Pittsburgh deserving All-Star recipient

Pittsburgh deserving recipient of All-Star Game

PITTSBURGH -- With a sun-splashed Pittsburgh skyline serving as a picturesque background, Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig held a press conference at PNC Park on July 20, 2004, to announce that Pittsburgh would serve as host of the Midsummer Classic in 2006.

While Pirates officials and local politicians soaked up the sun and the good news with obvious delight, most of the rest of the baseball world was left wondering how the Bucs had pulled off such a coup.

How, just 12 years after hosting baseball's midseason showcase at Three Rivers Stadium in 1994, had the Pirates managed to convince Selig to hold another game in Pittsburgh? After all, other cities had gone decades since their last shot at the All-Star Game. San Francisco, despite their lovely new ballpark, had pushed hard to bring the Midsummer Classic back to the City by the Bay for the first time since 1984.

The answer, according to Selig, was three-fold.

First and foremost, the Commissioner wanted to reward the Pirates and the city of Pittsburgh for building what ESPN.com in 2003 selected as the best ballpark in the Major Leagues.

"This ballpark is spectacular. It certainly played a critical role," said Selig. "I wouldn't be standing here today if PNC Park didn't exist.

"I felt during the [construction] of PNC Park that we really also had a commitment to this community. If they built it and it worked out well we ought to bring an All-Star Game back."

Selig also believed that the Pirates were in greater need of the economic boost that comes with hosting the All-Star Game than the Giants and other top bidders for the 2006 Midsummer Classic.

At the time of Selig's announcement, the Pirates' full-season ticket base had declined by approximately 50 percent from the opening of PNC Park in 2001 to 8,500 full-season equivalents in 2004. After aligning their full-season ticket plans to the availability of All-Star Game tickets, the Bucs experienced a predictable upturn in sales. More than 11,300 full-season equivalents have been sold for the 2006 season.

The third factor in bringing the All-Star Game back to Pittsburgh so quickly, according to Selig, was the relentless nature in which Pirates CEO and Managing General Partner Kevin McClatchy lobbied the Commissioner's Office.

"Kevin was tenacious, sometimes in a rather intense manner," said Selig. "He really wanted to get it."

McClatchy downplayed his role in securing the 2006 All-Star Game for the Steel City, choosing instead to spread the credit around to all involved.

"Why did we get the 2006 All-Star Game? Because we have the best ballpark in America. Plain and simple," said McClatchy. "The other thing is in 1994 we put on one of the greatest All-Star Games of all time.

"I'm proud for the organization, the people who worked on it and the city. We worked hard and put a pretty good pitch together. It worked out."

McClatchy did admit, however, that he was driven by the opportunity to show off how far Pittsburgh has come in the 12 years since the Midsummer Class was last played there.

"It was an incredible experience for the city of Pittsburgh in 1994. It was something we had to work very hard to bring back because we felt it would be a very important event for the Pirates and the city," said McClatchy.

"I am excited for the Pirates, but I'm probably more excited as somebody who lives in Pittsburgh for this city to get the All-Star Game."

The hard work will be rewarded in July, when Pittsburgh and the "Jewel of the North Shore" will be put on display for all the world to see.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.