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Paddling & Pastimes
6 Midwest Cities: The Rivers that Made Them The Baseball Teams that Entertained Them
By Doc Fletcher
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Doc Fletcher
All rights reserved.
Allegheny River – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
I'd come here in the belief that I could never really know America until I saw it from the bends and reaches of its flowing waters, from hidden spots open only to a small boat
William Least Heat-Moon
Allegheny soundtrack: As Long As the Grass Shall Grow – Johnny Cash, Potter County USA – Eddie & Joanie, Black Muddy River – Grateful Dead, Many Rivers to Cross – Jimmy Cliff, A Pirate Looks at 40 – Jimmy Buffett
Paddling: the Allegheny River – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Livery: Kayak Pittsburgh, located under the 6th St. Bridge (Roberto Clemente Bridge), on the North Shore of Pittsburgh & next to PNC Park (home of the Pirates), phone (412) 969-9090; Kayak Pittsburgh is operated by Venture Outdoors with offices at 33 Terminal Way, Suite 537A, Pittsburgh PA 15219. (412) 255-0564, www. ventureoutdoors.org.
Degree of Paddling Difficulty: beginner (defined by Venture Outdoors as "beginner-level paddling at a moderate pace, relative calm water, though it may involve some wake ... well-defined route ... no prior experience necessary... not too physically challenging")
Background of the Allegheny River & Its Stewards
The Allegheny River runs for 321 miles, flowing through the states of Pennsylvania and New York. It begins as a spring in a farmer's field in north central Pennsylvania's Potter County, 10 miles south of the New York border. The Allegheny flows down from Potter County's hills, winding north into New York for its first 80 miles, where students at St. Bonaventure University study and relax along its banks. Here in its upper reaches it is a federally-designated "wild and scenic river". It then flows southwest into Pennsylvania near Jamestown, NY. In Pennsylvania, the Allegheny River forms much of the northwest boundary of the 517,000 acre Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania's only national forest. The Allegheny River joins with the Monongahela River at "the Point" in downtown Pittsburgh, where the two rivers form the headwaters of the Ohio River.
From the point, the Ohio runs for 981 miles until it empties into the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. Since the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans, with patience, time, plenty of provisions, and a willingness to portage a few dams, you could launch your canoe or kayak into the Allegheny's headwaters in Potter County, and 2,300 river miles later, you could find yourself re-hydrating in the French Quarter. Plan to arrive on Fat Tuesday.
During the Ice Age, the Allegheny Mountains started to push up, and the glacial flow stopped 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. Until that time, the Monongahela River flowed from south to north into Lake Erie. Then the Monongahela doubled back on itself and began flowing east to west, merging with the Allegheny to form the Ohio River.
Kayak Pittsburgh/Venture Outdoors rents kayaks by the hour OR will provide you with a guided tour. Our guides paddled alongside our group, making sure that we understood what was ahead and shared the history of the river & shoreline development - they were the key to making our Allegheny River experience as wonderful as it was. Our thanks to guides Joel and Alice Johnson, Jim Smith, Larry Gioia, Don Drolet (& off river, Liz Fager, Vanessa Bashur, Maureen Coyle). In preparation for our paddle, Venture Outdoors sent our group a written outline of what to expect on the river, what to bring, contact information, V.O.'s policies, and directions to the meeting location. Venture Outdoors mission is to connect people to the outdoors, and they do it by offering 500 public programs annually. As they do with paddling, V.O. promotes hiking (even a beer tasting hike), biking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, wall climbing, & geocaching trips. Their contact information is listed at the beginning of this section.
The work of the Friends of the Riverfront has helped to create the Three Rivers Water Trail, with 185 miles of riverfront access for paddlers (through its 18 water access sites including this trip's 6th Street Bridge launch), and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail - 24 miles of a gorgeous river walk for strolling, biking, and running. The Heritage Trail offers fabulous views of the rivers & the city, beautiful works of art, and interpretive signage. The FOTR mission is to increase awareness and engagement with Pittsburgh region's rivers and riverfronts through activities, stewardship, and expansion of land and water trails. For more information go to www.friendsoftheriverfront.org.
Paddling the Allegheny River
The trip outlined in this chapter covers a little over 4 miles as the Allegheny River's 321 mile journey comes to its end. This stretch of the river has a depth of between 10' to 25', and a width of 200'.
Begin at the North Shore public access and concrete ramp beneath the 6th Street Bridge (Roberto Clemente Bridge) by PNC Park, located 6/10ths of a mile upstream (east) of the confluence of all of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers, known as "the Point".
Heading upstream, to the east and away from the Point, there is 1/10th of a mile between each of the "Three Sisters Bridges": the (baseball great) Roberto Clemente (6th Street) Bridge, the (artist) Andy Warhol (7th St) Bridge, and the (environmental pioneer) Rachel Carson (9th St) Bridge - the only 3 identical suspension bridges in the world.
With 446 bridges, Pittsburgh has more than any other town in the world (3 more than Venice). August Roebling, builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, constructed Pittsburgh's Smithfield Bridge across the Monongahela River in 1812 – the oldest bridge in Pittsburgh (a 15-minute paddle upstream from the Point).
Total trip 4.2 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes (facing the river, paddle to the left, east and upstream):
.9 miles/15 minutes since launching at the 6th Street Bridge: paddle below Veterans Memorial Bridge (I-579).
1.1 miles/20 minutes: you are beneath the David McCullough (16th St) Bridge. Note the identical statues at each end of this Bridge – the north (left) statue has been cleaned of the industrial soot that once covered it, and south statue has not. The difference is startling.
Photos taken in the 1940s & 1950s, found online, show how Pittsburgh's industrial pollution darken the skies to such a degree that street lights were needed even during sunny days. This problem existed for decades: an Atlantic Monthly 1868 article referred to Pittsburgh as "hell with the lid off". The improved health of the city and its rivers is underscored by this fact: one species of fish (blue gill) was found in the 3 rivers in the 1950s – today the 3 rivers are home to 53 species of fish. The cleaner environment has also resulted in a big uptick in the local population of black bears and nesting bald eagles.
Continuing east, on the north (left) side of the Allegheny River and sitting behind a storm drain are the Heinz Lofts, the former H.J. Heinz plant. Heinz was a benevolent company, creating outstanding working conditions for their employees including keeping doctors and dentists on staff and maintaining a roof top break area where musicians played.
A partially submerged tug boat sits along the north (left) shore river bank, a victim of the Flood of 1972. On the south (right) shore is the smoke stack of the Armstrong Cork Plant, once the largest manufacturer of cork in the USA, and later diversifying into other materials including the linoleum of Armstrong's Floors (made in Lancaster, Pa).
1.5 miles/30 minutes from launch: on the left and further downstream is the train trestle at Washington's Landing, an island formerly called Herr's Island. The island was renamed in 1987 to honor George Washington's French & Indian War diplomatic mission, when his boat capsized and he slept on the island.
We turned at Washington's Landing, now paddling west with the current at our backs.
3 miles/50 minutes: arrive at today's 6th Street launch site. Pass by this public access and paddle alongside on the right (north) both PNC Park, home to the Pittsburgh Pirates, then Heinz Field, home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is a public access to the river in front of Heinz Field.
3.6 miles/1 hour: The Point State Park is where all 3 of Pittsburgh's rivers meet, as the Allegheny and the Monongahela merge to form the headwaters of the Ohio River. Here in 1758, events took place that played a major role in the exit of France from North America: at the Point, British general John Forbes tactics caused the destruction of the French Fort Duquesne, and changed the town's name from Fort Duquesne to "Pittsburgh" in honor of British Prime Minister William Pitt. Fort Pitt was built to replace the French fort and a small brick building (the "Block House") of Fort Pitt still stands at the Point today, the oldest surviving structure west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Cross the Ohio River at 50 mph with a 400' vertical drop!: Plans are for a zip line to run from Mount Washington, near the Duquesne Incline and a few hundred feet SW of the Point, to the Carnegie Science Center, NW of the Point and on the west side of Heinz Field.
The 1800s-era construction of Pittsburgh's cable-powered inclines were critical to the industrialization of the city. With the flat land at the base of Mount Washington (aka Coal Hill) fully utilized by manufacturers of glass, iron & steel, the difficult question of how to get the workers from their homes high atop Mount Washington to their work 400' below and then back had to be solved. To make the trip bearable, inclines and the cable cars that plied them were introduced. Cars with capacity for 18 moved at 6 mph up the 635' long slopes, a trip taking 5 minutes. 15 inclines once operated in Pittsburgh, but today only the Duquesne (built 1877) & Monongahela (built 1870) Inclines remain - the 2 longest still operating in the USA – providing tourists with fabulous elevated views of Pittsburgh.
We turned upstream at the Point for the 15 minutes back to the 6th Street Bridge starting point.
4.2 miles/1 hour 15 minutes: You're in! at Kayak Pittsburgh below the 6th Street Bridge. The entire trip takes you from 6th Street upstream to Washington's Landing train trestle, turning around and passing 6th Street launch site, to the Point and then back to 6th Street.
The Crack Research Team for the Allegheny River: Gus Weaks, Chris Weaks, Kathy Harcourt, Vid Marvin, Brad Klaus, Jimmy Vollmers, Ricky Callahan, Maggie & Doc
* * *
Pastimes: Pittsburgh Pirates
Flagship radio station KDKA-FM 93.7
1887-1890 Recreation Park 1891-1909 Exposition Park 1909-1970 Forbes Field 1970-2000 Three Rivers Stadium 2001-today PNC Park
But, before they were Pirates ...
In 1878, National League owners decided to (1) end beer sales at games and (2) ban baseball on the Sabbath, believing this would end the increase of "rowdies" attending their games. Sensing opportunity, an 1881 meeting was held in Pittsburgh where a new league was formed, the American Association. The 6-team league was known as "the Beer and Whiskey League" due to the large number of its investors who brewed beer and/or ran taverns. In the 1880s, the area along the Allegheny River and north (today's North Side) was called the town of Allegheny and the local baseball team was known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenies. The American Association charter approved Sunday games and, of course, beer sales - a major draw for fans in Pittsburgh and the other A.A. towns. Exposition Park was the original home of the Alleghenies, located approximately on the site of later-day Three Rivers Stadium, on the northern bank of the Allegheny River.
Ironically, the Pirates name was a gift from rival Philadelphia. In 1890, the Philadelphia Athletics best player was Louis Bierbauer. That year Philly had a contract dispute with Louis, and an arbitration panel found that Bierbauer could be a free agent. Louis decided then to play for the Pittsburgh Alleghenies, closer to his Erie, Pa. home (2 hours away by train). The Philadelphia team ownership and media was furious, saying that Pittsburgh stole their best player, their newspapers calling Pittsburgh "thieves and scoundrels" and claiming that Pittsburgh "pirated" Louis away from Philly. The Pittsburgh owners liked the sound of that and the Pittsburgh Pirates were born.
The Pittsburgh baseball club has won 5 World Series championships since they became Pirates in 1890: in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979.
The first decade of the 1900s was a Pirates decade. Barney Dreyfuss took over as owner in 1900, bringing with him 14 players from his Louisville squad including two future Hall-Of-Famers: Fred Clarke and one of the greatest ball players in the history of the game, Honus Wagner. From 1900 to 1911, Honus was the National League Batting Champion 8 times. Driven by Wagner and fellow ex-Louisville players, the Pirates (aka Buccaneers, Buccos, Bucs) won National League pennants in 1901, 1902, and 1903. The first "modern" World Series (i.e. National League versus American League) was played in 1903 between Pittsburgh & Boston, but it wasn't until 1909 that the Bucs won a World Series.
1909 was a special year for baseball in Pittsburgh. The Pirates were driving for the pennant the year after losing a great 3-way race for the National League title with the New York Giants and the eventual champs, the Chicago Cubs (the 1908 N.L. race is considered one of the most exciting in baseball history – "Crazy '08" by Cait Murphy paints a wonderful portrait of the season).
The Bucs played outstanding baseball in 1909, despite a major distraction: in late-June they played their last game in wooden, 16,000 seat capacity, Exposition Park (a park built on low land prone to flooding: a section of the ball yard was located where today the Allegheny River flows). On June 30, 1909, the Pirates played for the first time in brand new Forbes Field, before an overflow crowd of over 30,000. Owner Dreyfuss named the new ballpark after General John Forbes, a hero of the French & Indian War. Forbes was known as "Old Ironsides", an ideal namesake for the first steel and concrete National League stadium. Forbes Field innovations had never before been seen at a major league park: ramps to assist fans in getting to their seats, a 3-tiered grand stand, luxury suites on the 3rd level & elevators to get to those suites, a room for the umpires, visiting clubhouse with the same amenities as the home clubhouse, and outfield walls kept free of ads.
Forbes Field hosted a World Series in its first year of existence as the Pirates won the 1909 National League pennant by putting away their closest competitors, the Chicago Cubs, with a 16 game September winning streak. The Series matched the Pirates, winners of 4 pennants between 1900-1909, and the Detroit Tigers, champions of the American League from 1907-1909: it was a meeting of the best National League and best American League teams from the first decade of the 1900s.
Leading the respective teams was the Bucs' 35 year old veteran, Honus Wagner, coming off of his 4th consecutive N.L. batting title, against the Tigers young superstar, 22 year old Ty Cobb, A.L. winner of the 1909 Triple Crown and on his way to a .367 lifetime batting average, best in major league history. Interest in this match-up, among fans and bettors, was high all across the country. Although Honus outplayed Ty, the teams battled on even terms in the first 6 Series games, tied 3 games to 3 as they entered the decisive game 7. Pittsburgh and Detroit each hosted 3 of the first 6 games and the host city for game 7 was decided by a flip of the coin. The Tigers won the coin flip and that turned out to be the game 7 high water mark for the Detroiters. The Buccos, behind their rookie pitcher Babe Adams, defeated the Tigers 8 to 0 to clinch the Series for Pittsburgh. The Tigers out-hit the Pirates 7 to 6, but poor Detroit fielding and 10 walks by Tiger pitchers – still a game 7 record over a century later – helped win the day for the Bucs.
The 1925 World Champion Pirates' hitters forced owner Barney Dreyfuss to re-think his position on the park's big dimensions. This team featured the heavy lumber of brothers Paul "Big Poison" & Lloyd "Little Poison" Waner, Pie Traynor, Max Carey, and Kiki Cuyler. Dreyfuss "hated cheap home runs" and set the original Forbes Field outfield dimensions as 376' right, 360' left, and 462' in center – with centerfield so vast there was room to place the batting cages in deep center. The winning Bucs of the mid-20s drove ticket sales and to meet the demand Barney added so many seats that the right field wall had to be brought in from 376' to 300' to create this space (to serve the owner's disdain for cheap homers, a 28' tall screen was placed at the wall in right).
The '25 Series found the Pirates traveling to our nation's capital for a meeting with the Washington Senators and their fabulous, but aging, pitching ace, Walter "Big Train" Johnson. In 1924, the Senators won their first W.S. title, defeating the N.Y. Giants, and the defending champs were eager to make it two in a row. Washington was favored going into the Series and, with the Senators up 3 games to 1, it looked like the odds-makers knew what they were talking about. They didn't. The Pirates won games 5 and 6 to force a deciding game 7 at Forbes Field, but their efforts looked for naught when they fell behind the mighty Johnson by a score of 4 to 0. However, Walter made a mistake in game 1 that came back to haunt him: he hit Max Carey twice with a pitch, and in game 7 Carey got even. The lead in the final game went back and forth, and each time the Bucs were behind it was Max Carey, with 4 hits, who led the comeback. The wonderfully-entertaining see-saw battle finally ended when Kiki Cuyler broke a 7-7 tie with an 8th inning bases-loaded double and, when the Washingtonians were retired 1-2-3 in the 9th, the Pirates earned their first of two World Series titles won on their home field.
Although no pennants were won in the 40s and 50s, the Pirates did have Ralph Kiner. In the first 7 years of Kiner's playing career, he led or tied for the National League home run crown. Many of those home runs landed in "Kiner's Korner", where left field had been brought in from 360' to 330' in 1946 when Pittsburgh acquired Hank Greenberg from the Detroit Tigers (a trade that most Michigan residents have yet to forgive Tiger management for). "Greenberg's Gardens" was the original name of "Kiner's Korner".
The final Forbes Field game was played on June 28, 1970 against the Cubs – the same team that the Pirates faced in the 1909 mid-season home stand that closed out Exposition Park and opened Forbes Field. During the Pirates 61 years playing at Forbes Field, they won 3 of their 5 World Series titles ... 1909, 1925, and then there was the glory of 1960 ...
Excerpted from Paddling & Pastimes by Doc Fletcher. Copyright © 2015 Doc Fletcher. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsAllegheny River - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1,
Paddling: the Allegheny River - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 3,
Pastimes: Pittsburgh Pirates, 14,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pub, 24,
Pittsburgh Bed & Breakfast, 26,
Chicago River - Chicago, Illinois, 30,
Paddling: the Chicago River - Chicago, Illinois, 32,
Pastimes: Chicago White Sox, 42,
Pastimes: Chicago Cubs, 51,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pub, 60,
Chicago Bed & Breakfast, 61,
Cuyahoga River - Cleveland, Ohio, 63,
Paddling: the Cuyahoga River - Cleveland, Ohio, 65,
Pastimes: Cleveland Indians, 79,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pubs, 87,
Cleveland Bed & Breakfast, 90,
Detroit River Canals - Detroit, Michigan, 93,
Paddling: Detroit River Canals - Detroit, Michigan, 95,
Pastimes: Detroit Tigers, 105,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pub, 112,
Detroit Bed & Breakfast, 113,
Milwaukee River - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 116,
Paddling: the Milwaukee River - Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 118,
Pastimes: Milwaukee Brewers, 126,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pubs, 135,
Milwaukee Bed & Breakfast, 139,
Mississippi River - Minneapolis, Minnesota, 142,
Paddling: the Mississippi River - Minneapolis, Minnesota, 144,
Pastimes: Minnesota Twins, 152,
Post-Paddling & Pastimes Pub, 158,
Minneapolis Bed & Breakfast, 159,