Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic pieces of Americana that we have in this country. Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore honors four of the most iconic Presidents to ever lead the United States of America.
As I was sitting in class on this fine President’s Day I began to ponder, who would be the four faces that would represent the Pittsburgh Sporting world if it was decided to carve out a Yinzer style of Mount Rushmore up on Mt. Washington?
Now picking four faces out of the storied franchises of Pittsburgh Sports was no easy feat. I mean, just think about the Steelers of the 70’s with that Steel Curtain defense and exceptional offense. You could make a few Pittsburgh Mount Rushmore’s out of those rosters alone.
So I set some guidelines to help determine who my Pittsburgh Mount Rushmore would include.
First thing I took into consideration was how many championships this person brought to Pittsburgh. There are many great players that have come through this city, but the Presidents up on Mount Rushmore didn’t get there just because they were good Presidents. They got there because they got things done. And in the sporting world, the equivalent to getting thing done, is winning championships.
The second thing I took into consideration was longevity. The type of people that should be on the Pittsburgh Mount Rushmore are the people we consider “Yinzers for life.”
The third thing that I thought of was their overall skill and if they transferred it to more than just regular season success.
Finally, the last thing that I took into consideration was something that didn’t have much to do with sports, rather what it had to do with the Pittsburgh community and southwestern Pennsylvania.
My first face on my Yinzer Mount Rushmore is the man that brought the city of Pittsburgh one of the most successful sports franchises of all time, Art “The Chief” Rooney. Rooney bought the team, then known as the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1933 for $2,500. He eventually renamed the team to the Steelers and turned the people of the Steel City into football fanatics, however it did not come easy at first.
Combined in Rooney’s first eight years as owner, the franchise was on the winning side of 24 games. However, Rooney kept his faith and in 1938, he shook up the football world by offering a then unthinkable $15,000 contract to Byron “Whizzer” White. Even though this move did not pay off for the franchise, Rooney’s competitive and innovative thinking, as we all know, would soon pay off and create one of the first great dynasties in pro football. Now, quite honestly, the whole Rooney family deserves to be on the Pittsburgh Mount Rushmore. However, I give the nod to Art considering he was the first that had the vision, and made the Pittsburgh Steelers the franchise it is today.
Second on the mountain is another person that had a major influence on the great Steelers’ dynasty. That would be 23-year Steelers head coach, Chuck Noll. Noll, who has a 209-156-1 career record as Steelers head coach, led the team to four Super Bowl victories. In fact, Noll is still the only coach to win four Super Bowls in his career, not to mention he did it in a six year span. On top of Noll success, his long tenure as Steelers head coach really comes to mind considering how a coach staying with one team is uncommon in current times. On top of the four Super Bowls, Noll led the Steelers to 15 winning seasons. Noll has no Peyton Manning effect when it comes to the playoffs either, going 16-8 in the postseason as head coach.
Third on the list is none other than “The Great One.” Roberto Clemente played all 18 seasons of his baseball career with the Pirates. In those 18 seasons, he tallied 3,000 hits, was selected to the All Star game 12 times and was named National League MVP in 1966. Clemente was a part of two of the five World Series Championships in Pirates history. Clemente was a career .317 hitter and his offensive wins above replacement was 94.3 games. To go with his stellar offense, Clemente received 12 Gold Glove Awards in his career.
Not only was Clemente a dynamo on the field, he was also a humanitarian. As we all know, Clemente suffered a tragic death when his plane carrying supplies to aid his native country Nicaragua crashed over the Atlantic Ocean. Clemente’s presence is still felt around the Pittsburgh area as you may find it challenging to take a stroll around PNC Park on a warm summer’s evening without seeing a number of No. 21 jerseys surrounding you.
The final, and most recent, person I put on my Pittsburgh Mount Rushmore is Mario Lemieux. Lemieux, who played all of his 17 seasons in the National Hockey League with the Penguins, scored 690 career goals and tallied 1,033 assists. Lemieux also was a three-time Hart Trophy winner, six time Art Ross trophy winner and received the 1990 and 1991 Conn Smythe trophy and Most Valuable Player of the NHL Playoffs. Not to mention that he led the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in those 1990 and 1991 seasons. Lemieux’s influence goes far beyond what he did as a player.
Lemieux bought the Penguins and led the franchise out of bankruptcy in 1999. Lemieux, who miraculously kept the franchise in Pittsburgh, was a huge part of rebuilding the team and gathering the immense talent that won the city a third Stanley Cup in 2009. With that Stanley Cup victory, Lemieux became the first person to have his name on the Stanley Cup as both a player and owner.
Now, as with anything else, there are quite a few snubs that some would argue deserve to be on here. And to that I say, that is very true. One could make cases for Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and the list goes on and on. There really is no wrong when you think about it. They are the reason that Pittsburgh is one of the greatest sporting cities in the world.
As for you that are thinking about Sidney Crosby, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Polamalu and so on, my answer is, wait and see. With the talent that some of the current Pittsburgh athletes possess, this Mount Rushmore could be needing some remodeling 20 years down the road.