Rooney Sr. needs to go in first

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are an organization with an abundance of history they’ve largely ignored.

That is changing with the creation of a team Hall of Honor. The first inductees will be revealed on Aug. 29.

These kinds of things are great for debate and can kill hours on sports talk radio.

Some naysayers argue against the inclusion of franchise founder Art Rooney Sr. in the inaugural class.

They contend the Steelers were not a successful team under Rooney’s leadership and didn’t become a winner until son Dan Rooney took over operations in the late 1960s.

No Art Rooney Sr. in the first group of honorees? Are they kidding?

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar operation these days, but it was mom-and-pop for a long time. Rooney Sr. would literally bring home the gate receipts and count the money on the kitchen table.

In addition to founding the Steelers, Rooney Sr. made sure they stayed in Pittsburgh when there was little reason to keep them here. Attendance was often as lousy as the team. Rooney Sr. dipped into his own pocket to keep the franchise afloat.

A lot of cities didn’t have pro football then and came calling with attractive offers. He could have made a sweet deal and moved the team to some place like Miami or Atlanta or New Orleans. He stayed in Pittsburgh, where the team had offices downtown, played its games in Oakland and practiced on a field in South Park that the police horses also used.

Yes, things got infinitely better when Dan Rooney took over. But that never would have happened here unless Art Rooney Sr. prevailed through the tough times.

He is absolutely a charter member of the Hall of Honor.

On the Pirates

Three quick Pirates thoughts:

n For a guy who missed half the season because of a stupid and selfish decision that let his team down, Starling Marte doesn’t seem to be playing with any perceptible urgency.

If there’s a higher gear, he really ought to kick into it to make up for lost time.

n All pitchers are prone to slumps. Gerrit Cole had a string of four bad games. Jameson Taillon had difficulty in back-to-back starts.

But Ivan Nova has been trending in the wrong direction for a couple of months now. In his last 10 starts, his earned run average is 5.40. Opponents are batting .320 against him, and opposing batters have a .937 OPS against him. (Just for perspective, Willie Mays’ career OPS was .941).

Looks like pitching coach Ray Searage has a project.

n For a guy who sends out a daily inspirational e-mail message that ends, “Love, Clint,” the Pirates’ manager can get pretty frosty in question and answer sessions.

Chasing history

Umpire Joe West, who enjoys having a high profile, was recently suspended for three games by MLB.

West earned the penalty with some mildly critical remarks about Adrian Beltre.

That suspension hurt, and not just from the loss of three days’ pay. West is chasing the career record for most games umpired, which will probably require him to work for two more seasons beyond this one.

That will be a challenge. Travel is a beast, he’s 64 years old and he totters around on knees that are worse than your grandmother’s.

But he’s serious about getting that record. When his crew was recently assigned to replay center duty, West left to work on the field with another crew. Those replay assignments don’t count toward career games worked, so West requested on-field duty to add to his total.

Way to go

And finally, a nice story just because the sports pages can always use one.

There’s a family with an adult daughter who is on the list for a heart transplant. Her father contacted Kent Tekulve, the former Pirates pitcher and current AT&T Sports commentator. Tekulve had a heart transplant nearly three years ago.

Tekulve not only took the call, he arranged to meet the people and spent three hours with them, detailing his experience and answering their questions.

Great effort.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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