Let's Learn From the Past: City of Champions

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Thirty-five years ago, world championships by the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates cemented the city's status as one of the greatest sports towns in the world.

Throughout the 1970s, the Steelers and Pirates rode a wave of sports dominance. After a decade-long playoff drought following the 1960 World Series victory, the Pirates began the 1970s by earning a spot in the National League Championship Series. The following year in 1971, Roberto Clemente earned World Series MVP honors as the Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles to earn the organization's fourth title.

After three more NLCS appearances in 1972, 1974 and 1975, captain Willie Stargell and the "We Are Family" Pirates earned the team's fifth World Series championship in 1979.

Sharing the same Three Rivers Stadium turf, the Pittsburgh Steelers transformed themselves in the 1970s from the lovable losers to one of the greatest dynasties in professional sports. The team's fortunes began to turn with Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception in the 1972 AFC divisional playoff game, considered by many the greatest play in NFL history.

A string of seven consecutive playoff seasons followed, including back-to-back Super Bowls following the 1974 and 1975 seasons. With the "Steel Curtain" leading the defense and an equally dominant rushing and passing attack on offense, the Steelers solidified their place in history by repeating as champions following the 1978 and 1979 seasons.

As Franco's Italian Army and Myron Cope's Terrible Towel galvanized fans, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to earn four Super Bowl victories.

Despite a challenging economic outlook throughout the decade, fans rallied around their sports teams in the 1970s as a source of regional pride and identity.

With a total of six championships between the Pirates and Steelers, Pittsburgh earned its much-deserved nickname: the "City of Champions."

Fans can learn more about the region's championship history at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center. Information: www.heinzhistorycenter.org.


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