Roger Clemens and Baseball’s 10 Best Starting Pitchers the Past 40 years

It is fun to think about and debate who are the best in any sport and thinking about who were the best starting pitchers the past 40 years was no exception.

My article that I wrote back in 2011 can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/764220-the-10-best-starters-in-the-last-40-years-where-does-roger-clemens-rank

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have their fans at a fever pitch – thinking more

After two decades of losing seasons, Pittsburgh Pirate fans were hungry for a winning season and started to think the post-season was a possibility back in 2011. It wasn’t meant to be that year but it foreshadowed what was to come the next few seasons.

My article can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/750563-the-pittsburgh-pirates-have-their-fans-at-a-fever-pitch-thinking-more-than-500

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

SEC Schools Go North? Instead we get Cupcake Saturday

It’s often brought up how southern football schools don’t travel north to face northern schools. This is especially true after mid-October. So I did some research and found out which southern football powers did travel north and it’s not often.

My article can be found at: http://www.groundreport.com/sec-schools-go-north-instead-we-get-cupcake-saturday/

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Pitt Football Should Begin Plans for An On-Campus Stadium

Back in 2012 and seeing how Heinz Field was not the panacea so many thought it would be for the University of Pittsburgh’s football program I wrote this article entitled, “Pitt Football Should Begin Plans for On-Campus Stadium.”

Proponents of an on-campus stadium love the idea and I had people inquiring to follow me on Twitter when I wasn’t even on Twitter at that point.

It’s funny how so many will tell you there’s no land in Oakland. Well, I have news for them that other than Panther Hollow Lake, it’s all land and structures that once existed on land such as Forbes Field and Pitt Stadium were torn down for new structures.

One thing is certain, I doubt any sports article ever included American Educator Hamilton Holt and English Painter William Blake in the first two paragraphs.

The below article I wrote was originally printed and can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1443182-pitt-football-begin-plans-on-an-on-campus-stadium.

American Educator Hamilton Holt was quoted as saying, “Nothing worthwhile comes easily.”

English painter William Blake said, “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” When obstacles appear insurmountable, visionaries see opportunity.

For those who find challenges or change too daunting, it’s easier for them to simply become naysayers. You’re crazy. You can’t do that. It can’t be done. Man will never learn to fly. Man will never set foot on the moon. You can’t build a 23-mile tunnel under water between France and England.

Those are just examples of things naysayers have said only to be proven wrong. Thankfully, there were individuals who were not dissuaded and went on despite the countless naysayers and obstacles they had to overcome.

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff was scoffed at when she proposed a new baseball stadium for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991; but 10 years later her vision became a reality when PNC Park opened, and is now considered a jewel along the Allegheny River and acclaimed to be one of Major League Baseball’s finest ballparks.

On message boards Pitt fans and alumni regularly debate the merit of having an on-campus stadium versus that of playing at Heinz Field. The University of Pittsburgh should have and deserves its own on-campus stadium.

How can a university that boasts nine national championships in football not have its own on-campus football stadium?

If it’s to be done and done correctly, it will likely require the acquisition of property, the building of new roads and the redirecting of existing roads for improved infrastructure. Those aren’t easy things to do, but it most certainly can be done and the planning and design for Pitt’s own on-campus stadium and the process to have it built should begin in earnest.

After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t play at Heinz Field forever. Modern stadiums used for professional sports seem to have a shorter shelf life than those of long ago and don’t nearly last as long as college football stadiums. Heinz Field opened in 2001; its predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium, lasted only 30 years.

The RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana, which opened in 1984, lasted less than 24 years for the Indianapolis Colts. Plans are in the works to demolish the Georgia Dome which opened in 1992 for a retractable football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons to play in with an estimated opening for 2017.

Oh sure, but what about traffic and parking in Oakland? I’ve heard it said no one wants to drive to Oakland, well make it so fans don’t have to.

Ever go to a Major Golf Tournament like the U.S. Open? There’s insufficient parking for 25,000 fans near a golf course. So, do what they do, and arrange for locations around Pittsburgh that have large parking areas such as shopping malls and high schools, and have buses transport fans to the game for a nominal fee.

That would pay for the buses and gas, and fans won’t have to worry about driving in traffic to and from Oakland, trying to find limited parking. This cuts down on traffic congestion, gas usage and pollution. Buses from the North Hills can use the HOV lanes to get into the city, and head towards Oakland and then again on the return trip.

I’m not going to ride a bus! Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Penn State are just some of the universities that have shuttles that transport fans from distant locations to campus. It works for these universities. It works for golf tournaments. Deal with it.

Ever hear of public transportation? Improve it and extend the T to Oakland. It’s imperative and has been talked about and suggested for years. It’s time.

This would allow fans from the South Hills to get to Oakland by parking their car at the various T stops that provide parking spaces. Fans could also park downtown if they wanted and then take the T to Oakland and then hit the city’s restaurants and night spots following the game.

Droves of people use the T now to attend Steelers and Pirates games, and allowing easy and convenient access to the region’s finest hospitals and university centers would be a boon to the region.

Oh, but the tailgating experience won’t be the same. Well, fans can still tailgate in those distant parking lots if they want. At Notre Dame, tailgating takes place in the parking areas north of campus, and fans are shuttled to campus by bus. It works.

What about the cost?

Funding is obviously an issue and definitely not a minor one. There are many potential sources to help with the financing for an on-campus stadium, which once constructed, becomes a revenue producer for the athletic department and the university.

Financing can come from a combination of philanthropy, and financing against committed contractual stadium revenues.

A stadium having a large number of suites, lounges, club rooms and loge boxes can be used to host and entertain alumni, corporate parties and donors. Deals for corporate naming rights and sponsorships would also bring in millions of dollars, as would ticket revenue, concessions, merchandise and parking.

Obviously, one wants to get the most out of any facility. An on-campus stadium would provide a venue not just for football games but other university athletics, graduations, convocations, concerts and
other large events.

An on-campus stadium would also benefit Pitt’s soccer and track and field programs, and could serve to create men’s and women’s lacrosse programs for Pitt to compete with some of the better lacrosse programs in the country in the ACC.

Going to a Pitt football game at Heinz Field is not going to a game at Pitt—it’s going to a game on the North Shore. With the Panthers now playing at Heinz Field, the majority of Pitt fans never set foot on campus on a football Saturday. They go to the game and then drive home or someplace to eat and drink afterwards.

Think about the benefits an on-campus stadium would provide for the university. It will bring thousands of people on campus where alumni can reconnect with the place they lived for a few wonderful years and got their college education.

Visitors will be exposed to the university and not some parking lot on the North Shore. They’ll be coming to campus because of Pitt football as opposed to now: no one goes to Pitt’s campus for Pitt football.

There’s no rekindling of nostalgia for alumni at a non-campus stadium. So those good feelings and memories aren’t relived on weekends in the fall for alumni and passed down to their kids, prospective future students and alumni.

Those rekindled memories and new ones help create an even greater passion between alums and their school and athletic programs. Fundraising for a highly visible sports program can also help bring new donors, and larger contributions towards academics and research.

Incorporate into the stadium design an Alumni Welcome Center for alumni to visit and be proud to do so. An on-campus stadium benefits fundraising as it means a trip back for alumni, a chance to roam around campus and show their kids where they went to school, where they hung out and share fond memories of their college experience. That’s a great selling point for prospective future students.

An on-campus stadium creates a special atmosphere at a university. There’s a natural tie-in of campus life and football weekends together.

Each home game would provide the opportunity for thousands of alumni and non-alumni fans to visit the campus six or seven times a year to show them and sell them the rest of the campus and the facilities.

It would be difficult to place a value on having large numbers of people on campus for six or seven weekends a year. All that positive visibility and exposure to the community and alumni can be a huge plus for any university.

Playing off campus doesn’t create the same enthusiasm for a program and its fans.The atmosphere surrounding an off-campus stadium simply can’t match that of an on-campus stadium. If there’s an upcoming big game, it creates a buzz and an energy on campus and gets everyone talking about it.

Students will be more involved with the game day experience. An on-campus stadium where students can walk to the games helps contribute to a raucous game day atmosphere.

An on-campus stadium also adds to a student’s college experience as well benefiting the school and the entire student body. Athletics and student fanaticism helps generate school spirit and are all part of the college experience. The student experience and campus atmosphere helps build passion and loyalty towards Pitt football and that gets passed on to their kids, friends and relatives.

The on-campus game day experience is important in programming students for life as a connection to the school and to the football program. How many generations of Pitt alumni have not had that experience? Far too many and maybe that’s why Pitt doesn’t draw as many fans to football games as they should.

Pitt is not a fledgling smaller division program or a newborn football program like the University of South Florida, which is considering building—an on-campus stadium.

The University of Cincinnati, which plays in a slightly smaller market than Pittsburgh, has their own on-campus stadium in Nippert Stadium which has a capacity of slightly greater than 35,000. Should they have a game that they anticipate will draw in excess of that capacity, they move those games to Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals. Pitt could do the same thing with the Steelers and Heinz Field.

If the University of Cincinnati—which doesn’t have nearly the football history, success and tradition that the University of Pittsburgh has had over the years—can build its own on-campus stadium, then so can Pitt. The Pittsburgh metropolitan area has over two million people in a region of the country that is notorious for their love of football far more so than Cincinnati.

For the University of Alabama-Birmingham, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision member, the prospect of constructing an on-campus stadium has been the subject of debate for nearly two decades.

Currently, the Blazers play their games at Legion Field in Birmingham, a 72,000-seat
facility. In February 2011, UAB announced they would build a 30,000 horseshoe-shaped on-campus stadium. If UAB can have their own on-campus stadium, then why can’t Pitt?

Should the University of Alabama-Birmingham and hundreds of other colleges and universities place more value in their football program and the on-campus college football weekend experience than the University of Pittsburgh?

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers played football in their on-campus Memorial Stadium from 1924-81. After 27 seasons of playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome two miles from campus, university leaders finally thought the better of it, and in 2009, the Golden Gophers returned to campus in their new TCF Bank Stadium.

Plans are also underway to build new on-campus stadiums at Baylor and Colorado State, neither of which can match Pitt’s tradition and legacy of football.

Pitt deserves more than temporary logos on the field and should have its own stadium with permanently painted logos and painted end zones of their own. It looks bad in Heinz Field, a stadium designed for an NFL team, with blindingly visible bright yellow seats during football telecasts.

There’s a charm in being on a college campus on game day. Heinz Field has a sterile, rented pro football feel to it, lacking in atmosphere in comparison to college stadiums.

Businesses in the Oakland community would benefit as well from thousands of Pitt fans descending upon Oakland for Pitt football games. With the games off campus, there’s no stopping to eat at a university restaurant or dining hall or at the bookstore to buy paraphernalia for the game. That’s revenue that could go toward the university’s coffers.

If you’re going to build an on-campus stadium, it needs to be done right. The University of Houston is building an on-campus stadium that will seat 40,000 with expandability to 60,000 seats at an estimated cost of $105 million. Perhaps, a 50,000-seat stadium with the ability to expand if desired in the future is an option.

A stadium with a retractable roof would eliminate the excuse of fair-weather fans that don’t want to sit out in the rain or the cold and watch a football game. An enclosed stadium of that size could also host the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

Imagine the on-campus feel: the nostalgia, the homecoming. Picture the band marching through campus and the players walking through campus on their way to a state-of-the-art brand new facility. Imagine statues of Pitt’s football greats at each gate-Tony Dorsett, Mike Ditka and Hugh Green with the fourth one up for debate: Larry Fitzgerald, Dan Marino, Bob Peck or perhaps Jock Sutherland.

Back in 1999, Dorsett, Ditka and Dave Wannstedt, along with other former players and coaches, signed a statement condemning the demolition of Pitt Stadium. They knew that the players would waste time shuttling to and from campus to their practice facility. The football team has to bus to the South Side to practice, and then bus to the North Side to play their games.

Students can’t walk to the games. The students have to take a bus to the North Shore to Heinz Field and usually leave in droves after Sweet Caroline is played at the end of the third quarter. That’s usually the loudest and most enthusiastic the crowd is at Pitt games, and it’s short lived as the students leave to get on buses to where? Pitt’s campus.

On-campus is where the students should be. It’s where the football team should be.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez: Pittsburgh’s Modern Day Clemente, Stargell?

Well, that didn’t quite work out did it?  At the time, both McCutchen and Alvarez early on had comparable statistics to Pittsburgh Pirate greats Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. It’s nice to dream.

Alvarez left and in 2016, impressively hit 22 home runs in only 337 at-bats with the Baltimore Orioles this past season, however striking out 97 times. This past off-season, the front office of the Pittsburgh Pirates was evidently doing all it can to strike a deal for Andrew McCutchen.

My article, written in 2013, can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1851325-andrew-mccutchen-pedro-alvarez-pittsburghs-modern-day-clemente-stargell

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

The Pitt-Penn State rivalry – vastly overrated

This past year sparked a temporary renewal of a series that was discontinued 16 years ago in the year 2000. Pitt won this year’s game 42-39 and had not for a dropped Penn State pass or had the game even been a few seconds longer, Pitt would of lost making it eight of the last nine games in this series. That didn’t happen, and Pitt now has a two-game winning streak in the series. I believe the outcome for the next three scheduled games will be in Penn State’s favor, much like this overrated rivalry’s history.

The below article was originally published on February 21, 2015, at: http://www.groundreport.com/the-pitt-penn-state-rivalry-vastly-overrated/.

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, one cannot help but be exposed to Pitt and Penn State football fans and hearing about the rivalry that Pitt and Penn State had.

If one would look at Pitt football’s online message boards, one would never know that the two schools haven’t faced one another since the year 2000. More likely, one might think the two schools play fiercely contested games annually and again would face each other perhaps as soon as the 2015 season opener for both schools. In fact, however, Pitt and Penn State will not meet on the gridiron until the 2016 season and a 16-year hiatus.

How good a rivalry was it and how did the Pitt-Penn State rivalry stack up against other college football rivalries across the country? Going back 50 years certainly gives a representative data set of information when considering any rivalry, but frankly, in terms of competitive balance Pitt-Penn State paled in comparison to other rivalries.

For those who claim Pitt-Penn State was a great rivalry, when looking at some of the better known college football rivalries during that same time period from 1965-2000, Army and Navy had a series record of 17-17-2, Texas and Oklahoma was 18-15-3, Notre Dame versus USC was 18-15-3 and Michigan versus Ohio State was 19-15-2.

Why even Michigan’s proclaimed “little brother” Michigan State fared better against Michigan than Pitt did against Penn State during that same time period. Michigan State had a record of 11-25 against the Wolverines in the same time frame that Pitt went 8-23-1 against Penn State.

In terms of rivalries Pitt-West Virginia and Pitt-Syracuse were far more competitive and evenly matched than Pitt-Penn State. In fact, Pitt’s series with West Virginia was much closer going 16-18-2 and against Syracuse going 14-21-1 over that same time span.

Penn State’s record against Syracuse wasn’t that much different from their record against Pitt during that same time period. Penn State went 21-5 versus Syracuse compared to 23-8-1 versus Pitt.

In 1965, head coaches John Michelosen at Pitt and Rip Engle at Penn State were in their final year as head coach of their respective schools. From 1966-2000, Pitt had eight head coaches face Penn State and not one had a winning record against Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions. Those head coaches were: David Hart, Carl DePasqua, Johnny Majors, Jackie Sherrill, Foge Fazio, Mike Gottfried, Paul Hackett and Walt Harris.

Have you heard about the fierce Ohio State-Illinois rivalry? You haven’t? Me either, because no one considers it a rivalry. To put the Pitt-Penn State rivalry in perspective, in the last 32 games between Pitt and Penn State, Pitt defeated Penn State just eight times. In the last 30 games between Ohio State and Illinois, the Illini have beaten the Buckeyes 11 times.

Pitt fans, however, are quick to point out that Pitt won the last meeting between the two schools by a score of 12-0 in 2000. There was even a billboard in Southwest Pennsylvania proclaiming the score of the game. I doubt however that Pitt fans point out that the Panthers lost the previous seven meetings against the Nittany Lions prior to that contest.

One would think winning only one out of eight contests qualifies more as an aberration than a true rivalry.

If Pitt fans believe that Pitt would have been successful against Penn State since 2000, the records do not bear that out either.

Since 1936, the Lambert Trophy has been awarded annually to recognize the best team in northeastern college football and it has evolved to now recognize the best Division I college football team in primarily the Northeast United States or teams playing at least half of their games against Eastern opponents.

Pitt was awarded the first two Lambert Trophies in 1936 and 1937. Since 1965, Penn State has won 25 Lambert Trophies to Pitt’s three. Since their last meeting in 2000, Penn State has won the Lambert Trophy four times: 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2013. Pitt, on the other hand, has not won the Lambert Trophy since 1980.

In looking at the final college football rankings in the years that neither school won the Lambert Trophy since 2000, Penn State finished higher ranked than Pitt in the 2002 and 2006 seasons.

When comparing season records when neither school was ranked in the top 25, Penn State had a better season record than Pitt in 2007, 2011, and 2012 despite playing in a superior football conference. If anyone believes the Big East Conference was a tougher football conference than the Big Ten well that is sheer folly. Penn State also had a better record than Pitt in 2014.

In only four of the past 14 seasons did Pitt have a better record than Penn State, those being in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010.

For as much vitriol that Pitt fans have toward Paterno and blaming him for the end of the Pitt-Penn State football series, in regard to wins and losses, he may have actually done Pitt a service in taking Penn State off their schedule.

Perhaps it is true that as time goes on,  the bigger the fish story becomes, and the faster we ran when we were young, and the line between what we remember and the actual truth becomes blurred and myths are created. For that is the case with the Pitt-Penn State football rivalry for as the records show, it is vastly overrated.

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Presenting the All-Time Non-Winning Super Bowl Team

I got to wondering about the best players who never won a Super Bowl and it’s certainly an impressive list of all-time greats and hall of famers. Some on the list may surprise you.

My article can be found at: http://www.groundreport.com/presenting-time-non-winning-super-bowl-team/

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Penn State’s All-Time Team

I wrote this article back in 2011 and with so many players leaving after their junior season for the NFL, they miss their senior year of college to cement their place in their school’s college football history. Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson is a classic case of that. Had he stayed for his senior year, he most likely is on this list. As it is, he made the right decision and is having an excellent pro football career with Jacksonville.

I think this list will need updated should Saquon Barkley have a great junior season in 2017. He may already be worthy of inclusion on it. I was surprised there wasn’t much dissension about my choices.

My article can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/789688-announcing-the-penn-state-nittany-lions-all-time-football-team

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.

Penn State football – 20 years in the Big 10 – tougher than expected.

Looking back before Penn State went into the Big 10 Conference, it was simply the Big two little eight conference, the big two being Ohio State and Michigan. The few years right before Penn State started Big 10 play, both Ohio State and Michigan were having down years for them, so it looked like Penn State would come in and win their share of Big 10 titles. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Schools that were part of the little eight rose up and had a few outstanding years and took their turn winning the conference: Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern and Illinois all won Big 10 titles and Wisconsin established itself as a national power.

The article I wrote back in 2013 can be found at: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1539158-penn-state-football-20-years-in-the-big-10-tougher-than-expected

John Baranowski is a Sports Historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites.