Big Lead Sports Bar


27 years of Pirates vs. Steelers


This story has reached 102.5 WDVE in Pittsburgh, and I just received a personal invite from morning show host Randy Baumann to join them on-air to discuss all things Mondesi. This is the top-rated morning show in Pittsburgh, so I am honored to appear. I will be in studio this Monday, July 31, at 9:40 AM, so hopefully some of the Mondesi Nation can tune in. They do have streaming audio, so you out of towners can listen as well. Click the DVE link below for their website.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Mondesi article:

1979 was the magical year that gave our city the title of "City of Champions". The Pirates win the World Series. The Steelers win the Super Bowl. Even though I was only 2, it was awesome.

I'm willing to wager that more than a few Iron Citys were cracked after this shot was taken

27 years later, the Steelers have gone in one direction, the Pirates the total opposite. What happened? We investigate with a year-by-year breakdown of key moves.


Steelers follow second straight Super Bowl win in January by drafting Tunch and Wolf in consecutive rounds, thus locking in radio broadcasters for life. The downside is a Super Bowl letdown, going 9-7 and killing all hopes of an unprecedented three straight titles.

The 1980 Steelers draft: a goldmine for Fox Sports Pittsburgh

Pirates drop to 83-79, with a 3rd place finish. Willie Stargell plays in just 67 games. After the season, Dave Littlefield's forefathers send Bert Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen to Cleveland for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Rafael Vasquez, and Bob Owchinko.

Bert Blyleven with a very young Jack Wilson


The final seasons for half of the Steel Curtain front four: Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood. The mighty Steelers fall to an 8-8 mark. Young Yinzers hold out hope that they will catch Mean Joe's last jersey.

Can I have your $10,000 game used jersey for this .25 bottle of Coke?

The Pirates really start the fall, going 46-56 in a year shortened by, get this, labor problems. Pops plays in only 38 games this season. Also noteworthy was a new 24-year-old backstop by the name of Antonio Francisco Pena Padilla

They were sure able to cram a lot of black and gold on The Toner


This strike-shortened season was the last chance to see future Governor Swann and Jack Ham in the black and gold. The draft landed them Walter Abercrombie, who would later team up with NBA coach Bill Fitch and develop fame and fortune as the owners of a clothing chain for uppity college kids.

Walter wasn't #92, was he?

The Pirates rebound to an 84-win campaign. Willie Stargell ends his 21-year career just 25 home runs short of 500. Unlike Fred McGriff, a similar slugger who ended his career with 493 home runs, Stargell chooses not to endorse Tom Emanski's AAU-inspired videos.

A copy of this video was recently purchased by a D. Littlefield, Pittsburgh, PA.


The Steelers make a Littlefield-esque pass on Dan Marino in favor of
Gabe Rivera, who would later become a parapalegic as a result of a car accident in the North Hills. Ironic that they would pass on Marino considering a certain Fox commentator would hang em up after 1983. '83 was also the end of Franco Harrah's in a Steeler uniform. Through all the ups and downs of the season, they managed to go 10-6, but were trounced by the Oakland/LA/Oakland Raiders in the 1st round.

It was a scratch! No pick! No pick!

The Pirates win 84 games yet again, but can only muster a second place finish to historical baseball power Philadelphia. The staff is energized by 22-year-old Lee Tunnell.
Imagine a more intimidating Roger Clemens, and you have Lee Tunnell


The Steelers draft the best-named receiving duo of all time, Louis Lipps & Weegie Thompson. Franco Harris takes no cues from his Super Steeler teammates and decides instead to embarrass himself for one final season as a Seahawk. A mediocre 9-7 regular season gets them into the postseason party, but a Pittsburgh kid who wore #13 derailed their Super Bowl dreams in the AFC Championship.

The most disappointing Happy Meal prize of all time

The Pirates take a major step backwards, dropping to 75 wins and losing 500,000 in attendance in the process, down to an amazingly low 775,000. Proving Donruss wrong, Rated Rookie Doug Frobel hits just .203.

Hopefully you weren't planning your retirement on a stack of these


The Steelers are just about out of Super Bowl vets, and their horrible drafts have yielded few reinforcements. A 7-9 season follows. Hatred of Mark Malone proves Steeler fans still have pulses.
He wore #16, but Joe Montana he was not

Pirates drop to a 57-104 record, attendance hits 735,000, and to top it off, they host the
Pittsburgh Drug Trials. I would probably nominate this as "rock bottom".
Dale, you still have a little white on your mustache

They somewhat redeemed themselves in the draft that year:


The Steelers decide to address the hole at QB. Unfortunately, they pick a year when the top QBs are Chuck Long, Jack Trudeau, Hugh Millen, and a kid from Louisiana named Bubby. This translates to a 6-10 season.

No collection is complete without a Bubby Brister Denver teddy bear

The Pirates hire a chain-smoking motivator named Jim Leyland, they manage not to lose 100 or host any drug trials, and attendance actually passes 1 million for the season. The most important news? Barry officially arrives.

Jim Leyland managed here so long ago, color wasn't even invented yet


A fruitful draft yields the owner of a failed restaurant venture, a guy who wore a t-shirt that read "Real Men are Black", and a future ESPN analyst. You may know them as Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, and Merril Hoge. They also drafted Hardy Nickerson.

Hoge struts his stuff after Earnest Jackson steals his clothes

The Pirates are moving back towards respectability, winning 80 games behind new acquisitions such as Doug Drabek, Bobby Bonilla, and a rebuilt outfield of Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, and R.J. Reynolds. The same R.J. Reynolds that Bonds would later toss a
hot pizza on the head of during a team flight (Ron Cook's article says a slice, but the author of the Bonds book claims it was an entire pizza).

R.J. Reynolds' headgear for the flight


One era ends (Mike Webster), another begins (Demontti Dawson). Unfortunately, 1988 doesn't rekindle a winning era, as Team Noll manages a meager five wins.

Dawson, although an excellent pro, never got his own commemorative envelope.

The Pirates make the jump back over .500, but fall short to the 100 win Muckin Fets. The best news? It's Chico Lind time.
I spent many an afternoon searching through the shelves of Hill's Department Store in search of this


The Steelers Littlefielded two first round picks on Tim Worley and Tom Ricketts. They somehow redeemed themselves with two future Pro Bowlers in Carnell Lake and Carlton Haselrig. Lost a heartbreaker in the 2nd round of the playoffs versus Denver.

The Ricketts signature alone justifies the $4,000 price tag of this jacket.

The Pirates take a puzzling step back to 74 wins, and lose another half million fans in the process. Barry bats just .248 with 19 HR. Balco is just a dream at this point.
You may be hitting 19 homers this season, but take this and you'll top 70!


Quite a strong draft by the Black and Gold. Eric Green, Barry Foster, Neil O'Donnell, AND Justin Strzelcyzk. My favorite Strzelczyk moment wasn't even on the field. It was at a bar called Sanctuary in Pittsburgh, famous for a very strict dress code, when he rolled right through the slabs of meat with mittens guarding the door in a cut-off t-shirt and torn jeans.

Certainly eligible for Athlete Beard Hall of Fame status

The PIrates long journey back to the playoffs is complete: 95 wins, besting the Fets by 4 games. Bonds drops 33 dingers and a .301 average to go along with 114 RBI and 52 steals. But this was the year of the Nasty Boys.
It's hard to stomach an NLCS loss. Even harder when you lose to him.


For Chuck Noll's final season, he decides to try and draft he worst player possible. He succeeds. Steeler Nation welcomes
Huey Richardson. Thanks for the memories, Emporer.

Notice the confused look on young Huey's face

The Pirates win 98, and top 2nd place St. Louis by a whopping 14 games. We begin a torrid two year affair of being tortured by Atlanta in the NLCS.
You may have Pujols now, St. Louis, but we owned you in 1991. And it was one of your own that helped bury you.

Steelers welcome new head coach/Craftonite Bill Cowher. His first three picks: Leon Searcy, Levon Kirkland, Joel Steed. Signed WR Yancey Thigpen as a free agent. I think we're going to like this guy. 11 wins and a playoff appearance as a novice.

This game simulates the life of a coach so well, it even wakes you up in the middle of the night to tell you Santonio Holmes has been arrested again

Here is the picture worth 1,000,000 words to sum up 1992 for the Pirates


Steelers draft Deon "Seven" Figures, Chad Brown, Andre Hastings, Jeff Zgonina, and Alex Van Pelt... another strong draft for Mr. Bill. He was upended by an aging former Ringgold Ram in the first round of the playoffs.

The Joe Montana Ringgold commemorative helmet, from every possible angle.

The Pirates begin the slide they still reside in all these years later. Barry walked to San Fran with nothing in return. An outfield anchored by Bonds and Van Slyke was suddenly manned by Al Martin, Orlando Merced, and Dave Clark. Doug Drabek pulled a Clemens and was pitching for Houston. Jose Lind was traded to the Royals for the immortal Dennis Moeller and Joel Johnston. They even got rid of Spanky LaValliere! We also sign a new GM by the moniker of Cam Bonifay.
We still love ya, Spanky


A third strong Cowher draft yields Charles Johnson, Brentson Buckner, Jason Gildon, Bam Morris, Boo Bell. The momentum of 12 regular season wins is derailed by a San Diego team that would represent the AFC in Super Bowl 29. A San Diego team that lost the Super Bowl by 23.

Nothing says class like celebrating on top of your opponent

The Pirates host the All Star Game, and provide one rep, 2B Carlos Garcia, who played in all of 98 games that year. The final year for Andy Van Slyke in a Pirate uniform. The winds of change were upon us.
Where have you gone, Andy Van Slyke?


Steelers advance to Super Bowl 30 but lose to Dallas on two key interceptions. Also, the year that the Kordell Era officially begins.

Kordell, before we all hated him

The Pirates see how low they can fall, and manage to win just 58 games. Check out this starting lineup: Mark Parent, Mark Johnson, Carlos Garcia, Jeff King, Jay Bell, Al Martin, Orlando Merced, and Jacob Brumfield. Yikes and gadzooks.
Mark Johnson's .208 average was a breath of fresh air for a struggling young team


Dave Littlefield makes his final trade as GM of the St. Louis Rams, trading the Steelers future Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis in exchange for 2 NFL-ready World League players.

Bettis throwing out the first pitch for the Pirates' AA team. After successfully delivering the pitch, he becomes the first pitcher to wear a Curve uniform and not blow out his arm.

1996 was the end of one era (Leyland) and the beginning of another (McClatchy). 73 wins, last in the league in attendance. Looks the same to me. No, wait. We signed Mike Kingery.
Kingery's 3 HR in 1996 inspired 0 GMs to sign him in 1997


The Steelers draft Chad Scott out of the X-Men Academy (if any of you have a picture of him wearing that X Jersey at training camp and would like to share, there's a free plug waiting!) and also pick future Patriot Mike Vrabel. Coach Bill experiences AFC Championship Heartbreak #2.0 to a large-toothed former Colt draftee.
Seperated at birth? Chad would tell you YES!

The "Freak Show" Pirates have their best season since 1992, winning 79 games with a modicum of excitement, including the no-hitter that they couldn't score any runs in, thus needing a walk-off, extra innings HR to win.
Type "Freak Show" into Google Images, and this is what you get. It's not quite Greg Brown, but it'll have to do.


The Steelers heist Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Deshea Townsend, and Chris Fumatu Maafala from the rest of the league. The Kordell Era is in full destruction mode. A top-10 draft pick awaits in 1999.

I think a Chuck E. Cheese token has more value than this coin

The Buccos take another step back, winning just 69 games. Of course, that's about right for a lineup featuring Turner Ward, Kevin Polcovich, and Jermaine Allensworth on a regular basis.


The Steelers are spinning out of control. Rumors are rampant that Kordell digs dudes. A 6-10 year is only saved by the fact that we pick high in 2000 and we get a psychotic linebacker from Colorado State.
Some call this picture artistic. I think they couldn't fit his head in the shot.

Building the momentum for PNC Park's opening in two years, the Succos sign Pat Meares for $15 million over 4 years, and Kevin Young to a 4-year, $24 million contract. They do find the proverbial needle in the haystack by somehow stealing Brian Giles away from the Indians. KY, after one of his many disappointing at-bats


The good news: the Steelers draft a National Championship QB. The bad news: it was Tee Martin. They also picked up a No-Catchico and a Mean Kimo among others.

One more championship than anyone named Manning

The Pirates sign Jason Kendall to 6-year, $60 million contract with more of their PNC Park Monopoly Money. He only had 31 career homers to this point, so he must have had a very good agent. The Pirates' last season in Three Rivers (you know, the season to build momentum for PNC) results in a 69-93 mark.

Kevin McClatchy, circa 2000


What started as a rebuilding year for the Steelers quickly turned around with promising rookies Casey Hampton and Kendrell Bell and free agent Jeff Hartings. The Steelers advanced to the AFC Championship, failing for a third time in the Cowhera (that's not a typo; think of it as two words, merged into one). But the biggest news of 2001 was the signing of the reigning XFL MVP.

These taste like the garbage dumped on Tommy Maddox's lawn

The Pirates open PNC Park with an unfathomable 100 losses. New faces this year include GM Dave Littlefield and Derek Bell. Queue the barf bag.


Steelers hit a draft bonaza of Antwaan Randle El, Kendall Simmons, Chris Hope, Larry Foote, Verron Haynes, AND Brett Keisel. They also sign James Farrior. Unfortunately, they blow a big lead and tie Ron Mexico's Falcons, so we get to remember that game every time we see their 10-5-1 record from this season.
Ron Mexico: the Rollie Fingers of the NFC South

The Pirates, as only they could do, top the 100 loss season by raising ticket prices. However, they delivered on their promised improvement from 2001. They only lost 89 games.


The bad news: Cowher completely whiffs on 2nd round pick Alonzo Jackson, and the Steelers win only 6 games. The good news: Cowher strikes gold with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor. The incredibly good news: Kordell Stewart is no longer a Steeler.
Alonzo Jackson, proving Bill Cowher is not perfect

The Pirates trade Aramis Ramirez for Bobby Hill, and lose Chris Shelton in the
Rule 5 draft. 87 losses. This train is out of control. The Brian Giles good luck trade charm works again, snagging Jason Bay and Oliver Perez in exchange for The Shaven One.


Ben Roethlisberger falls into the Steelers' lap, and he promptly leads the team to a 15-1 record, becoming the greatest quarterback in the history of mankind. The only way he could top this would be to win a Super Bowl next season.
Big Ben caught robbing Steve McNair's locker

The Pirates sign Raul Mondesi, inspiring at least one future blogger. We also get to enjoy the hijinks of Ty "Nothing Hurts Steel" Wigginton on a regular basis.

I can't believe the Mets would give up Wigginton, but not David Wright


Steelers prove their dominance of the NFL and win the Super Bowl
This one's for you, Bussie

Pirates prove their consistency and lose 95.


Steelers look to defend Super Bowl title after losing Jerome Bettis, the accident of Big Ben, and the drafting of the One Man Crime Spree.
Holmes later switched to the cursed #10 of Kordell Stewart

The Pirates hosted the All Star Game while sporting a 30-60 record. The nearly $20 million spent on Jeromy Burnitz, Joe Randa, and Sean Casey looks like a bad idea. The young pitching has been awful. There is no timely hitting. Chris Duffy went AWOL. The season is a disaster. Or, as Jim Tracy would say, "At least we haven't given up."


Anonymous said...

You have a ridiculous amount of free time on your hands.... want to trade lives?

Anonymous said...

Genius, sheer genius.

(prostrates self on floor)

We are not worthy.

mondesishouse said...

Wes, not nearly as much free time as you would think. I was actually up past 3 AM putting the finishing touches on this one last night for my loyal readers who were STARVING for some content!

Unknown said...


I think in light of recent events that you should do an in-depth retrospective into the Barry Bonds R.J. Reynolds pizza incident. That was just too funny!

Anonymous said...

Bravo, you said you were working hard and it shows on this one. A trip down yesteryear lane, the good and the bad.

Anonymous said...

you just chronicled the ups and downs of my childhood sport-watching existence on one page! Did you have to mention the disappointment of the Pirates/Braves in the early 90's? Damn you, Sid Bream! I'm still not over it! We had tix to the world series that year! oh, the horror! (at least Big Ben is better...)

bizzo5000 said...

Simply outstanding. Kudos and huzzah!

Anonymous said...

Excellent work dude, I can't see that Brave pic without growing ill.

Adding insult to injury, you might also remember that the night of the Cordova/Rincon no-no, highlights or Roger Clemen's return to Fenway as a Blue Jay led Sporscenter.

Yes, I'm still bitter.

Justin Robert Young

Anonymous said...

I don't even care about either team, but this was hilarious. nice work. Please explain Franco "Harrah's" to us non-elightened souls. Did Franco enjoy the green felt of Vegas a little too much?
--Big Tone

p.s. look on the bright side of Mondesi: he singlehandedly derailed the Yankees one playoff season by consistently swinging two inches above the ball, when he wasn't busy hitting ground balls into double plays that he didn't run out with any hustle at all.

Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan said...

Wow great read. Nothing like slacking at work and learning about the Pirates/Steelers history dating back to when I was born.

Anonymous said...

To hell what the rest of these guys are saying. Witty commentary on the fall of a once great franchise.

Anonymous said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

Hey Raul,
Blyleven is the main reason the '80 Bucs fell so far back. He went AWOL because he wanted to pitch every fourth game, not every fifth game. (He was thinking about his Hall of Fame chances even back them - really) He made some very rude comments about the other weak armed starters the Pirates had. And even Chuck Tanner publicly admitted he hated Blyleven. I used to sit down the behind the visiting team's dugout at Three Rivers and watch the fans scream over at Bert and the obscene gestures he would give back to them. I hope to hell he never gets in the Hall.

Keep up the good work

mondesishouse said...

Big Tone,

To explain "Franco Harrah's":

Pittsburgh is right now in the middle of a very controversial slots licensing process.

The Isle of Capri Casino has pledged to build the Pittsburgh Penguins a new $290 million arena that they will GIVE to the city if they receive the license.

Unfortunately, our Governor has publicly aligned himself with the Harrah's Casino proposal in the form of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Harrah's has no such proposal for a free arena.

Harrah's has retained Franco as a PR shill for their plan. Franco has had the nerve to publicly speak out AGAINST the Penguins on behalf of Harrah's, saying on several occasions that they have California-based ownership--A blatant slap in the face to majority owner Mario Lemieux.

Basically, he looks foolish to many because he is arguing against a superior plan. I suggested to ESPN Radio Pittsburgh host and Harris critic Mark Madden the nickname of "Franco Harrah's", which he jumped on and still uses to this day.

Steven Goelz said...

Great post and congrats on the radio thing. Can Letterman be far behind?

Steeltown Mike said...

Congratulations on the DVE appearance (hope I didn't jinx you). I think you've done better than I have. I have an occasional talk show on an AM station, but you're on the #1 morning show in the 'Burgh. I think you win.

Great list. Sports history is my weakest subject. Good to learn some of this stuff in easy-to-digest fashion.

Anonymous said...

Go Duquesne, nobody cares about the pirates they only care about my legendary division one basketball career. Orlando! Orlando!

The Drink said...

Heard you on the radio.

You killed.


Anonymous said...

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Go go!

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