was their baby... """
By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer
Twenty-eight years have passed since they sat side by side in a
tavern near Grant Street and poured not only libations but a
foundation for a football eternity."
years have passed since they last spoke, these two ordinary
people who anonymously made an enduring contribution to
Pittsburgh sports lore."
conceived the Immaculate Reception name, did Michael Ord and
Sharon Levosky. They christened it, introduced it to Myron Cope,
sent it on its merry way to national celebrity. Before them, the
Dec. 23, 1972 event they witnessed from the Three Rivers Stadium
upper deck was a monumental catch without a memorable moniker.
After them, it held a permanent eminence and an everlasting
symbolism for the Steelers' franchise, the now-closed stadium,
the entire NFL."
" So here
they sat last week, side by side again in a tavern near Grant
years melted like ice in an empty tumbler."
to go to the airport and welcome the team back," Ord began."
yeah," Levosky added."
remember the Reverend?""
guy. Used to sit behind us, Section 653, Three Rivers.""
church is no longer there, Highland Park Presbyterian.""
" So many
things have changed since then. So much has passed."
pulled out a yellowing photograph of the two of them, circa
1970. She glanced at it through her dark-rimmed glasses, her
countenance a portrait of stoicism inside a short, blonde frame,
and she handed the picture to him. He perched a pair of
pince-nez reading glasses in the middle of his round, cherubic
face, and he seemed surprised to look back in time, long before
the graying hair. They were an attractive couple back then.
Neither, it should be noted, wore glasses."
story all started in a simple leather shop on Walnut Street,
Shadyside. Ord was the owner. Levosky was an employee. They
began dating. One of their weekly rituals was the fall Sunday
get-together at the brand-new bowl on the North Side, tailgating
and a Steelers game followed by a tavern stop near Grant Street
-- the Executive Place, the Beau Brummel or the Interlude on old
the U.S. Steel Building is now," Ord began."
Tower," corrected Levosky, who works there."
" Among his
nearly 10 Steelers season-ticket seats in the early 1970s, Ord
used to take his girlfriend/employee, his father, Barney, and a
bunch of friends to games. He still visualizes the amazing play
that buried the Same Old Steelers and gave rise to Super
Steelers of the 1970s, Terry Bradshaw to Jack Tatum/Frenchy
Fuqua to Franco Harris to history."
right at the 50. They were perfect seats. Everybody was
standing. When the ball bounced off whoever it bounced off of,
my father sat down and put his face in his hands. I'm sure a lot
of people didn't see the play, they probably all reacted like my
dad: The miracle season was over. Then, he heard everybody
cheering, and he asked, 'What happened? What happened?' ""
later, at the Interlude, inspiration struck Ord like those
Catholic-school nuns who used to rap his knuckles " 'cause I
wrote with my left hand, and that's the devil's hand." He arose
from his seat beside Levosky, stood on his chair and announced
to the crowded second-floor bar: From here on, this day will
forever be known as The Feast of the Immaculate Reception.
The bar crowd rejoiced."
after that, the couple repaired to the home of Levosky's parents
in Highland Park. They wanted to share their Interlude-induced
appellation with a Steelers Nation. They thought of relating it
to the Steelers' colorful commentator and WTAE-TV sportscaster,
but the thought didn't completely register until about 11 p.m.
-- the start of the station's newscast."
remember thinking, 'We really should tell Myron,' " Ord began."
remember thinking, 'We're not going to get through,' " Levosky
" It being
the care-free 1970s, and it being such a sure-fire nickname,
both persisted. He wanted to make the call, but he considered
himself "overserved" and worried about slurring his words. No,
the public never would have embraced it so tightly if Cope had
translated the nickname as the Amalgamated Resurrection. So
Levosky dialed and did the speaking instead."
identified herself to the television-station switchboard as
Sharon Levosky of MARC Advertising, which, at that
point, she was. Next thing she knew, Cope's trademark warble was
at the other end of the rotary phone. "I couldn't believe it,"
she recalled. "When I told him 'The Immaculate Reception,' he
can't say that on TV,' he said."
'Sure you can.'"
'I'll have to think about it.' ""
Five minutes later, the diminutive Jewish
sportscaster was on TV screens across Western
Pennsylvania mentioning her name, the play's
nickname, and what a good Christian girl she was
-- as if this made the religious reference,
he asked her if she was Christian," Ord began."
not," add Levosky, who is Presbyterian. "He didn't know if I was
Jewish or what.""
but all her teachers figured Levosky for a Jewish name and
always wondered why she came to school on the High Holy Days."
day, I got up, and it was everywhere," Ord began. "In the
newspapers, on the TV. It hit the wires. It was instant success.
It was incredible. We were featured in Time Magazine, I think.""
Illustrated," corrected Levosky."
in that story, Sharon didn't even mention me. Maybe she was mad
at me. Were you mad at me?""
got a patent on the name, Franco's Immaculate Reception. The
leather-store owner sold his business to go into the car and
publication businesses, the leather-store employee went into
advertising, and neither of the originators earned a penny off
the Interlude inspiration."
was never any idea to make money on it," Ord said. "It just
happened. I mean, I did get to meet Danny Rooney and his wife,
and I got to know Myron and some of the players. That was nice.
But what are you going to do? You got to go out and work.""
watching the tribute to Three Rivers last week at the end of the
game and hearing it again ... it's always a kick," Levosky
" Ord and
Levosky drifted apart by the 1980s. She stayed near her Highland
Park roots, and he moved from Point Breeze to the North Hills.
He gave up his Steelers season tickets. He married. Time passed.
Before long, there came the celebration of the Immaculate
Reception's 25th anniversary. He was invited to the banquet at
the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in 1997, but he would
only appear for a short time. You see, his wife, Patty Shabla,
was in the end stages of cancer."
Ilkin introduced Ord and Cope to the banquet crowd, "we did our
little schtick, and I got home." A week and a half later, the
cancer consumed his wife. A month and a half after that, his
employer sold the business and handed Ord a severance check,
remarking that his services were no longer required because he
missed too much work tending to his dying wife."
is an account supervisor with Market Place Print, Inc., a
subsidiary of MARC Advertising. Ord is president of an internet
company he helped to start, A Curb Above Productions. They
didn't talk for a generation until I found Levosky and asked if
a reunion was possible. She uncovered a phone number for Ord,
and they talked on the phone for an entire football game."
" If I
delivered no other gifts this Christmas, at least I could feel
good about uniting them back at a Downtown tavern table, side by
enlightened age, you can pull up all the information you want on
the internet about the Immaculate Reception," Ord began. He
looked at the handsome blonde woman sitting to his right. He
smiled. "We live on.""