T.V. interviews the players start making their way to the Locker Room. I’m supposed to be working so I grab the padding around the goal post and after bonking a couple of players like the Stooges, I take it inside the gate to its place and set it down. Dickie comes up to me, “What are you doing?” “I’m trying to help?” “Forget that, come with me.” We head into the inner sanctum of the Stadium. We go through one door and then another, down into the bowels of the Stadium. A few more turns and a few more doors and we enter into the back door of the Locker Room! Most of the Press has left and there are Steelers and Coaches in various stages of undress. Music is blaring and most of them are eating. I look around and it isn’t long before I notice the food spread on a long, linen covered table. Dickie says, “Let’s get some food.” The array of mouth-watering delicacies at this table would put any wedding to shame. Manicotti, Fried Chicken, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Prime Rib, Ham, Turkey, Soup, Shrimp and on and on. I grab a sandwich and about five more shrimp than what is considered rude. Beside the table were two double-wide glass coolers that were filled with every drink imaginable! From Grape Nehis to Champagne from Coca-Colas to Heinekens. I grab an Iron City Beer.
WITH UNCLE DICK
|Do you know my Uncle Dick?
If you don’t, apparently you are in the minority.
|He started Allegheny County Sherriff’s Boat Patrol Unit just so he could spend more time on his boat. He became a Constable so he could carry his gun without impunity. He became a Duquesne Incline Operator because it looked like fun. Whatever Dickie wanted, Dickie got. It was during the course of these many offers someone suggested that he work at the Stadium so, “He could go to the game whenever he wanted…for free!” That made perfect sense to Dickie. So he took a job working for the Ground Crew at Three Rivers Stadium. “Don’t worry Dickie, this job is easy, all the young kids do the tough stuff.” He was now doing his schmoozing from the eighth row behind home plate. Once in a while he would take his nephews to the game. That is how I ended up at Game Four of the 1971 World Series. The First Night Game in World Series history! A day that I have been trying to relive every day since. The Bucs won and I got two foul balls! Dickie caught one in his beer cup and the other one rolled to me from the Upper Deck. I was ten. I held up the first one and received cheers. When I held up both, I was lustily booed. I even had a 15 year old girl proposition me for a ball. What a day!
When I got a little older, Dickie got me a job on the Ground Crew doing changeovers from Pirates to Steelers games. It was hard work with time constraints. I was a 16 and working at the Stadium, a job my friends would have paid to do. Dickie was everyone’s friend by then and he got the contract to put his carpentry skills to use by repairing and refinishing anything made of wood at the stadium. I helped him in his Dormont house basement as we refurbished Danny Murtaugh’s Rocking Chair, Owner John Galbreath’s desk and numerous two-foot oak stools that the players sat on in front of their lockers. We were constantly building new ones as the players busted them left and right after a frustrating loss. They also became objects of enlightenment when players carved pithy witticisms right into the wood. “Hebner Sucks!” “Cash is doing Blass’ Wife!” “Hebner is an Asshole!” And other less tasteful quips. We would sand them until they were clean again and re-lacquer them, ready for the next “Bard of the Ballpark.”
|Uncle Dick began his rise to fame as the proprietor of a local teen hangout called “Dick’s Den” on the hard scrabble side of Mount Oliver in the sixties. After trying his hand at carpentry in D.C., he returned to Pittsburgh’s Bertha Street in Mount Washington and became a B.M.O.C. while tooling around in an array of shiny muscle cars. Using his connections he was soon invited to join the Allegheny County Sherriff’s Reserves and found to his liking the perks that come along with a badge. While working full-time at Alling & Cory Paper Company on the Northside he used his free time to ingratiate himself with some of the movers & shakers of the tri-state area. Dick knew how to have a good time and people migrated to his side of the bar, or club and sphere. Invitations followed and soon he found himself involved in more community societies than he had time for or even lineage. The Masons, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Republican Club, Kiwanis Club, the Shriner’s and even the Polish Falcons, and he wasn’t even Polish! The connections made at these “clubs” would reach far and wide and afforded him favors that other men begged for.|
|Uncle Dickie (Left) With His Fellow Hibernians|
|Dickie knew when to make himself available for work at the Stadium; after all, it was just a part-time job. He was always available to work on Steelers’ Sunday! Once in a while he would engage his nephew to “help out” when a good Steelers game was to be played. Working with Uncle Dick at the Stadium was not what anyone would call “work.” The first hour or more was mostly traversing the width and breadth of the Stadium finding friends of Uncle Dick as he introduced his nephew to them. “Hey there’s Andy! Andy runs this whole show. Hey Andy meet the nephew!” “We gotta find Dirt Denardo, he’s an idiot but he always gets his face on the T.V.” “Hey Dirt! Meet my nephew!” It goes on like this until the Steelers take the field.
It’s December and freezing. We are standing near the corner of the end zone. I’m in Heaven. “Dickie says, “It’s freezing, let’s go inside.” “Inside?! The GAME is out here!” He starts walking. There is a door in the sidewall of the field; it says “Electricians.” Dickie walks through with me tagging along. “Dickie!!” The Electricians shout as he appears. I slide in and shut out the cold. There are four or five of them sitting there watching the game on T.V.! If they opened the door John Stallworth could run in holding a touchdown pass! They must have noticed the look of wonderment on my face. They all yelled, “Best seats in the house!” I look over to the left and see they have a keg on tap and a popcorn machine popping away. And, it’s warm.se!” I look over to the left and see they have a keg on tap and a popcorn machine popping away. And, it’s warm.
|Uncle Dickie on Patrol|
|I start looking for Dickie. There he is sitting at a round table playing cards with Terry Bradshaw! And Mike Wagner! And Randy Grossman! And a few others that I didn’t know without seeing their numbers. “This is my nephew. Have a seat.” Trying not to drop my jaw into my food, I sit down. Terry is holding court. With a fat cigar firmly clenched in his teeth and hyperbolic hand waving he’s telling amusing stories of his youth in Louisiana. I’m laughing and laughing and I don’t even know what he’s saying. They pay no mind to me, even if I’m a 16 year old drinking beer. They just made the playoffs dammit!
After a while it becomes painfully obvious that one of the players is laughing too hard, smiling too much and generally just kissing Terry’s ass. Terry is the funniest guy he’d ever seen and as a smart as Einstein to this guy. I should be so fawning over the great Terry Bradshaw but instead it is Mike Kruczek, the Back-Up Quarterback. “Can I light your cigar Terry? Do you need another drink Terry? What happened next Terry?” He goes on and on. I admire Terry as much as anyone but sheesh!
Just when the eye rolls began a hush fell over the room. I turn to my right and look at the door. The great Franco Harris has just entered the room. His aura has just sucked all the oxygen out of the room. He’s still in his uniform and cleats giving perhaps his fiftieth interview to the pack of press. Even Terry could feel his presence. We were all in awe of this man’s quiet presence. I look at Dickie with hope in my eyes that he’ll introduce him to me. Dickie says, “I don’t know him.” D’Oh!
|Bradshaw Holding Court|