September 1991: Mayor Masloff’s brutal month
Mayor Sophie Masloff once offered Pittsburgh a grand idea. People hated it. Their rage flared in letters to the city’s newspapers.
“Where did she get this hare-brained idea?” asked a man from the South Side. “… if she thinks we should spend our hard-earned tax money on this, she’s senile.”
"I’m so angry I can barely see the paper I’m writing on," wrote a woman from Bethel Park.
Masloff proposed an old-fashioned baseball stadium on the North Shore. The idea of an “old fashioned” park was shocking at the time. Baltimore’s throwback ballpark, Camden Yards, wouldn’t open for another six months.
“Didn’t we used to have an old-fashioned baseball stadium?” wrote an Aspinwall resident. “In Oakland, wasn’t it? Oh, gee, that’s right; we tore it down.”
The ballpark’s price tag, estimated at $100 million to $130 million, miffed a lot of folks. Pittsburgh faced a projected $35 million deficit and was preparing to hand out pink slips to a number of city employees.
It was, in fact, a difficult time throughout much of Western Pennsylvania.
“How can the mayor make such a proposal when the Mon Valley needs help ..?” wrote a man from Duquesne. That town’s steel mill closed several years earlier, but a few rusted sheds remained as reminders of what had been lost.
“I had a good laugh the other day,” wrote a guy from the North Hills. “… Masloff wants to build a new stadium. What a joke that is … Does she think it’s as easy as going out and buying a new dress?”
Newspaper editorials were somewhat gentler. The PG, while wondering where the money would come from, urged folks not to dismiss the idea “out of hand.”
The Press couldn’t figure out where it stood. “We cannot at this point say that the mayor’s idea is a bad one. But neither can we say it’s a good one.”
Masloff endured the ridicule and jokes for two weeks. That was enough.
“I’ve been in public life 40 years,” she said. “Nothing I’ve ever taken on … has ever concerned and confused people as much as this has. I’m amazed by it.”
On Sept. 16, 1991, she announced she’d abandoned the plan.
“Every once in a while I get carried away with an idea,” she explained.
Officials broke ground for PNC Park 8½ years later.
Top picture: Michael Lamb, then an aide to Pittsburgh City Councilman Michael Coyne, looked over a rendering of the proposed ballpark. (John Beale/Post-Gazette)