With the calendar year winding down, the staff here at City of Champions thought it would be a good idea to look back on the year 2012 before we usher in 2013.
By looking back, of course we mean in terms of Pittsburgh sports.
It wasn’t the greatest year as both the Steelers and Penguins suffered first-round playoff losses and the Pirates had the biggest collapse in baseball history. Even the always reliable Pitt basketball team suffered through a down season.
But despite all the disappointment, there were some moments to celebrate as well. Many of those moments were provided by the Pirates as they captured the fan base with a magical run through July, before finally making history with another nosedive.
Matt Gajtka, Zac Weiss, Drew Shetler and I collaborated to look back at the top 10 moments in Pittsburgh sports in 2012:
Honorable Mentions: Pens score 10 goals to keep playoff series alive, Charlie Batch beats the Baltimore Ravens, Pirates beat Cardinals 9-0 on ESPN, Consol Energy Center hosts NCAA Tourament, Travis Snider’s spectacular catch vs. Mets.
10. Pitt wins CBI and the “Sit the **ck down” game (tie): This wasn’t the tournament that Jamie Dixon wanted to win but the Panthers did end the season on a high note by defeating Washington State to win the CBI, watching Lamar Patterson take the next step into hopefully becoming a star in a Pitt uniform.
That ties with A.J. Burnett telling Hanley Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers to politely “sit the **ck down,” in a late August tilt. It’s been so long since anyone in a Pirates’ uniform has shown any leadership or fire and predictably it would be Burnett to do exactly that.
Gajtka adds: The Pirates came back from an early hole with the help of Garrett Jones’ two 3-run homers and a fiery A.J. Burnett. Once again, it seemed like this was just what the team needed to stay afloat in the playoff chase at the time. I think the 19-inning game against the Cardinals was the following weekend, but this game stands out just as much to me.
9. Hines Ward Retires as a Steeler: Ward wasn’t very valuable to the Steelers the past couple of seasons, but he was still one of the greatest to ever don a Steelers uniform. In terms of Ward-like production, you can say he retired two years ago, but on March 20, Ward made it official by retiring as a Steeler. It would have been strange to see him in another uniform, so Ward will be forever be nothing but a Steeler.
8. Pitt beats Virginia Tech: After the way the season began, the Pitt Panthers football team could have packed it in. They lost at home to Youngstown State and were blown out by Cincinnati, but Pitt didn’t quit. Instead they turned in one of their best performances of the season by defeating then No. 13 Virginia Tech. Looking back it wasn’t that big of a victory as the Hokies really weren’t that good, but it was Paul Chryst’s first win at Pitt. Hopefully the first of many.
7. Paul Chryst Stays at Pitt: This seems minor, but it is actually huge for the Pitt football program, who also announced during the season that they will begin ACC play next season.
Weiss adds: As stupid as it sounds, Pitt football needed stability and Chryst provides it. The players love playing for him and he worked hard to get this job. While the season was a disappointment, 6-6 this season feels better than it did last season. Chryst staying sends the right message to the fans – fans that gave him a standing ovation just days later at the Petersen Events Center.
6. Drew Sutton & Rod Barajas walk-offs: I know these are two separate events, but I decided to group them together.
Sutton was a mid-season waiver claim who had nice start with the Bucs, including a walk-off homer on July 3 against the Houston Astros. It was a game the Pirates had no business winning, capped off by the most improbable man on the roster. At that time, it seemed like this Pirates team was one of destiny.
Barajas did the trick against the Washington Nationals and served a bigger purpose with the moment: birthing the Zoltan Z.
Weiss writes: It was the debut of the Zoltan Z that became the rally cry of fans and players alike. It was a quality walk-off against a quality team in the Washington Nationals.