|It was the Summer of â€™73. Just a few short months had passed since the Great Roberto Clemente had died on that plane. The city was still reeling
from the catastrophic shock of it all. I could only imagine what the players that had played with him were still feeling. His best friends on the team, Manny
Sanguillen & Willie Stargell, still had to put their uniforms on every day and play a boyâ€™s game when their minds were telling them that life looms larger
than simple games. Staring at his locker, every day, a life that loomed largerâ€¦
I never got over the shockâ€¦to this day. But in the Summer of â€™73, I tried to get back on that horse. To carry on like everyone else had. You expect to see
changes but life just keeps on happening. It all seems so far away now, but it is really just out of our grasp. I hadnâ€™t gone to a Pirate game since it
happened. Today I was going!
Mid-July the Pirates were hosting the San Diego Padres for a twi-night doubleheader. I was eleven years old and had saved enough dimes delivering the Post-
Gazette that I could treat me and my best buddy, Jimmy Malone to a ball game. Jimmy was a little older and savvier then I was in some ways but he didnâ€™t
have the independence that I was afforded. He was an only child being raised by his Grandparents. I was the middle child of six. Sometimes I got lost in the
shuffle, sometimes I just shuffled. So it was big deal at the Maloneâ€™s house that we two little boys were going to go to a Pirate game by ourselves! â€œHow
are yinz getting there?!â€� His Grandmom would ask. â€œWeâ€™re taking the Streetcar.â€� â€œDo yinz even know where Three Rivers Stadium is?!â€� â
€œItâ€™s by the water.â€� â€œHow are yinz getting home?!â€� â€œI told you! Weâ€™re taking the Streetcar!â€� â€œI swear if you two get into any
trouble, Pap will have your hides!â€� Me? I didnâ€™t tell anyone. I just sort ofâ€¦umâ€¦shuffled.
|We walked up to the top of the hill, took the 42/38 Streetcar from Dormont into town. We had
no real idea where we were going or how to get to the stadium, we would figure that out later. As
soon as we got to the big buildings, we got off. We were standing under Kaufmannâ€™s Clock. â
€œHey Mister, you know how to get to the stadium?â€� This became a familiar refrain until we
made the 30 minute walk across the 6th Street Bridge to the Stadium. After negotiating the
hustle and bustle of actually getting into the stadium we made our way to the nose bleed seats.
The one good thing though was that we were in the first row of the Upper Deck. We could see
everything! Even if everything was a light year away.
Our initial excitement waned as we realized that between us we had enough money for a hot dog
each and we would have to split a Coke. It waned a little more when the first game devolved into
a pitcherâ€™s duel. Nellie Briles pitched a gem holding the great Nate Colbert, Cito Gaston and
company to one run. The Pirates won the game 3-1. Out of boredom we started ripping our
scorecards up and making confetti. Pretty soon we were looking for other discarded scorecards.
Soon after that we started collecting empty popcorn buckets and filling them with the confetti.
After a few more innings and then the break between games we were amassing a colossal
collection of discarded paper, any paper. Newspapers, empty Good nâ€™ Plenty boxes, hot dog
wrappers, whatever could be ripped and put into our stacking popcorn buckets.
The next game was a barn burner! The Pirates jumped to a 4-0 lead when the Padres broke out
of their slump and started clawing back. Then behind the big bats of the Pirates big men they put
a six spot on them in one inning. Stargell homered and Bob Robertson hit a blast that just fell
short of our reaching hands. The Cobra had three hits, Sanguillen and Al â€œScoopâ€� Oliver
had a couple each. The whole time we are filling our buckets. We now have about fifteen
buckets stuffed full of garbageâ€¦erâ€¦I mean, confetti! The Pirates had swept the double header,
winning the second game 13-7.
|It was time to celebrate! We took our buckets of confetti and littered the air with a seemingly endless supply of torn paper all over the denizens of the lower
deck. It was stupendous! Enough so that we heard that Bob Prince interrupted the post-game show to marvel at the sight. â€œLook at all that confetti folks!
It looks like Christmas in July!â€�
We wandered around the stadium to the lower deck, to the dugout roof and every vantage point that would allow us to score an autograph. It was all to no
avail as all the players fled to the Locker Room. We did manage to score a ball off a Bat Boy after convincing him that one of us was dying. â€œWe gotta get
at least one autograph!â€� Jimmy stated. So, just as the ushers were about to throw us out, we made our way to the Pirate parking lot. We and about fifteen
other die-hards stood at the gate begging the Cadillacs and Mercedes that filed by for autographs. Finally a VW Beetle stopped, rolled down his window, and
reached out to grab our ball. He scribbled something on it and tossed it back. After ten minutes of deciphering we realized that Vic Davalillo had signed our
|It was then that we realized it was very late. We headed back, in the dead of the night, to
the Streetcar stop. â€œBoy, there ainâ€™t nobody around.â€� I said. So after a few detours
we finally made it to the Streetcar stop. We waitedâ€¦and waited. I hadnâ€™t seen a
Streetcar the whole time since we left the Stadium. We saw this old bum sitting with his bag
of booze. â€œHey Mister, you know where we can catch a Streetcar?â€� â€œStreetcar?
Streetcars stop coming at 11:00.â€� â€œDo you know what time it is?â€� â€œIâ€™d say itâ
€™s about 12:30.â€� WHAT?! Just then Jimmyâ€™s Grandmomâ€™s admonition rang in
my ears, â€œPap will have your hides!â€� After some bickering and cajoling, I got Jimmy to
call his house. His Pap answered. â€œYouâ€™re where?!â€� â€œWeâ€™re stuck
downtown and there are no more Streetcarsâ€� â€œI gotta work in the morning!â€� His
Pap said in an unnerving tone. â€œOkay, meet me under Kaufmannâ€™s Clock!â€�
So we made our way to Kaufmannâ€™s Clock. After about forty-five minutes, Pap pulled
up in his big, gold Mercury Marquis. After some initial grumbling, he lightened up a bit. We
showed him our Vic Davalillo ball and told him about the game and the homeruns. He then
started telling us stories of Pie Traynor and Ralph Kiner and the legends of his era. It was a
ride home that Iâ€™ll never forget. But boy was I glad that I didnâ€™t have to go home to