The last MLB game to end in a tie happened in 2005. The tie is the gray area of competition where congratulations are in order for nobody. But the Pirates and Cubs draw wasn’t the best tie in Pirates history; that happened in 1998.
Who can forget Aug. 24, 1998, when the Cardinals took a 5-2 lead with Kent Bottenfield on in relief of Todd Van Poppel. Fortunes changed in the sixth inning, and when Freddy Garcia came to bat down 5-3, his weak groundball was mishandled by second baseman Pat Kelly, allowing Doug Strange and Al Martin to cross the plate and tie it at 5-5. However, the rains came to Three Rivers Stadium, washed away the mediocrity and never relented. Both teams finished the game with identical 62-68-1 records. The greatest tie in Pirates history, as 28,435 fans left shrugging their shoulders.
But what about other sports? Which of their no-contests was the greatest?
The Penguins don’t have ties anymore thanks to the shootout rule. Since their inception in the 1967-68 season until the 2003-04 season, the Penguins had 390 ties. That’s almost five entire seasons of no handshakes after spirited competition. So the greatest tie in Pens history is their final one. On March 27, 2004, the Penguins and Sabres were playing the second game of a home-and-home series. After losing in Buffalo in the first contest, the Penguins got semi-revenge. Rico Fata and Konstantin Koltsov each put the puck past Marty Biron as the Mellon Arena faithful went home unsatisfied. Sebastian Caron of the Pens let in an equal number of goals, and it helped the Penguins be just a little worse than the Blackhawks that season. They got the No. 2 pick that year and chose Evgeni Malkin with it. So something pretty good came out of that deadlock.
Football has had only seven ties in the past 27 years. The Steelers and Falcons’ 2002 tie was a good one, but not the most memorable. That one came in 1974. The then Super Bowl-less Steelers played the first-ever overtime game in NFL history, against the Denver Broncos. Terry Bradshaw had been benched in favor of Joe Gilliam. Gilliam led the team to a non-decisive 35-35 draw after three hours and 49 minutes of football. Bradshaw eventually won his job back, went on to win four Super Bowls and was the MVP in half of them. This started Pittsburgh’s love for the backup quarterback.
College football has tried to eliminate ties like hockey has done. But in 1983, Pitt played its most memorable tie against Penn State. The Nittany Lions were the defending National Champions as they came to Pitt Stadium. More than 60,000 jubilant fans stormed the field after the game clock wound down to zero to celebrate a huge Pitt victory. But the referees put six seconds back on the clock, and Penn State opted to go for a game-tying field goal as time expired. It didn’t turn out to be the worst decision Joe Paterno ever made, but it was wildly unpopular at the time.
Boxing is easily the most corruptible sport because to fix it you have to convince only one person. Yet the sweet science can also be inconclusive. Pittsburgh’s Paul Spadafora fought 51 professional bouts, winning 49. He lost only one and, yes, tied one. Romanian pugilist Leonard Dorin battled the Pittsburgh Kid to a draw, putting the first non-win on his record.
So what have we learned here today? Mainly that ties suck. Nobody wants to see a contest with no winner and no loser. Bragging rights and trash talk become irrelevant when nobody wins. Fans spend a lot of money taking their families to games and no one wants to come home and just say “meh.” Thanks to the Pirates and Cubs for bringing back so many unfulfilling memories.