Fool's School: Legendary 'Burgh Pranks
Looking for some inspiration on April Fool’s Day? Check out these legendary Pittsburgh pranks.
Illustration by Patrick Neil
In 2007, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visited Toronto, more than 15,000 fans attended the pregame practice at Air Canada Centre hoping to catch a glimpse of Sidney Crosby. Sure enough, Sid the Kid skated out of the tunnel and raised his stick to a chorus of cheers.
Only it wasn’t the Penguins’ baby-faced superstar under the famous No. 87 sweater; it was bearded scrapper Max Talbot in disguise. “It was pretty weird,” Talbot said. “At first they were screaming for me, and then it was, ‘Who’s that guy?’” Naturally, the ruse was the brainchild of wisecracking goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Did you know that one of the most famous hoaxers in American history was born here? In 1877, an article appeared in newspapers across the country claiming that the remains of George Washington had turned to stone, “resembling a statue.”
Public hysteria forced The New York Herald to publish a notice citing the article as a hoax. The reporting was attributed to an unnamed correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle believed to be Joseph Mulhattan—traveling salesman by day, infamous news-media prankster by night. Mulhattan, whom The New York Times branded “The Prince of Liars,” grew up in what is now Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Unsmiling Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Lambert was known as “Dracula in Cleats,” but that didn’t stop former backup quarterback Terry Hanratty from having fun at Jack Splat’s expense during the 1975 season. Hanratty booby-trapped Lambert’s locker so that when the toothless linebacker pulled down his shoulder pads from the top shelf, he was drenched with cups of water.
Lambert had the last laugh when Hanratty returned to Three Rivers Stadium in 1976 as a member of the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I’m calling the blitz on every play,” Lambert warned his former teammate. The Steel Curtain tossed Hanratty around like a rag doll in a 42-0 laugher.