COMMENTARY | PNC Park is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country, and rightfully so. A stunning view of downtown Pittsburgh dominates the outfield skyline as the park's capacity of just over 38,000 provides an intimate view of the game. The Pirates' home field ranks as the 25th smallest in baseball, and it's hard to find a bad seat anywhere in the house.
It was supposed to be a new chapter when the stadium opened on April 9, 2001. It was a stadium that team ownership had demanded and finally received, hoping that a new ballpark would generate new revenues. Things got off to a bad start in more than one way, unfortunately. Only hours before the park opened, fans of the franchise said goodbye to Willie Stargell, who died in North Carolina. Pops never got to see the gigantic statue the team had erected for him outside of the left field gates.
The game didn't go much better. Pittsburgh native Sean Casey recorded the first hit in the park's history, which also happened to be a two-run home run for the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates went on to lose that game 8-2 to the Reds en route to a 100-loss season, only the seventh time a team lost that many games in franchise history dating back to 1882. They repeated the feat in 2010 when they lost 105 games, somehow managing to go only 17-64 on the road.
Coincidentally, the two division rivals met again on May 31 to face each other during PNC Park's 1,000 th game. Much like the first game, the Pirates lost by six runs, by a score of 6-0 on a night when the Reds dominated both sides of the diamond. Sean Casey himself would be on hand the next day for the park's 1,001 st game, working as a television announcer on a national broadcast game. The Pirates lost again by a score of 2-0.
PNC Park has seen its fair share of horrible baseball during its first 1,000 games. Before the start of this season, the team had lost 34 more games that they'd won at home in the park's history. A 20-11 home record this season has improved those numbers slightly, but the Pirates still have lost 25 more games than they've won at home.
Only twice in 12 full seasons have the Pirates finished with a winning record at home. The first, in 2006, the Pirates played to a 43-38 record at home but spoiled the feat by losing 57 games on the road. The team won 45 games at home last year, the most in the park's history, and are on pace to exceed that mark this year. But PNC Park has still never been home to a team that's finished a season with more wins than losses.
That's not to say there weren't any bright spots. Major League Baseball's All-Star Game came to Pittsburgh in 2006, and the stadium provided a stunning backdrop for one of baseball's biggest events. Many fans remember when Freddy Sanchez won the National League batting title in 2006, batting .344 and providing at least some form of entertainment for fans.
The team is also playing much better baseball as of late, especially at home, but must win Sunday to avoid their first sweep at home this season. Of course, they're playing the Cincinnati Reds.
Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for MLB.com on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.
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