I’m older than most think (40) so I can very vividly remember that night on October 14, 1992…
I’m a freshman in college at Clarion, and I’m sitting in the TV lounge with about 30 others watching the game as former Pirate Sid Bream rounds 3rd and the MVP of the National League Barry Bonds comes up throwing. It looks like the ball beat Bream to the plate and that Spanky (Mike LaValliere) has the plate blocked and the tag was on time for the out, but he didn’t and the tag wasn’t.
The Braves win the series and the Pirates begin 20 straight years of losing and most years it wasn’t even close.
There’s been 2 Stadiums, 3 owners, 4 GM’s, 7 Managers, and countless players whose names you forgot even while they were still playing for the team.
Yet, every spring training you would believe this is the year, and with every high 1st round draft pick or free agent signing or trade you would believe this would be the player that would help end this streak. However, it wasn’t and they weren’t, but you still had faith. Faith that even by dumb luck they could get 82 wins in one season, but nothing.
Then, 3 years ago, Clint Hurdle takes over as manager and some of the “young” guys start making their way to the majors.
Some of the trades actually work out for the Pirates and some big name free agents sign with the Pirates.
The fortunes start to change for half a season and then for 3/4 of a season.
And then before you know it, September 9, 2013 on a hot night in Arlington Texas of all places, the Pirates get win number 82 with a 1-0 win over the Rangers. Of course it had to be a one run game and not a blow out, the baseball gods couldn’t let Pirate Nation off the hook that easily.
So the 20 years of losing was over, but as is the culture today, we – the Bucco Nation – weren’t satisfied with just a winning record. No, we want the playoffs and according to all the record books it would have taken a collapse the game has never seen for that not to happen.
But after 20 years of losing, one had to worry and wonder what could happen to take this all away (those who say otherwise are kidding themselves).
On a crisp September night, September 23rd to be exact, all those worries went away as the Pirates won and clinched a playoff spot.
All those days of talking with friends about how bad the owners, GM’s, mangers, and player were. How bad the drafts turned out. How no free agents want to come to Pittsburgh, and how players can’t wait to leave. All the times Pittsburghers said proudly, our team isn’t winning but we have the nicest play park in the country, were all worth it.
They were worth it because now those 2 generations of kids that grew up or that are growing up without knowing what winning baseball was like now get to feel that joy for the 1st time; they now get to have that pennant fever that the rest of us got to experience.
I for one, feel like I’m experiencing it for the first time again. As I’m sure many of you are, even though most of us got to experience at least some of the winning moments from the past in ’92, ’91, 90, 79, 70-75, or 60.
That’s the beauty of sports. Every year, every team gets a fresh start at winning and experiencing that feeling. So why not their fans? I know I am.
So, no matter what happens in October, I want to say ‘thank you’ to the entire Pittsburgh Pirate organization for making me feel like a kid again and giving your fans something to be proud about and not just a great ballpark.
Let’s Go Bucs!