Surrounded by the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, Three Rivers Stadium is a big part of Pittsburgh’s history. The stadium hosted a World Series, many All Star games, and housed the Pirates, Steelers, Pitt Panthers, and the Pittsburgh Maulers. Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970 and closed in 2001. For 31 years, it was one of the most celebrated stadiums in the country.
With that, I wanted to take a look at the top 5 games in the history of Three Rivers Stadium. Here they are:
#5 – 1995 – AFC Championship
The 1995 AFC Championship game was one of the best AFC Championships in NFL history. It pitted the Steelers against the Colts and was the first time Bill Cowher would lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Once again, the fate of the game was left in the hands of a last play, a Hail Mary attempt. The Steelers took a 20-16 lead late in the 4th quarter behind Bam Morris. The Colts fought back, though. Jim Harbaugh started on his own 16-yard line and led the Colts three fourths the way down the field before having one last chance. He dropped back and threw up a Hail Mary. While Steelers fans held waited to see their fate, Randy Fuller knocked the pass down and sent the Steelers to their first Super Bowl in 16 years.
#4 – Clemente’s 3,000th hit
Roberto Clemente was not only one of the greatest Pirates, but one of the greatest men to step into a batter’s box. On September 30th, 1972, Clemente recorded his 3,000th hit. In the bottom of the 4th, Clemente doubled and later scored the first run of the game en route to a 5-0 victory over the Mets. The hit was the last regular season at-bat of his career. He died just three months later.
#3 – 1971 World Series Game 4
On October 13th, 1971 the Pirates hosted the Baltimore Orioles in game 4 of the World Series. The game was the first ever World Series game played at night. The Orioles started hot, scoring three runs in the first inning, but never scored again. Willie Stargell and Al Oliver each added an RBI to cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the first then Milt May drove in the go-ahead run in the 7th for the victory. The Pirates won all three games at Three Rivers Stadium and won game 7 in Baltimore to win the World Series.
#2 – December 23, 1972
The 1972 AFC Divisional game featured one of the greatest plays in NFL history, the Immaculate Reception. The first half of the game was a defensive battle, right down the Steelers ally. During the 4th quarter, things heated up. Down 7-6, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw heaved a pass downfield that was intended for John “Frenchy” Fuqua. Steelers fans held their breath as the pass was deflected and landed in the hands of Franco Harris. The ball was inches from the ground when Harris snagged it and ran 42 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The play was the most disputed play of the season and no one really knew if the ball was tipped backwards by Fuqua or Jack Tatum of the Raiders. The play was upheld and the Steelers won 13-7.
#1 – 1976 AFC Championship
Known as the “Ice Bowl”, the 1976 AFC Championship game was one of the hardest hitting games played in the freezing cold, battling wind and snow. It took the entire game to decide a winner between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. The adverse weather conditions weren’t the only thing that the Steelers had to overcome. They turned the ball over eight different times. Ken Stabler led the Raiders to a touchdown, cutting the Steelers lead to just three. Jack Lambert recovered three fumbles, two in the 4th quarter, which led to two Steeler touchdowns en route to a 16-10 victory which led to their second consecutive Super Bowl title.
After Three Rivers Stadium closed, the Pirates and the Steelers went their separate ways and each got new stadiums. Three Rivers Stadium not only united the two teams for over three decades, they united the fans and the entire town of Pittsburgh. The stadium ushered in a new era for the Steelers and the Pirates both. Each team had great success in their old home and the stadium will forever be remembered as “home” for several players.
Photo Credit: www.suntala.com