PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – Before we turn the calendar to 2017, let’s take a look back at the biggest sports stories in Pittsburgh over the past year.
Yesterday, we brought you the first half of the list. Here are the top five:
5. McCutchen Trade Rumors
The Pirates struggled this year and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Andrew McCutchen endured the worst year of his career, hitting just .256 with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs.
With teams around the league looking to reload for 2017, McCutchen’s name started popping up in all sorts of trade rumors.
At one point in November, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal was convinced it was a matter of when, not if.
For days, fans were on pins and needles waiting for updates. As of this posting, McCutchen is still a member of the Pirates so fans can rest easy – at least for now.
Cutch only has this season and next remaining on a contract he signed in 2012. He has always said he wants to be a Pirate for life, but given all the rumors, does he still want that to happen? Can that still happen?
“I don’t know if that can happen. I do want to be here. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that none of this didn’t bother me, that my name was out there. Of course it did, I’m human,” McCutchen said.
One thing we do know, he is going to approach 2017 with a big chip on his shoulder.
“Motivated. I don’t know if that’s even quite the word I’m looking for, but it’s something a lot higher than motivated. You know, I’m hungry. That’s where I’m at,” McCutchen said.
4. U.S. Open At Oakmont
In June, the U.S. Open returned to the legendary Oakmont Country Club for the ninth time, which is a record.
Wet weather plagued the early rounds of the 116th U.S. Open, but fans were treated to a spectacular and somewhat bizarre finish on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson endured two hours of not knowing the size of his lead while the USGA questioned whether he should be penalized one stroke for his ball moving on the fifth green.
Only after he was guaranteed that silver trophy did the USGA assess him a one-shot penalty, turning his final score into a 1-under 69 for a three-shot victory.
The tournament is set to return to Oakmont in 2025.
3. Pitt-PSU Game At Heinz Field
After 16 years, Pitt and Penn State renewed their rivalry and the game did not disappoint.
Legions of fans made the game the largest attended sporting event in Pittsburgh history, with 69,983 people packing Heinz Field.
James Conner ran for 117 yards and a touchdown and caught another and senior Ryan Lewis picked off Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley in the end zone with just over a minute to play as the Panthers held on for a 42-39 win.
Penn State nearly made it all the way back from a 21-point deficit. The Nittany Lions had the ball at the Pitt 31 with less than 90 seconds to play when McSorley dropped back and lofted a rainbow toward the back of the end zone to no one in particular.
The game proved the rivalry is alive and well. But the best part is that the schools will meet again in each of the next three seasons.
2. Arnold Palmer Dies At 87
On Sept. 25, the world lost a great golfer and an ever greater human being as Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87.
Days later, thousands gathered at the St. Vincent Basilica to honor the man known as The King.
A small group of fans chose the grandstands of Chuck Noll Field as their venue while most of Arnie’s Army, wearing their pins, settled in the campus’s Carey Center Auditorium to watch the service.
Among those who spoke was Palmer’s rival and close friend Jack Nicklaus.
“I hurt like you hurt,” Nicklaus said. “You don’t lose a friend of 60 years and don’t feel an enormous loss.”
Web Extra Videos:
- Jim Nantz Tribute (Pt. 1)
- Jim Nantz Tribute (Pt. 2)
- Jack Nicklaus Tribute (Pt. 1)
- Jack Nicklaus Tribute (Pt. 2)
An emotional Jim Nantz, of CBS Sports, spoke about Palmer’s influence on him as a broadcaster and friend.
“It’s going to hurt when he’s not going to be there on the first tee. When a springtime tradition rolls around, but I hope you’ll always remember, he’s right here,” said Nantz, pointing to his heart.
Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, spoke to him one final time just before he passed away.
“He answered on the first ring. He was in the hospital preparing for surgery the next morning,” Saunders said. “He told me to take care of my babies, my entire family. I intend to do that and make him proud. I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me back. That was the last thing we said to each other, and I will cherish that the rest of my life. And I’ll take the best piece of advice he gave me, to talk less and listen more.”
Among his many achievements on the golf course, Palmer won 62 times on the PGA Tour, including seven major championships.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins Win Stanley Cup
It should come as no surprise that the Penguins take the top spot in our list this year.
What a ride it was, too! The Penguins got hot at the right time and rode that momentum to their fourth Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
Their incredible run started by making quick work of the Rangers in five games.
In the second round, they met Washington – the NHL’s top regular season team and fierce rival. Thanks to an overtime goal by Nick Bonino in Game 6, the Penguins advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
Plus, Penguins fans were introduced to the Hockey Night Punjabi crew and their incredible goal calls. Perhaps you remember these?
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) May 11, 2016
— Hockey Night Punjabi (@HkyNightPunjabi) May 31, 2016
Anyway, in the Eastern Conference Final, they faced their toughest challenge yet – the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series had everything and came down to a winner-take-all Game 7 in Pittsburgh.
Bryan Rust cemented his legacy in Pittsburgh sports history by scoring both goals in a 2-1 win. But, the work wasn’t done there. They still needed to overcome the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final.
The only thing that would have made it better is if the Penguins would have won the Cup on home ice. Yeah, we’re nitpicking here.
- Top 10 Moments From Penguins’ Stanley Cup Run
- For more photos of the parade, check out our photo gallery here!
But, they had a chance to do it in Game 5 and roughly 20,000 fans packed Downtown for watch parties. In fact, two screens had to be set up around town to accommodate them all.
Unfortunately, the Sharks won the game and forced a sixth game, where the Penguins eventually took care of business.
A few days after winning the Cup, more than 400,000 people attended the victory parade in Pittsburgh. It was the largest sports parade in the city’s history!
Sights & Sounds of the Stanley Cup Victory Parade:
This was quite the year in Pittsburgh sports and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017. Hopefully, some more titles will be coming to the City of Champions!
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