Sports in Pennsylvania

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Sports in Pennsylvania includes numerous professional sporting teams, events, and venues located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Between 1979 and 1980, the Pirates, Phillies, Steelers, Eagles, Sixers, and Flyers all made it to the end of postseason, with the Steelers, Pirates, and Phillies being victorious.


Football is the most popular sport in Pennsylvania, especially in the Lehigh Valley, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Central Pennsylvania, and Western Pennsylvania. In fact, Western Pennsylvania is the home to some of the earliest moments in football history, as the first professional football game was played in Pittsburgh in 1895, with the first-ever professional player (William "Pudge" Heffelfinger) playing a game in the city just three years earlier.

Today, football is popular on all levels, from high school, college, and professionally. The high school games get regular attention in the local newspapers and regularly draw over 10,000 fans to the games. At the college led in Philadelphia on a regular basis, with their games only occasionally played on other sites, such as the 2007 matchup being played in Baltimore.

Professionally, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL are also hugely popular. Both teams have fan bases across the entire state, and in the case of the Steelers, are one of the most popular sports teams in the United States, if not the world. (This is likely due to that team's dominance in the NFL during the 1970s.) While the Eagles are not quite as popular as the Steelers outside Pennsylvania (as well as nearby states to Philadelphia such as New Jersey and Delaware), they still maintain a passionate fan base in the state and across the United States as they are one of the more popular teams in the NFL. Often one of the most rowdy in the NFL, the Eagles fanbase is known for their passion and dedication. In fact, the Eagles' old home field, Veterans Stadium, was the first sports stadium in the United States to have a jail cell as a result of the rowdiness of the fans, but was removed only a couple years later after incidents settled down. Both fanbases though are considered to be among the best traveled fanbases in the NFL. During games in which the teams are on the road, Steelers fans and Eagles fans alike migrate to the opposing team's stadium and always have a strong presence, and in some cases, their numbers have made opposing teams feel as if they are not in their home stadium—a testament to the die-hard fanbases of professional football in Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh was also the home to one of the first Arena Football League franchises, the Pittsburgh Gladiators, in 1987. Although the team moved to Tampa, Florida in 1991 (where they currently exist as the Tampa Bay Storm), arena football remains in the state, with the Philadelphia Soul and the Pittsburgh Power playing in the main AFL while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers played in the AFL's minor league af2 until that league disbanded in 2009. In 2013 the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Soldiers joined the upstart Imperial Indoor Football League. The Pottsville Maroons are a defunct NFL team that was based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania.


Baseball is one of the more popular sports in Pennsylvania. The state has both major league and minor league baseball teams.

Major league teams are the Philadelphia Phillies, the 2008 World Series champions, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies are by far the more popular team, compiling over 200 consecutive sellouts.[when?][citation needed] They led the league in attendance.[when?][1] The Phillies, in addition to their home field success, travel well, as many Phillies fans go to other ballparks to watch their Phillies. In addition to the attendance success, the Phillies won the National League East 5 consecutive times,[when?] and had the best record in baseball in 2010 and 2011.

The Pirates, on the other hand, have experienced very little success over the past 20 years. The attendance has been in the lower third of the MLB for more than 10 years, as they have a tough time drawing people to games. The Pirates have not had a winning season in 19 years, and in doing so, some sportswriters have labeled them with the dubious distinction of being the worst sports franchise of all time.[citation needed]

Minor league baseball[edit]

Pennsylvania has its share of minor league baseball teams. These are: the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in Triple-A, the Reading Phillies, the Harrisburg Senators, the Erie SeaWolves, and the Altoona Curve in Double-A, the State College Spikes and Williamsport Crosscutters in Short-Season A, and the Lancaster Barnstormers and York Revolution in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

There are many minor league baseball teams located throughout the state; several of these teams are associated with either the Phillies or the Pirates. In 2008, the Phillies moved their AAA-level team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, from Ottawa, Ontario, in Canada, to a newly constructed stadium, Coca-Cola Park in Allentown. The Lehigh Valley is a core fan base for both the Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles, who conduct their pre-season training camp on the practice fields of Lehigh University. Therefore, expectations are that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (named after pig iron, an instrumental part in the construction of steel which used to be a large part of the local economy for decades), is likely to prove popular among Allentown and Lehigh Valley Phillies fans.

The Phillies' AA team, also called the Phillies, is located in Reading, while the short-season A-level affiliate, called the Crosscutters, is located in Williamsport. The Pirates' AA team, the Curve, is located in Altoona. The short-season A-level affiliate, the State College Spikes, is located in State College. The Spikes share a stadium with the Penn State University baseball team. Other Major League Baseball teams have a presence in the state as well. The New York Yankees' AAA team, also called the Yankees, is located in Moosic, between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre in the northeastern part of the state. The Detroit Tigers' AA team, the SeaWolves, is located in Erie, and the Washington Nationals' AA affiliate, the Senators, plays in the capital of Harrisburg. Two independent-league teams, the Lancaster Barnstormers and York Revolution of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, are located in south-central Pennsylvania, while the Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League are located in the south-western corner of the state.


Pennsylvania is home to the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA, also being the only one of the big four sports in Pennsylvania not to have a team in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania's many NCAA college teams, like the Villanova Wildcats and the Pittsburgh Panthers, make a large impact, rather than NBA teams.

Ice hockey[edit]

Pennsylvania is home to more professional ice hockey teams than any other U.S. state, except New York. In all, eight professional hockey teams call Pennsylvania home: the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League; the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League; the Reading Royals of the ECHL; and the Indiana Ice Miners of the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League. The Hershey Bears are the oldest existing AHL franchise, joining the league in 1938. The Erie Otters of the junior Ontario Hockey League also play in Pennsylvania. The Otters are one of only three OHL teams located outside of Canada.

Due in large part to Pennsylvania's cold winter climate and the state's geographic location in the Northeast, hockey is fairly popular throughout the state.

A number of notable current and former professional hockey players are Pennsylvania natives: Mike Richter, one of the most successful American-born goaltenders in NHL history; Pete Babando; Bob Beers; Jay Caufield; Ryan Malone; Gerry O'Flaherty; George Parros; Jesse Spring; and R.J. Umberger. Legendary amateur hockey player Hobey Baker, namesake of U.S. college hockey's Hobey Baker Memorial Award, was also born in Pennsylvania.


Chester, Pennsylvania is home to the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer. Additionally, the Harrisburg City Islanders and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds compete in the USL Professional Division. Pennsylvania-based clubs have captured the U.S. Open Cup a total of 13 times, with Bethlehem Steel F.C. holding the competition record of five cup championships.[citation needed]

Walter Bahr, captain of the U.S. national team at the 1950 FIFA World Cup, is a native of Philadelphia.

College teams (NCAA D I)[edit]

* indicates a member of Division I FBS; the highest level of college football in the United States.


Bicycle racing[edit]

Pennsylvania hosts the Pro Cycling Tour "Triple Crown of Cycling" bicycle races each June, with the Tom Bamford Lancaster Classic, the Reading Classic, and The Philadelphia International Championship Bike Race. The PCT is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in the U.S. Pennsylvania also hosts the Univest Grand Prix professional bicycle race each year in September, sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the worldwide governing body for cycling. The road race starts and finishes in Souderton, while the criterium is located in Doylestown. The Lehigh Valley Velodrome annually hosts a USA Cycling Elite Nationals qualifying event.

Floyd Landis, of Farmersville was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title due to prohibited doping.


Motorsports are popular in Pennsylvania.[citation needed] The Mario Andretti dynasty of race drivers hails from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

Dirt track racing[edit]

Dirt ovals include Dunn Hill 2 Speedway in Monroeton, Allegheny Mountain Raceway in Kane, Bedford Speedway in Bedford, Big Diamond Raceway in Minersville, Blanket Hill Speedway in Kittanning, Borger's Speedway in Saylorsburg, Bradford Speedway in Bradford, Challenger Raceway in Indiana, Clinton County Raceway in Lock Haven, Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway in Schaefferstown, Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, Eriez Speedway in Erie, Farmington VFD Speedway in Farmington, Gamblers Raceway Park in Clearfield, Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Greenwood Valley Action Track in Millville, Hamlin Speedway in Hamlin, Hesston Speedway in Huntingdon, Hill Valley Speedway in Orbisonia, Hummingbird Speedway in Falls Creek, Lake Moc-A-Tek Speedway in Lakeville, Latrobe Speedway in Latrobe, Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Linda's Speedway in Jonestown (Lebanon County), Marion Center Speedway in Marion Center, Mckean County Raceway in East Smethport, Mercer Raceway Park in Mercer, Path Valley Speedway Park in Spring Run, Penn Can Speedway in Susquehanna, Pittsburgh's Pa Motor Speedway in Imperial, Port Royal Speedway in Port Royal, Redline Raceway in Troy, Roaring Knob Motorsports Complex in Markleysburg, Selinsgrove Speedway in Selinsgrove, Shippensburg Speedway in Shippensburg, Silver Spring Speedway in Mechanicsburg [Operated 1953-2005], Snydersville Raceway in Snydersville, Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown, The Fairgrounds At Kutztown in Kutztown, Thunder Valley Raceway in Central City, Trail-Way Speedway in Hanover, Tri-City Speedway in Franklin, Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicburg, and Windber Speedway in Windber.

Other motorsport venues[edit]

Asphalt ovals in Pennsylvania include Jennerstown Speedway in Jennerstown, Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Mahoning Valley Speedway in Lehighton, Motordome Speedway in Smithton, Mountain Speedway in St. Johns, Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth (closed), and Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, CNB Bank Raceway Park Formerly known as Central PA Speedway Clearfield, Pennsylvania

Drag Strips include Beaver Springs Dragway in Beaver Springs, Lucky Drag City in Wattsburg, Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Numidia Raceway in Numidia, Pittsburgh Raceway Park in New Alexandria, and South Mountain Dragway in Boiling Springs.

Road Courses include Beaverun Motorsports Complex in Wampum, and Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in Pittsburgh. Pocono Raceway in Long Pond also has a road course that hosts SCCA and other events.

Horse racing[edit]

Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Parx Racing in Bensalem, and Presque Isle Downs near Erie offer thoroughbred racing. The Meadows in Pittsburgh, Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, and Harrah's Philadelphia in Chester offer harness racing in Pennsylvania.

Smarty Jones, the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner, was owned by Roy Chapman and wife Patricia. Smarty Jones was bred at Chapman's Someday Farm (Patricia explains the name: "Some day we were going to do this and some day we were going to do that. And my husband said, 'I think we ought to call it Someday Farm,' so we did.") near Philadelphia, and had Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing) as his home course.[2]

Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, came from Mr. and Mrs. Roy Jackson’s Lael Stables in West Grove. After suffering injuries in the Preakness Stakes on May 20, 2006, Barbaro was treated for laminitis. He developed further complications, and he was euthanized on January 29, 2007.


PGA tournaments in Pennsylvania include the 84 Lumber Classic, played at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, and the Northeast Pennsylvania Classic, played at Glenmaura National Golf Club in Scranton. There is also the PGT (Pittsburgh Golfers Tour) which is people from all over the east coast joining a club where the owner schedules tournaments all over the state.

Arnold Palmer, one of the leading 20th-century pro golfers, comes from Latrobe. Jim Furyk, one of the leading 21st-century pro golfers,[citation needed] grew up near Lancaster.


Texas Hold 'em Poker[edit]

Texas Hold' em Poker was found in 2009 not to be gambling under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code by Judge Thomas A. James Jr. in the case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs Walter Watkins.[3]

The case involved a $1/$2 table stakes Texas Hold 'em Poker game with a dealer making tips. The organizers were charged with 20 counts of violating Section 5513 sections (a)(2), (a)(3), and (a)(4), related to "unlawful gambling", and had materials related to the games confiscated by police as "gambling devices".[3]

Section 5513 of the Pennsylvania Code makes it a misdemeanor of the first degree for a person to invite or allows other people to gather in a place of his control for the purpose of "unlawful gambling".

In his decision, Judge Thomas A. James Jr. stated, "[T]here are three elements of gambling: consideration, chance and reward." The judge found through a four pronged test that skill predominates over chance, and that Texas Hold' em is a game of skill, therefore not gambling.[3]

Specifically, the decision states:

The court finds that Texas Hold 'em poker is a game where skill predominates over chance. Thus, it is not "unlawful gambling' under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.

Section 5512(d), which provides definitions, states:

As used in this section the term "unlawful" means not specifically authorized by law.

Section 5513 states: (emphasis added)

§ 5513. Gambling devices, gambling, etc.

(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree if he:

(1) intentionally or knowingly makes, assembles, sets up, maintains, sells, lends, leases, gives away, or offers for sale, loan, lease or gift, any punch board, drawing card, slot machine or any device to be used for gambling purposes, except playing cards; (2) allows persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of unlawful gambling at any place under his control; (3) solicits or invites any person to visit any unlawful gambling place for the purpose of gambling; or (4) being the owner, tenant, lessee or occupant of any premises, knowingly permits or suffers the same, or any part thereof, to be used for the purpose of unlawful gambling.

Other Poker Games[edit]

The decision above may be limited to Texas Hold 'em.

In the 1949 case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania V. Silverman, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the "Sporadic or casual act of playing cards or betting is not an indictable offense in Pennsylvania."

In 2004, Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola was quoted as saying, "it's legal to gather with friends to play poker but it's not legal when the 'house' or an outside party profits from the game."[4]

In 2005, York County District Attorney Stan Rebert was asked about illegal poker games in the York area by the York Daily Record. He replied that he had not heard of any and that it's not something that he would worry about. "Casual gambling ... that is not illegal," he said, "It's kind of a fine line." [5]

Previous legal challenges and legislative initiatives have taken place, but until recently, none have changed the status of poker in Pennsylvania.

  • HB2121 would authorize table games, including poker, in Pennsylvania's recently authorized casinos.
  • HB947 would authorize poker tournaments to be held by the holders of licenses for small games of chance.
  • In Lewistown, three members of the Brooklyn Hose Fire Co. were charged with unlawful gambling for the poker tournaments held there.[6]
  • In Greensburg, a defense attorney who had $10,000 and equipment confiscated from his office from poker tournaments is suing for their return. The attorney has not been charged and insists that poker tournaments are legal games of skill.[7]

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has published an FAQ page on the legalities of Texas Hold'em Poker for licensed establishments.

Drum and Bugle Corps[edit]

Allentown, Pennsylvania is home to The Holy Name Cadets of Drum Corps International.

See also[edit]