July 25, 1970: "Roberto Clemente Day at Three Rivers Stadium"
Is it any wonder Pittsburgh embraced Roberto Clemente? On the field, he was a hustler, running out every grounder, mercilessly stalking any ball hit in or near right field, and that arm … holy smokes. It seemed he could make a ball ignore the laws of physics. His prowess at the plate is summed up by one statistic: 3,000 hits.
On and off the field, Clemente was dignified and often stoic, not to mention a man who knew something about commitment. “I will never wear any other uniform than a Pittsburgh uniform.” he once said.
This picture was made on a night set aside for Pittsburgh to honor Clemente. More than 43,000 fans packed Three Rivers Stadium. When Clemente stepped to the microphone, fans rose to their feet, and “for a full minute the crowd roared before it would settle back to listen,” The Pittsburgh Press reported.
Clemente got a kiss from wife Vera. Two of his sons, Roberto and Luis, stood in front. Baby Enrique was at the event but not in the photograph, although he does appear in others taken that night. At right are Clemente’s parents, Luisa and Melchor. The event raised $4,000, which Clemente donated to Children’s Hospital.
Later, he told an interviewer, “In a way, I was born twice. I was born in 1934 and again in 1955 when I came to Pittsburgh. I am thankful to say that I lived two lives.”
It’s been 40 years since Clemente boarded a DC-7 packed with earthquake relief supplies bound for a devastated Nicaragua. The overloaded plane struggled into the air over San Juan International Airport, then banked to the north and headed out over the ocean, never to be seen again.
On New Year’s Eve, the anniversary of the plane’s crash, we’ll pause for a moment and raise a glass to the man who was many things, but most of all, he was our brother.
(Photo by Ed Morgan, The Pittsburgh Press)
July 22, 1943: "A visit to Grandview Park"
This picture of the spectacular but smoky view from Grandview Park illustrated a Pittsburgh Press article headlined, “Vacationland on the Car Line.” The story highlighted places to visit “if you must spend your vacation at home … or have no vacation except a few free days.”
Grandview was one of several parks visited by reporter Gilbert Love. Standing on the park’s walkway, he saw ”the crowded slopes of the Hill District and North Side” — parts of the city that would become decidedly less crowded in the coming decades as neighborhoods were demolished to make way for the Civic Arena and Three Rivers Stadium, both of which are now gone.
"To your right," Love wrote, "the streets of the South Side make a pattern, with a very real steel mill in the background." The J&L mill shut down in the mid-1980s. Today, the site is filled with shops, apartments, restaurants, offices and movie theaters — all part of a development called SouthSide Works.
(Photo credit: Unknown)
Dec. 5, 1976: "Sunday Christmas shoppers at Kaufmann’s”
Cash registers rang out a Merry Christmas tune in the three biggest stores in the Golden Triangle on this particular Sunday. Retailers that had been banned from conducting Sunday sales for years by Pennsylvania’s Blue Laws finally opened their doors on that day to Christmas shoppers.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, stores opened for Sunday business after the state Supreme Court issued orders prohibiting prosecution of Blue Law violators “until the validity of the controversial statutes can be tested in the courts.”
Downtown streets, particularly Grant and Smithfield streets and Liberty and Sixth avenues, were jammed with cars most of the afternoon. Shoppers crowded the main sales floors of Gimbels and Kaufmann’s. And people seemed to be buying, not just looking, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
(Photo by Anthony Kaminski, The Pittsburgh Press)
1972: "Pittsburgh Press reporter Maddy Ross with a ruler measuring a pothole"
Everyone starts somewhere and Pittsburgh journalist Madelyn Ross is no exception.
In 1972 she joined The Pittsburgh Press. On Aug. 6, 1972, a version of this photograph by Press photographer Kent Badger appeared in the newspaper next to a column by William Allan, Press Features Editor.
In the photograph, Ms. Ross used a ruler to measure a pothole that was seven inches deep on River Avenue near the Seventh Street Bridge.
Mr. Allan’s bemoaned in his column that potholes, which normally bloom on Pittsburgh roads in the spring, were making life downright dangerous for motorists during that summer.
It turned out that depth was one of Madelyn Ross’s many talents. By 1983, she had risen to managing editor of The Pittsburgh Press. Then, in 1986 and 1987, The Pittsburgh Press won consecutive Pulitzer Prizes.
Ms. Ross served as managing editor of The Pittsburgh Press from 1983 to 1992. After a lengthy newspaper strike in 1992, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette purchased the Pittsburgh Press. Ms. Ross was hired as managing editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1992 and left that position in April of 2005.
Since 2005, Ms. Ross has been in charge of national media relations for the University of Pittsburgh.
(Photo by Kent Badger, Pittsburgh Press)
— Marylynne Pitz
May 28, 1974: "Steelers coach Chuck Noll and his four quarterbacks — Terry Hanratty, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Gilliam and Frank Kolch"
This picture oozes a definite ’70s vibe. It reminds us of Abba’s “Waterloo” and eight-track tapes and the TV show “Chico and the Man.” We’re still debating whether it was a good year for pop culture. For the Steelers, there’s no question: It was a great year. In January, the team pulled off its best draft ever (we got Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster, all now Hall of Famers). On the field, Coach Noll’s team won the AFC Championship and then pounded the Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX. Now, if we could just get that idiotic tune “The Streak” out of our heads …
(Photo by Ed Morgan, Pittsburgh Press)
Apr. 14, 1960: ”Mayor Barr and Gov. David Lawrence”
It was the 51st National League Opener. A warm day: 83 degrees in the sun. And 32,000 Pirates fans yelling at the big Oakland Park. Mayor Barr tossed the first ball to Smoky Burgess, catcher for the Pirates.
"Special righthander makes season’s first pitch" read the cutline under this photograph that ran in The Pittsburgh Press on the day of the season opener at Forbes Field. The Pirates were playing against the Reds. Bill Mazerowski blasted a two-run homer and the Bucs won, 13-0. Those were the glory days.
This photograph captured our eyes for several reasons, one of which, of course, is that both — Mayor Barr and Gov. David Lawrence — appear side-by-side in this image. Mayor Barr is posing for the shot, while Governor Lawrence looks up, squinting his eyes at the bright sun.
This shot was taken four months after Joseph Barr had assumed the position of Pittsburgh mayor after David Lawrence won the election for the governor.
Mr. Barr played a crucial role in accomplishing projects that his predecessor David Lawrence started. Barr oversaw the construction of the Civic Arena and the Three Rivers Stadium, worked on renovating infrastructure, water systems, street lights modernization. He promoted an image of Pittsburgh as a commercial center and led multiple progressive reforms, including ‘The Pittsburgh Package,’ the legislation that catalyzed city’s Great Renaissance.
Joseph Barr died in 1982.
Dec. 24, 1917: ”Christmas Eve streetcar tragedy”
You’d think the conductor and motorman on trolley car 4236 would be civil to each other on Christmas Eve. But here they are, arguing hotly on a car packed with more than 100 people headed Downtown to do a bit of last-minute shopping. Beatrice Hawk hears the argument. The conductor even yells at the passengers, telling them not to block the doors. So much for Christmas spirit. Miss Hawk sees the motorman angrily push a control lever and suddenly the car lurches forward.
Something goes wrong shortly after the trolley enters the Mt. Washington tunnel. Miss Hawk can sense it. The car is dashing down the tunnel’s steep grade, picking up speed at an abnormal rate. Passengers see the motorman feverishly apply the brakes, but to no avail.
At the north end of the tunnel, near Carson and Smithfield streets, people wait on a station platform. Many are mothers and their children, headed Downtown to see Santa Claus at one of the big department stores.
On trolley car 4236, the lights go out. Passengers panic. Screams fill the air. The trolley careens out of control.
Those waiting on the platform have no time to react. The car hurtles out of the tunnel, jumps the tracks and overturns. It continues along on its side and tears through the packed platform. The car strikes a telegraph pole, which rips off the trolley’s roof, and finally comes to rest on Smithfield Street, just past Carson.
Twenty-three people die in the crash. Eighty are injured. It remains our city’s worst mass transit accident. Miss Hawk survives, though she is hospitalized after being trampled by panicked passengers escaping the wrecked car. Authorities charge the motorman with manslaughter.
In the 95 years since this picture was taken, change has come to the intersection of Carson and Smithfield streets. The confectionery is gone, as are the cobblestone streets, but the large brick building and the entrance to the Smithfield Bridge remain much as they were. It is a familiar place to us at the Digs. Since discovering this photograph in our files, and learning of the tragic story it tells, we’ve been unable to travel past the intersection without being moved by the pain and devastation that once visited a place we know so well.
(Photo credit: Unknown)
1957: "Parkway and Blast Furnaces"
This iconic image by Clyde “Red” Hare, a legendary photographer who documented Pittsburgh for more than 50 years, captures an industrial scene from 1957: the massive bulk of the blast furnaces, the smoggy sky and cars motoring along the Parkway East.
Mr. Hare came to Pittsburgh in 1950 to work for the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, and stayed to create indelible images of the city following change over more than half a century.
His eye for nuance and his artistic sense of perspective earned Mr. Hare international recognition and the respect of his colleagues. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff photographer Bob Donaldson said Mr. Hare “was on the ground floor of grand central photojournalism.” Hare’s work appeared in National Geographic, Life Magazine and other prestigious publications.
Of his own work, Mr. Hare said, “I made up my mind to take one great photograph each day, one that would live, would be simple, would have something to say.”
(Photo by Clyde Hare, Post-Gazette)
Circa 1940s: "Pittsburgh Courier correspondent Frank E. Bolden"
This photograph of Pittsburgh journalist Frank E. Bolden shows him during the prime of his career.
He traveled the world as a World War II correspondent. In 1944, he wrote about brave black soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division in Italy, debunking the claim that African-Americans would flee from combat.
Next, it was on to the China-Burma-India theater to document the black engineering troops who built an airstrip and gave their lives in the construction of the Burma Road.
Later, Mr. Bolden interviewed Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, Madam and General Chiang Kai-shek, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
After the war, Mr. Bolden returned to The Pittsburgh Courier, turning down job offers from The New York Times and Life Magazine. The Pittsburgh Courier, he said, had made him.
In the early 1960s, when The Pittsburgh Courier ran into financial trouble, Mr. Bolden worked for The New York Times and later for NBC-TV’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”
At the Republican National Convention of 1964, Mr. Bolden tipped a black bell hop to lead him to Barry Goldwater’s hotel room. He interviewed Mr. Goldwater while sitting on the edge of a bathtub.
A gifted reporter and raconteur, Mr. Bolden died at age 90 in 2003.
(Photo credit: Unknown)
Aug. 16, 1961: "Steelerettes — the Steelers’ hard-hatted cheerleaders"
Before the Terrible Towel and that ever-present chant “Here we go Steelers, here we go,” we had the Steelerettes to whip up enthusiasm for our favorite NFL team. It was a tall order — the Steelers of 50 years ago were perennial losers. Heck, even selling tickets was tough.
The Steelerettes were formed in 1961, making them the NLF’s first cheerleading squad. Members were “secretarial science” students at what was then called Robert Morris School of Business. And the look? Let’s just say it was conservative by today’s standards. Steelerettes of the early 1960s wore gold knee-length bibbed jumpers and hardhats. Even their grandmothers could approve.
The Steelerettes cheered until 1970, when Art Rooney Sr. ordered them gone. In a Post-Gazette interview several years ago, Art Rooney Jr. said his dad ”never did like that stuff.” And so the young women who cheered a losing team through many lean years missed the glory days that were so soon to come.
(Photo by Morris Berman, Post-Gazette)
Dec. 8, 1941: "Young men volunteer for Army Air Corps after Pearl Harbor attack"
Pittsburgh was “coming to a slow boil” one day after Japanese fighter planes attacked Pearl Harbor, the Post-Gazette reported. Streets in the Golden Triangle were packed with Christmas shoppers still recovering from the shock of the news they’d received the previous day.
People gathered around radios in offices, hotel lobbies, theater foyers and bars as President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. Hundreds line up on Diamond Street, where a public address system piped out Roosevelt’s historic statement, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy … ” School children listening to the speech elsewhere in the city applauded, but this crowd listened grimly.
Eager, patriotic young men lined up at Army, Navy and Marine recruiting stations on Smithfield Street. A Post-Gazette reporter heard them ask, “How soon can we leave?”
A note on the back of this print states it was made at an Army Air Corps recruiting station. We at the Digs studied the image for some time and wondered about the eventual fate of these volunteers.
(Photo credit: Unknown)
June 20, 1958: "Crowd lines up at Loew’s Penn Theatre"
Our first question when we found this picture was, “Why are so many people lined up outside the Loew’s Penn Theatre?” We checked our microfilm but found no evidence the image was published, so we can only guess the throng is waiting to see the movie advertised on the marquee: “High School Confidential!” The film opened on Friday, June 20, 1958 — the date, written in pencil, is the only information on the back of the print.
"High School Confidential!" is a teen flick with lots of 1950s slang and a great opening sequence in which Jerry Lee Lewis, sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, pounds out the movie’s theme song while cruising through a leafy suburb.
Loew’s Penn Theatre opened in 1927 and, like many film palaces built in that era, fell on hard times in the 1960s. It closed in 1964 and was doomed for demolition (to be replaced by a parking lot, of course) when several groups came forward to purchase the site and convert the facility into a new home for the Pittsburgh Symphony. After a $10 million, three-year reconstruction, the theater opened on Sept. 10, 1971, as Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts. We’ve posted an interactive picture on our Pittsburgh Then and Now page to show how this corner has changed.
(Photo credit: Unknown)