Notebook: A golden moment

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> The Pittsburgh Pirates certainly understand their market.<br><br> The Pirates yesterday arranged for National League Rookie of the Year Jason Bay to show up at the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice facility, and with him walked a battery of reporters and photographers.

They hoped to capture the golden moment when the certain NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Ben Roethlisberger, would meet Bay.

With all the drama of a wet towel thrown over the back of a chair after a post-practice shower, Bay waited in the locker room - and Roethlisberger walked past him.

Cameras clicked; pens worked over notebooks; Bay appeared slightly uneasy. Finally, the two were properly introduced and the moment was captured.

Actually, the moment was a rare one. Only seven such previous pairs have shared baseball and football Rookie of the Year awards in the same city. The last time it happened was 1993 when Jerome Bettis and Mike Piazza were the toasts of Los Angeles.

The other pairs were: Luis Aparicio-J.C. Caroline (1956, Chicago), Billy Williams-Mike Ditka (1961, Chicago), Ken Hubbs-Ron Bull (1962, Chicago), Johnny Bench-Paul Robinson (1968, Cincinnati), Dave Righetti-Lawrence Taylor (1981, New York) and Steve Sax-Marcus Allen (1982, Los Angeles).

"It's amazing," said Bay. "It's great for both organizations and the city. It's awesome."

Bay is a football fan even though he grew up in a country without an NFL team. The 26-year-old Canadian was born in Trail, British Columbia. He watched NFL games and was a fan of two teams.

"It's kind of cheesy," he said, "but being that my last name is Bay, on Sundays I used to follow Green Bay and Tampa Bay when I was young. I became a real big Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan. I have been my whole life and then they won the Super Bowl. When I moved to Seattle, I kind of jumped on that wagon too. Then I got traded here and I have a vested interest in the Steelers, too. Since they've done so well it's been fun to follow everything. I love football."

As a rookie outfielder with the Pirates, Bay hit .282 with 26 home runs and 82 RBIs. He's excited about next season, but first he'll watch the Super Bowl. Would he root for a Bay team or the Steelers?

"That's a good question but I'd probably take the Steelers," he said. "Tampa will have a tough shot getting in and I kind of gave up on Green Bay a while ago. The Seahawks, they're tough to watch. They've been up and down this year. They're making it very trying to be a fan."


For the second time this season, and for the second time in his 14-year career, Chris Gardocki of the Steelers has been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

In a 17-6 Steelers win that was impacted greatly by field position, Gardocki punted five times for a 42.4-yard average and 39.6-yard net average at cold and windy Heinz Field.

Kicking in a 25-degree wind-chill factor at kickoff, Gardocki boomed a long punt of 51 yards and twice had punts downed at the New York Jets' 4-yard line.

Gardocki continued his streak of not having a punt blocked in his pro career. The streak reached 1,042 against the Jets. He's the only player in NFL history to have punted 1,000 times without having one blocked.

The other AFC winners were Baltimore Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller (offense) and San Diego Chargers linebacker Donnie Edwards (defense).


Plaxico Burress' hamstring felt good for the second consecutive day, but for the second consecutive day he missed practice.

The Steelers' wide receiver was sidelined along with Kendrell Bell (groin), Clark Haggans (groin), Chad Scott (knee), James Farrior (shoulder), Clint Kriewaldt (hamstring) and Duce Staley (hamstring).

Bell, Haggans and Scott have already been ruled out of Saturday's game against the New York Giants. Burress, Farrior, Kriewaldt and Staley are questionable.

Missing practice for the Giants yesterday were linebacker Barrett Green (knee), defensive tackle Norman Hand (groin), guard Chris Snee (inflamed gland), third wide receiver and deep threat Jamaar Taylor (quad) and free safety Gibril Wilson (burner).

Green has been ruled out of the game, while Hand, Snee, Taylor and Wilson are doubtful.

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