On Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins, Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez hit a 443 shot that traveled over the right field bleachers at PNC Park and landed on the walkway. It certainly was one of the more impressive displays of power in the 11 year history of the Pirates' beautiful baseball park.
PNC Park is one of several new "old-style" baseball parks that have become the norm in MLB over the last two-decades, as the old multi-purpose "cookie-cutter" stadiums from the 70's, 80's and 90's are now mostly a thing of the past.
There is no doubt that the new baseball parks are a welcome sight. It is much more enjoyable to watch a baseball game played on grass with awesome sight-lines and a wonderful backdrop of a city's architecture as opposed to what the old cookie-cutter stadiums used to offer: artificial turf, sight-lines that weren't always so great and a sterile environment for a baseball game.
No, baseball games weren't meant to be played in that kind of stadium. And, as I said, it certainly wasn't always a great atmosphere for baseball fans. The seating-capacity was often so big for those places, if you sat in the outfield upper deck, you couldn't even see a home run if it was hit in your section of the stadium. The only thing you saw was the outfielder disappear as he ran for the ball. You had to wait for the reactions of your fellow baseball fans seated below to know whether it was a home run or not. I remember attending many Pirates games at Three Rivers Stadium in the outfield upper deck, and I might as well have been watching from the Goodyear blimp.
I do miss those old, monstrous upper decks, however, at least as a back-drop for a majestic home run.
It was rare for a baseball player to reach the upper deck in places like Three Rivers, Veterans Stadium, Olympic Stadium and the Astrodome, but when someone did, it was a memorable moment.
In the 31 year history of Three Rivers Stadium, there were only 13 home runs hit to the upper deck. It's probably not a surprise that legendary Pirates slugger Willie Stargell led the way with four such shots.
Stargell displayed his upper deck power in stadiums all around the National League in the 70's. In 1971, he hit the longest home run in the history of Veterans stadium. And in 1978, he became the first and only player to ever reach the upper deck of Olympic Stadium in Montreal.
Whenever anyone hit a shot in the upper deck at any stadium, it just seemed mythical to me. I'll never forget watching Jose Canseco's 540 foot shot that landed in the upper deck of the Toronto Skydome during the 1989 ALCS. I don't know the person who caught that ball, but I'll bet they weren't expecting to leave the stadium that night with a souvenir.
Even though I attended many games in the general admission seats at the old TRS, I was never lucky enough to be near one of those 13 majestic shots that landed in the upper deck.
The home runs in today's ball parks just don't seem as impressive to me. Don't get me wrong. When a home run bounces in the river outside of PNC or lands in the bay outside of AT&T Park in San Francisco, it is an impressive sight. But more often than not, a majestic home run hit today just disappears into the outfield seats like a golf ball hit into the Atlantic Ocean. Still a pretty awesome sight, but in my opinion, not as awesome as when the Stargells of the world would send a cannon bomb to the highest reaches of Three Rivers or its cookie-cutter contemporaries.
Anyone out there lucky enough to walk away with a home run that reached the upper deck of old Three Rivers or any of the old cookie-cutter stadiums?