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In Pittsburgh sports lore history, many extraordinary events have contributed to the city's sports franchises winning — and almost winning — titles.


Mazeroski's Home Run

The portion of the left-field wall that Mazeroski's home run cleared at Forbes Field still stands today as an historical landmark, along with a portion of the center-field wall and the flagpole (pictured).

Mazeroski's Home Run was the home run hit by Pirate second baseman, Bill Mazeroski, in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees, played on October 13, 1960. It gave the Pirates a 10–9 victory, their first World Series title in 35 years, and was the first home run to end a World Series.


The play

In the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, the Pirates and Yankees were locked in a "teeter-totter battle" that had settled into a 9–9 tie going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry faced the Pirates' lead-off batter for the inning, Bill Mazeroski. With the count one ball, zero strikes, Mazeroski hit a line drive toward deep left field that cleared the wall for a solo home run[1].


  • Since Mazeroski's home run in 1960, only Joe Carter has repeated the feat of ending the World Series with a home run, hitting one for the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series. However, Mazeroski's remains the only walk-off Series-winning home run to come in the deciding Game 7.
  • The home run completed an improbable victory for Pittsburgh, whose three losses to New York were by scores of 16–3, 10–0 and 12–0. In total, the Pirates were outscored 55–27 in the series, and their biggest margin of victory was 3 runs: a 5–2 victory in Game 5.

Immaculate Reception

In the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Oakland Raiders, The Steelers found themselves trailing in the score, "4th and long," 60 yards from the end zone, and down to their last play. A desperation pass, actually intended for Steelers other running back, John "Frenchy" Fuqua, ricocheted to rookie Running Back Franco Harris, who made an incredible, "shoe-string" catch and ran the ball in for the winning touchdown. The play, soon dubbed the Immaculate Reception, became one of the most famous and controversial plays in the history of sports.

The Comeback I

Facing elimination in the "Fall Classic" and led by the 1978 NL Comeback Player of the Year recipient, Willie Stargell, the Pirates rallied from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to claim their fifth overall World Series title and second within the decade of the 1970s.


  • Both of the Pirates' World Series victories in the 1970s came against the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Only six teams have won a World Series title after facing elimination going into Game 5, and two of those teams were the Pirates. The first Pirate (and major league) team to have accomplished this feat was in 1925.
  • The team became known as the "We Are Family Pirates" after adopting the Sister Sledge hit as their theme song.

The Save I

Pittsburgh Penguins backup goalie Frank Pietrangelo made an incredible diving glove save against Peter Stastny, who was shooting toward an open net, in the first period of Game 6 of a first-round playoff series at New Jersey during the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pietrangelo's stop helped the Penguins to a 4–3 win and forced a seventh game, where he proceeded to shut out the Devils 4–0. Although shortly thereafter Pietrangelo relinquished the starting goalie job to Tom Barrasso, the Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup[2].

The Heartbreaker

In the 1992 National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Pirates (who had "three-peated" as division champs) faced the Atlanta Braves in a rematch of the previous year's NLCS. The Game 7 series decider, held on Wednesday October 14, was its most memorable contest. The Pirates' Doug Drabek pitched masterfully for the first eight innings, holding the Braves scoreless. His only real scare came in the sixth, when the Braves loaded the bases with none out. But Jeff Blauser lined into a double-play and Terry Pendleton struck out to end the inning. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh wasn't doing much with Atlanta starter John Smoltz, but they did manage single tallies in the first on an Orlando Merced sacrifice fly and in the sixth on an RBI single by Andy Van Slyke.

The Play

The Pirates took the 2–0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when their season imploded. Drabek allowed an inning-opening double to Pendleton. In what would prove to be a crucial play, normally sure-handed second baseman Jose Lind then booted David Justice's easy grounder. A walk to Sid Bream loaded the bases, and Stan Belinda replaced Drabek. Ron Gant then plated one run with a sacrifice fly to make it 2–1, and Damon Berryhill walked to reload the bases. Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter popped up to second base with nobody scoring, and it looked like Pittsburgh might escape. But pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera singled to left to score Justice and — just ahead of Barry Bonds' throw — Bream. The Braves piled onto Bream at the plate, the stadium erupted, and Atlanta went back to the World Series. The Pirates, meanwhile, have not made the playoffs or posted a winning season record since.

Announcer Reactions

"Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!" - Skip Caray's call of Francisco Cabrera's game-winning hit in Game 7.
"Line drive and a base hit. Justice has scored the tying run. Bream to the plate...and he is safe, safe at the plate! The Braves go to the World Series!" - Sean McDonough's call of Francisco Cabrera's game-winning hit in Game 7.


  • Sid Bream played for Pittsburgh from 1985 to 1990.
  • The Pirates had found themselves in a familiar situation during the 1992 NLCS: down 3-games-to-1 and facing elimination going into Game 5. In fact, they had come within one out of re-accomplishing the feats of the 1925 and 1979 Pirates in overcoming such a deficit in post-season play (albeit this time in the NLCS rather than the World Series).

The Immaculate Deflection

Trailing by four points (20–16) and with five seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game, the Indianapolis Colts needed to score a touchdown to defeat the Steelers, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XXX. With the ball at the Steelers' 29 yard line, Colts QB Jim Harbaugh lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone. The pass seemingly hung in the air forever, and was batted down by Steelers defensive back Myron Bell. However, the ball was knocked straight down onto the stomach of fallen Colts WR Aaron Bailey. On the television camera feed, the view of the ball was lost for a split second, after which Bailey had possession of the ball. The Colts immediately began signalling touchdown, and the Steelers defensive backs vehemently signaled incomplete. The back judge, however, ruled that the ball hit the ground, and after a lengthy discussion, the referee declared the pass to be incomplete.

The Comeback II

(January 5, 2003, Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC Wild Card Playoff Game)

Trailing by 17 points, a 24–7 disadvantage with 19 minutes left to play, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Quarterback Tommy Maddox rallied the Steelers, scoring three passing touchdowns in four offensive drives. The Browns managed to score 9 points in the 4th quarter keeping them in the lead (33–28) until a 61-yard drive, culminating in a 3 yard rushing touchdown and a successful two point conversion by the Steelers. At 36–33, with 54 seconds left in regulation, it was the first time in the game that the Steelers had been leading on the scoreboard. The Browns failed to answer back in their final drive, ending the game in one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history.

Immaculate Redemption/The Tackle/Immaculate Reaction

See also: National Football League lore

The Immaculate Redemption (also known as The Tackle) refers to an event that occurred on January 15, 2006 during the AFC Divisional Round between the Steelers and the heavily-favored Indianapolis Colts. Clinging to a 3-point lead, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle against Colts cornerback Nick Harper, who nearly returned a fumble by running back Jerome Bettis for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Tackle

With 1:20 remaining in the game, Pittsburgh's Joey Porter sacked Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on fourth down at Indianapolis's 2-yard line. The Steelers, leading 21–18, appeared to have clinched victory as the Colts turned the ball over to them on downs. Since the Colts had all three of their timeouts, the Steelers were forced to try for a two yard touchdown; they would be unable to run the clock out by simply kneeling on the ball.

On first and goal, Pittsburgh veteran running back Jerome Bettis (who hadn't fumbled throughout the 2005 NFL season) spun to his left near the goal line with the ball cradled in his left arm. Colts linebacker Gary Brackett put his helmet squarely on the ball, and it popped out of Bettis's arm, back behind the line of scrimmage. Immediately, Colts cornerback Nick Harper picked up the ball and headed for the Steelers' end zone with several blockers around him. It very much appeared as if Harper would take the football all of the way for a go-ahead, possible game-winning touchdown, with precious little time left. As Harper was running down the field, Roethlisberger, who had been turned completely around several times desperately trying to stay in front of the speedy Harper, managed to get a hold of Harper's right shin by diving in a backwards twisting motion, and make a shoestring tackle to bring him down at the Colts' 42-yard line.

The tackle would later prove to be the play of the season, as afterwards the Colts, while denied a touchdown return, tried to drive down the field in an attempt to score a touchdown. On 2nd and 3rd and 1, the Colts took deep shots down the left sideline to Reggie Wayne. Both passes were blocked by rookie Bryant McFadden. This playcalling was questioned as a simple running play could have extended the drive. But the Colts were eventually forced into a potential game-tying 46-yard field goal attempt. However, kicker Mike Vanderjagt (the most accurate kicker in NFL history[3]) missed it terribly wide-right and the Steelers held on to win 21–18. Vanderjagt's miss was his last attempt in a Colts uniform. He would sign with Dallas after the season ended.

Vanderjagt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the kick because he removed his helmet and slammed it to the RCA Dome turf.

Fueled by this play, the Steelers traveled to Denver and dominated the Denver Broncos in a 34–17 upset a week later in the AFC Championship Game, then defeated the Seattle Seahawks 21–10 on February 5, 2006 in Super Bowl XL to claim their first NFL title in twenty-six years.


  • The "Immaculate Redemption" would never have occurred if the referees had not mistakenly overturned a call by taking an interception away from Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, allowing the Colts the opportunity to cut the deficit to three points[4]. The reason being that a failed Colts challenge would have cost them a timeout. The Steelers would have been able to run out almost all of the clock at the goal-line, with the Colts only having 2 time-outs. The Steelers held a 21–10 lead at that time, and an interception would have given the Steelers the ball back, likely clinching the game. Alternatively, the whole goal-line scenario may not have happened after the interception.
  • If Harper had scored and ended Pittsburgh's season, it would have created a bitter ending to the career of Jerome Bettis, who would have been blamed with costing Pittsburgh the win with his fumble. Instead, Pittsburgh won and Bettis got to later return to his hometown, Detroit, and win his lone championship ring before retiring. Bettis did, however, state that if Pittsburgh lost the Super Bowl or did not reach it that he may have returned for one last season.
  • After Roethlisberger's tackle, the game was saved a second time by cornerback Bryant McFadden. On 2nd and 2 from the Pittsburgh 29, Colts QB Peyton Manning fired to the corner of the endzone, looking for star receiver Reggie Wayne. McFadden matched Wayne stride for stride into the endzone and just as Wayne appeared to make the catch, McFadden got an arm between Wayne's arms and knocked the ball free. As it hovered in the air, both Wayne and McFadden dove for the ball, as McFadden foiled two subsequent attempts by Wayne to catch the tipped ball as they went to the ground.


  • Harper's wife, Daniell, had been arrested the night before the game after slicing his knee during an argument. The injury required three stitches but did not prevent him from playing the next day[5].

The Interception/Immaculate Interception

With 18 seconds left in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals were on the Steelers' 2 yard line and threatened to take a 14-10 lead into halftime. The Cardinals sent receiver Anquan Boldin on a quick slant route and Larry Fitzgerald on a quick post route, hoping to shake a defender and allow a quick scoring pass. Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner's pre-snap read was an all-out blitz by its linebackers and defensive line. In order to avoid the impending pass rush, Warner threw the ball to Boldin. However, outside linebacker James Harrison had in fact faked the blitz and dropped back into coverage, right in the passing lane to Boldin. Harrison intercepted the ball on the goal line and started to return the pick. After almost running into fellow Steeler Deshea Townsend, Harrison darted down the sidelines, following his blockers and hurdling Cardinals players down to the goal line. Fitzgerald, after bumping into teammate Antrel Rolle who had wandered from the sidelines onto the field of play, still caught up to Harrison on the Cardinals' 5 yard line. He and fellow Cardinal Steve Breaston grabbed Harrison but were unable to bring him down before he scored on the longest play in Super Bowl history--a 100 yard interception return as the clock ticked down to zero. Harrison, exhausted, lay on the ground for a while before getting up. The play ultimately was a 14-point swing, allowing the Steelers to go to the locker room up 17-7.

The Catch (The Tampa Toe-chdown)

In the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, the Arizona Cardinals stormed back from a 20-7 deficit to take a 23-20 lead on two touchdowns by All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald as well as a safety caused by a holding penalty against the Steelers in their own endzone. Trailing for the first time in the game, Pittsburgh then marched down the field in impressive fashion to set up a potential go-ahead touchdown with less than one minute remaining. On second-and-goal from the Arizona 6 yard line, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw high to the right corner of the endzone where receiver Santonio Holmes made an incredible diving catch on his toes and miraculously kept both feet in bounds while maintaining control of the ball. The Steelers went ahead 27-23 and proceeded to win their record sixth NFL title.

Notes and references


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