Throughout the country, Western Pennsylvania is known for having some of the most diehard sports fans in the nation. Sports traditions are inherited like a religion here, and anyone who’s grown up in the area understands how much the spirit of the city of Pittsburgh is influenced by how the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates are doing. When these teams are winning, the city is filled with a jubilant atmosphere, and when they lose, the heartbreak is palpable in workplaces, restaurants, bars, and everywhere else. Besides pro sports fandom, countless kids grow up here dreaming of being the next student-athlete to make it big out of the many legendary high school and college sports programs.
Located at the Senator John Heinz History Center in downtown Pittsburgh, the Western PA Sports Museum is a sprawling, 20,000 square foot complex that commemorates the history and culture of sports in this region. It’s a fantastic field trip that the whole family can enjoy, especially if you have young Pittsburgh sports fans who you’d like to educate on the intricacies of this great tradition of sports fandom. Among our Pittsburgh adoption agents, some of our favorite facets of this facility include:
It’s a Hockey Night in Pittsburgh!
Pittsburgh ice hockey has a history of over 120 years, with its early days at Duquesne Gardens. The current day Penguins weren’t founded until 1967, and the first 17 years of this franchise was mostly a struggle. This all changed in 1984 when the team selected future Hall-of-Famer Mario Lemieux with the first overall pick in the draft. In 1991, this pick paid the ultimate dividends, as Lemieux guided the Penguins to the first of what would be 5 Stanley cup victories over the next 25 years. Today, the game-worn jersey from that victory, along with several other game-worn items, is on display in this section of the Western PA sports museum.
Some other historical items and exhibits you can view here include
- An exhibit on the original hockey arena in Pittsburgh, Duquesne Gardens
- Sidney Crosby’s stick from his 2005 record-breaking rookie season
- Ron Francis’ All-Star jersey from 1996
- Pose in front of a regulation-style hockey net and pretend to be a goalie
Beat ‘Em Bucs
With a two-story mural of Forbes Field (the Pirates’ home field from 1909-1970) as the backdrop, the Beat ‘Em Bucs exhibit catalogs the illustrious 130+ year history of Pittsburgh baseball, including stories behind the city’s five World Championships along with a litany of precious historical artifacts and over 1,000 baseball cards.
Some highlights from this exhibit include:
- Bill Mazeroski’s uniform and bat from Game 7 of the 1960 World Series
- The pitching rubber and first base from Game 7 of the 1960 World Series
- Game-worn uniforms, gloves, bats, and more from Pirates legends like Wagner, Clemente, Groat, Stargell, Bonds, and McCutchen
City of Champions
While the successes of Pittsburgh’s three major sports franchises are well-known, there are plenty of other sports triumphs that people outside of this great city may not know about. The City of Champions exhibit showcases the stories of some of these lesser-known successes, including:
- Olympic uniforms and medals from Western PA-bred athletes like Herb Drury, John Woodruff, Candy Young Sanders, and Herb Douglas
- The 1967-68 American Basketball Association Championship trophy from the Pittsburgh Pipers
- A display about the city’s history of champion marbles players, including memorabilia, trophies, and more
- Game-worn jersey of Swin Cash, Team USA women’s basketball champion
Negro League Baseball
During the height of Negro League Baseball, before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Pittsburgh was home to two of the league’s most successful franchises: the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. 15 Hall-of-Famers played for these two franchises, including Josh Gibson, “Cool Papa” Bell, Judy Johnson, and Buck Leonard. The museum’s Negro League Baseball section features several exhibits and artifacts from this era, including:
- Game-worn uniform of Clarence Bruce, who played second base for the Grays from 1946-1948
- Negro League Theater, featuring a short film narrated by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, entitled “Something to Cheer About: The Negro Leagues in Pittsburgh.”
- Satchel Paige’s glove
- A virtual tour of Greenlee Field, the first baseball field built and owned by African Americans.