Pirates last hosted Mid-Season Classic in '94

Updated: July 19, 2004, 11:13 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates will host the 2006 All-Star at PNC Park just 12 years after staging the game at Three Rivers Stadium, according to sources close to the team.

Commissioner Bud Selig will make the formal announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the game on July 11, 2006, will be played in Pittsburgh -- the third time in 32 years the city will be the All-Star site.

Pirates managing general partner Kevin McClatchy declined Monday to confirm Pittsburgh had been chosen, but the team said it would hold a news conference Tuesday with Selig in attendance. Team sources, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirmed the announcement would concern the game.

Phoenix and San Francisco were also in the running for the All-Star game, but the Pirates convinced Major League Baseball the game would significantly boost attendance that has sagged since their first season in PNC Park in 2001. This year's game was played in Houston last week.

The Pirates will join the Indians as the only teams to have hosted five All-Star games. Cleveland hosted the game in 1935, 1954, 1963, 1981 and 1997.

Since averaging a club-record 30,472 fans during that 100-loss season, the Pirates' crowds have declined more than 10,000 per game to 20,034 -- less than they drew during their final two seasons in Three Rivers Stadium. They currently rank 27th among the 30 teams in attendance.

PNC Park, located alongside the Allegheny River across the Roberto Clemente Bridge from downtown Pittsburgh, has been widely praised for its sightlines and exceptional views of the city skyline. But despite playing in one of baseball's best and coziest venues -- PNC Park's capacity of 37,898 is smaller than any park except Fenway -- a club-record run of 11 consecutive losing seasons has led to a 50 percent decline in season ticket sales since 2001.

San Francisco would have been a popular pick for 2006, the year Barry Bonds potentially could break Hank Aaron's career home run record.

The 12-year turnaround between All-Star games for Pittsburgh will be the shortest since the major league expansions in 1961 and 1962 and will cause a logjam as teams with new or nearly new parks race to stage the game in future seasons.

Cincinnati (last All-Star game in 1988), Philadelphia (1996) and San Diego (1992) have also opened new parks and probably will find themselves in the All-Star rotation in the near future. St. Louis will open a new park in 2006, and Florida, Arizona and Tampa Bay have not yet been All-Star sites.

Despite being two of baseball's premier franchises, the Yankees (1977) and Dodgers (1980) have each had long gaps since last hosting the All-Star game. Kansas City hasn't had the game since 1972, and Detroit will end a 34-year wait next year.

Major League Baseball is not required to alternate AL and NL cities as All-Star sites, but traditionally does, which is why NL teams were competing for the 2006 game.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported Monday that Pittsburgh would be the 2006 All-Star host. Pittsburgh also was the All-Star city in 1944 and 1959 (Forbes Field) and 1974 and 1994 (Three Rivers).


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press