Ep. 14 Debunking Pittsburgh Myths with Professor Buzzkill

Is there a 4th river in Pittsburgh? Did Dock Ellis pitch a no-hitter while high on LSD?

by Lindsay Patross
February 5, 2020

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Is there a 4th river in Pittsburgh? Did Dock Ellis pitch a no-hitter while high on LSD? In this episode of The Slaw: Staying on top of Pittsburgh, we talk with Joe Coohill, aka Professor Buzzkill about some of the myths of Pittsburgh. Professor Buzzkill hosts a weekly podcast all about history myths.

Debunking Pittsburgh Myths with Professor Buzzkill

Joe Coohill is a historian, author, and Pittsburgher who hosts the Professor Buzzkill podcast, where he busts history myths on each episode.

What is a history myth? From Professor Buzzkill’s website:

 A history myth is a story about the past which isn’t true, nevertheless, gets lots of attention. Many people believe what they hear without thinking critically about it, or checking to see whether it’s true. That’s how urban legends start — you know, the ones like Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials died while eating PopRocks and at the same time as drinking Coke. A history myth is just an urban myth about days gone by.

[3:24] Is there a 4th river in Pittsburgh?

There is not a 4th river in Pittsburgh. But Downtown Pittsburgh does sit on an aquifer that was used to help cool buildings.

From Professor Buzzkill’s story on the 4th river for Steel The Magazine:

“The river beneath downtown is an aquifer, which was formed during the last Ice Age (somewhere between 12,000 and 100,000 years ago), along with our other rivers and valleys. An aquifer is an underground layer of rock, sediment, sand, and gravel that is permeable enough to hold water (and to have water flow slowly through it).”

[5:41] Are there bodies in the Westinghouse Bridge?

A popular myth than workmen fell into the wet cement. Read more about why this is not the case in Professor Buzzkill’s article on the Westinghouse bridge for Steel This Magazine.

[10:42] The misconceptions about the immaculate reception

The game where Franco Harris made this famous catch, was blacked out in Pittsburgh. The only people who saw the immaculate reception on television were folks who were watching the game outside of the Pittsburgh television market. Read more about this misconception in Professor Buzzkill’s article on the immaculate reception for Steel This Magazine.


[16:07] Dock Ellis was NOT high on LSD when he pitched the no-hitter

Even Snopes says it is true. So it must be true? It is a common belief that Dock Ellis, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on June 12, 1970.

INDENT: “the famous story and it’s still just a story of dock Ellis being high on LSD and pitching a no-hitter is not true. – Professor Buzzkill

While Dock Ellis claims this is true and there is a documentary about this no-hitter, “No No: A Documentary” is an entire film about Dock Ellis pitching a no-hitter while high on LSD.

This story has captivated Pirates and baseball fans for years. This animated short by James Blagden about the no-hitter, has over 5 million views on YouTube.

[17:00] The missing B-25 bomber in the Monongahela river

On January 31, 1956, a B-25 bomber crashed into the Monongahela River. Only some of the crew survived. The plane was never recovered and many conspiracy theories have formed about what happened to the plane.


More on the missing B-25 Bomber


[21:07] FALSE: The word speakeasy was coined in Pittsburgh

The word ‘speakeasy’ was not coined in Pittsburgh or McKeesport. The origins of the word ‘speakeasy’ can be traced back to London in the early 1800s.

[22:20] Berlin Wall at Fallingwater

There is a segment of the Berlin Wall outside of Kentuck Knob, a second home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that is located near Fallingwater.


Related: Episode #332 of the Professor Buzzkill Podcast is all about the Berlin Wall.

[22:36] Ask Professor Buzzkill a Question

Have a Pittsburgh or history question? Send an email to [email protected].

You can listen to the Professor Buzzkill podcast here or subscribe to Professor Buzzkill on iTunes.

[24:52] Pittsburgh is for Podcasters

Libsyn, a podcast distributor, is a Pittsburgh company.

Some of Professor Buzzkill’s favorite Pittsburgh podcasts: 

A very Pittsburgh Collaboration: Spent Grain

Lincoln Ave Brewery in Bellvue gives the spent grain from the brewing process to local chicken owners to use as feed.


Events: Valentine’s Day Pizza and Pierogi Making @ Community Kitchen

Head to Community Kitchen’s Hazelwood location. Eat pizza and learn to make pierogi. Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the door.

Community Kitchen is a Pittsburgh nonprofit that provides culinary job training and job opportunities. Community Kitchen provides catering and also grab-and-go foods that are sold throughout the city.

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Pittsburgh born and raised, Lindsay has been writing about the people who love Pittsburgh since 2008.

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