PITTSBURGH, JUNE 20 -- It wasn't a bad debut for a city that originally wasn't going to get a franchise.

The 12,117 who attended the Pittsburgh Gladiators' 48-46 victory over the Washington Commandos in the inaugural arena football game were the most pleasant development for league president Jim Foster, who developed the new rules for the old game and made his original 1981 idea a reality.

The crowd, which filled most of the 15,052-seat capacity Civic Arena, highlighted a night of big numbers for the new sport.

"With something new like this, a lot of people are hesitant about coming out," Foster said, hoping that fans who didn't show up in person saw highlights. "Our ratings should be great in Pittsburgh."

Originally, Foster said, Charlotte, N.C., was the fourth city scheduled to field a team. But Foster was convinced by Pittsburgh football backers to bring a team farther north.

The league's first game (Denver beat Chicago, 52-44, in overtime tonight at The Horizon in Rosemont, Ill.) was not a defensive showcase -- with eight touchdown passes, more than 580 yards passing and only three sacks between the clubs.

But Washington Coach Bob Harrison looked at it another way. "There were some hard licks, some great catches, some great athletic moves," he said. With the restricted (50-yard) field, and mandated man-to-man defense, the big offensive totals were hardly surprising.

One of the biggest beneficiaries was Pittsburgh quarterback Mike Hohensee, a former Washington Federal in the USFL, who threw for four touchdowns and 354 yards.

Hohensee said that he was "tired, but just from the excitement" of the game in which he completed 25 of 39 passes and threw four touchdowns, including three to wide receiver Russell Hairston of 42, 36, and 28 yards.

Hairston caught a game-high 12 passes for 224 yards, one pass more than Washington's Dwayne Dixon, who gained 135 yards and scored three times on passes from quarterback Richard Ingold.

The shorter field didn't bother Hohensee, who said he has gotten used to the dimensions of the field. "It was easy because we were on the field for a month," he said in reference to the league-wide training camp that ended last week.

Hohensee had "totally given up football" following his Federals stint, but was still working in the area for Coca-Cola and as a coach for Montgomery College in Rockville. The head coach at Montgomery allowed him to take the summer off to try out.

"I hope they take me back {in the fall}," Hohensee said.

The game's high score also may reflect the philosophy of Mouse Davis, the league's executive director of football operations. Davis developed the "run and shoot" offense of Jim Kelly and the Houston Gamblers in the USFL and was brought to the indoor game by Foster to add instant offense.

"We didn't really come out to run the football in arena football," Foster said. "I brought him in for that purpose."

Foster got his wish, as the clubs gained only 15 total yards rushing on 15 carries. Three Commandos tied for the rushing lead, with five yards each. The Gladiators had a total of minus-three yards rushing in four carries.

But few were thinking about strategy after the game. Commandos quarterback Michael Calhoun (four for seven, 50 yards, one touchdown), who was replaced by Ingold (17 for 32, 182 yards, three touchdowns) in the second quarter, saw "only positive things" from the first game.

"I think we're {the league} going in the right direction," Calhoun said.

Even Dale Castro, who missed a chance to tie the score with 49 seconds left on a two-point drop kick extra point, was looking at more than the final score.

"Obviously I'm disappointed with the outcome, but from the fans' point of view, I thought it was an exciting game," he said.