On one of those cable financial stations the other day, one of the talking heads was explaining the concept of “Mancations.”
“Men leave their wives home and visit another city and usually see a ballgame as part of their itinerary,” the talking head said.
Well, I’ve been doing that for a couple of years. I’ll tell you about my latest “Mancation.” Of course, we have permission from our wives, who’d rather shop in Boro Park or see people in Lakewood. We men are usually gone two nights as that gives us enough time to experience our destination.
We decided on Pittsburgh for our latest trip. It was an almost five-and-a-half hour trip from Detroit but more than worth it. Pittsburgh is a great city to visit.
We left on a Sunday morning and made it to PNC Park, the home of the Pirates, in time to see the afternoon game. The ballpark may be the nicest in the major leagues. Located just a couple of steps from the Allegheny River, PNC Park offers great views of boaters, bridges and buildings.
After the game we trekked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge (open to foot traffic only on game days) to the downtown district, which is sort of a mini-lower Manhattan. We walked pretty much in a straight line through downtown and exited on the Monongahela River side (less than a mile) and walked over the Smithfield Bridge to take a boat ride. We agreed it was like walking over a bridge from New Jersey to lower Manhattan and crossing another bridge to Brooklyn.
The one-hour sightseeing boat took us on the two aforementioned rivers as well as the Ohio River, which borders the tip of downtown and morphs into the other rivers. Pittsburgh, we were told, has over 400 bridges, the most of any city in the world.
We chose a hotel in the university district about ten minutes from downtown and ten minutes down Forbes Avenue to the Orthodox community of Squirrel Hill. There are a couple of good kosher eateries on Murray Avenue and we also sampled the shuls and kollel nearby.
While we dined on Murray Avenue, a nice fellow recognized me from my column photo and introduced himself. Jesse Salem and his Mrs., knowledgeable baseball fans, were visiting from New York, where the mister deals in home furnishings out of West 33rd street in Manhattan.
In a beautiful park-like atmosphere, surrounded by buildings that make up the University of Pittsburgh, you’ll find the outline and remnant of the outfield wall of Forbes Field, the storied old home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
PNC Park on the other side of the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh
Built in 1909 by Barney Dreyfuss, the Jewish owner of the Pirates, Hall of Famers from Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente plied their trade there. Hank Greenberg finished his career with the Pirates in 1947 and became a tutor and friend to upcoming slugger Ralph Kiner. Dreyfuss named his ballpark Forbes Field because of the famous avenue that ran from downtown past the exterior of the third base side and into Squirrel Hill.
Today, home plate of the old ballpark is embedded in the floor, covered by Plexiglass and plainly visible in the Wesley Posvar Hall of the University of Pittsburgh. A few feet away are rest rooms, drinking fountains and benches. A great place for a rest stop.
Outside the building you’ll find gardens and the actual vine-covered wall that Ralph Kiner hit balls off and over. The centerfield portion still retains its 453-foot marker and the flagpole, a few feet in front of the wall is in its original spot. Red bricks embedded in the sidewalk show the outline of the rest of the outfield wall and a plaque marks the spot where Bill Mazeroski hit his World Series ending home run in 1960 against the Yankees of Casey Stengel.