This column is written as a special for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, by guest contributor Robert Bell.
The city has had its fair share of sporting heroes in the past. From tough as teak footballer players to legendary baseball stars, Pittsburgh has given us memorable moments from unforgettable personalities.
Soccer in the city hasn’t yet produced a hero to match other sports.
It is true that Meghan Klingenberg has had a terrific career and that current players such as Robbie Mertz are sure to give us some highlights in the years to come, though.
To inspire them, we bring up some of the most incredible athletes we ever saw in this city of Pennsylvania.
So, what stars from the past do they need to live up to?
Few athletes have gone down in history for a single shot like Mazeroski has. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and raised in Ohio, but it was while wearing the colors of the Pittsburgh Pirates that he achieved baseball immortality.
In truth, his greatest strength was in defensive play at second base. Yet, he is best remembered for hitting the historic home run in game seven of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees. His game-winning home run is arguably the finest moment in Pittsburgh’s proud sporting history.
Born in Ohio, it was a stellar 11-year career with the Steelers that turned him into a football icon. Lambert was arguably the toughest linebacker of all time, and a key part of the famously mean defense that drove the team to a string of famous victories and made them into Super Bowl winners.
He originally wanted to study to become a vet, but never looked back after joining the Steelers in the 1974 NFL Draft. Despite largely staying out of the public eye since retiring in 1985, he made an appearance earlier in 2019 to sign memorabilia.
Stargell is another hugely popular player who wasn’t born in the city but played here for his entire career. He joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1962 and stayed there for 21 memorable seasons. Among his claims to fame is that he hit no fewer than seven of the 18 balls that have sailed over the 86-foot tall stands at Forbes Fields.
His glittering career included seven All-Star appearances and a monumental 1979 season where his MVP performance inspired the Pirates to fight back against the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series. This is a Pittsburgh sporting hero that won’t ever be forgotten.
Canadian-born Lemieux played for the Pittsburgh Penguins during 17 seasons. During that time, he came to be regarded as one of the best players to ever take to the ice. Known as The Magnificent One, he is an NHL legend thanks to his speed and skill.
His tremendous record with the Penguins includes several Stanley Cup triumphs, both as a player and later as the owner of the team. Remarkably, all of this was despite the fact that he suffered from numerous chronic health problems. The debate over whether he was better than Wayne Gretzky remains one of the sport’s most fascinating subjects.
Clemente was born in Puerto Rico but become a hero in Pittsburgh during 18 seasons with the Pirates. He was the first Latin American/Caribbean player to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame, following his tragic death in 1972.
His list of achievements is hugely impressive, with 12 Golden Glove Awards, 12 All-Star appearances, and 3,000 career hits. However, he is also fondly remembered now for his charity work and wonderful personality. It was while flying to help earthquake relief in Nicaragua that he died in a plane crash.