Pittsburgh Pirates: Could This Be THE YEAR? | Draft Day Suit

Pittsburgh Pirates: Could This Be THE YEAR?

When I asked a few of my fellow yinzers to chime in on the Pirates’ season at the All Star break I wasn’t sure what I would get in return. Many are so beaten down by the last 20 years of losing seasons that they can’t find even a morsel of enthusiasm in their icebox-like hearts. Losing isn’t something we are accustomed to in this City of Champions (and the Pirates, so the t-shirts say).

Then I opened an email containing the words you see below, words that resonated with me and brought back my own vivid memories of the 1975 and 1986 Red Sox World Series defeats. Saying “Sid Bream” in the ‘burgh is not unlike saying “Bucky Dent” to a Sox fan. And my kid has stayed up late for important games since he was two years old and the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. I knew the words should stand alone.

Thank you, Kdiddy. Thank you for not being bitter. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. -kjd

I can remember with startling clarity the moment that the Pirates lost the NLCS in 1992. I wasn’t watching the game, but instead listening to my mom watch it on TV downstairs. The game hadn’t started until 8:30 and my bedtime arrived somewhere in the middle. Despite the dire importance of that particular game, my mom sent me to bed. (Note: as an indirect result of the events of that night, my kid is permitted to stay up as late as necessary for important games, consequences be damned.) I could hear my mom’s giddiness as they entered the bottom of the ninth with a 2-0 lead, just three outs away from going to the World Series. She paced around the living room, softly clapping her hands and hissing, “C’mon Bucs. C’mon Bucs.” As the last half of the inning progressed, and the crowd in Fulton County Stadium grew more frenzied, I could tell that things were going horribly awry. My mom groaned, then grew silent. Then Sid Bream slid across home plate as the Braves fans collectively lost their minds. I wasn’t sure what had happened until I heard my mom’s Green Weenie drop to the floor with a pathetic rattle. I cried for a few minutes, as quietly as I could since I didn’t want my mom to know that I was still awake, before finally drifting off into a sad sleep.

I think we all knew that it would be a few years before we had a real chance again, but I don’t think any of us realized that a whole generation would be born and grow up knowing nothing other than a punchline for a MLB team. The resurrection of the Steelers and the Penguins as dominant teams in the years since threw the Pirates’ demise into even sharper relief. As the 90s and the 2000s came and went, it just didn’t seem like there was any way out of the slump. Financially, the team wasn’t as competitive, and it just seemed cruel to try to tie talented players down somewhere that they wouldn’t have the big wins or paychecks that they could have elsewhere.

The last two years have been especially heartbreaking. I was at the game in 2011 when they clinched their 19th consecutive losing season. As everyone filed out, I stood up and yelled, “NINETEEN CONSECUTIVE LOSING SEASONS, BUCCOS! WHAT THE HELL?” Having them do so well and then tumble back into losing seasons in 2011 and 2012 was so tough.

It feels different this year, though. I know that the All-Star Break is the midpoint of the season, but what I find encouraging is that we don’t play the Braves again. Both in 2011 and 2012, our downfall came almost immediately after losing extra inning games against that team, which is pretty poetic considering they were there when we kicked off this interminable losing streak. My heart can’t handle hoping for the pennant just yet. My sights are set squarely on finishing above .500. Anything beyond that, for this year anyway, is gravy.

Nevertheless, a few years ago, I abruptly blurted out to my husband, “Before I die, I want to see the Pirates win the World Series.” He chuckled a little but I could tell he shared the same desire. We were babies the last time that happened and while we’ve had the distinct pleasure of joining the ecstatic revelry of Super Bowl and Stanley Cup wins, a pennant win is something that I really want to experience just once. I love football and hockey but baseball is so special. Winning a World Series requires so much work and magic and belief and guts that I think if I could see it happen here, then I would really believe that anything is possible.

George Silk/Time Life Pictures

George Silk/Time Life Pictures

I work in Oakland and walk past the ghost of Forbes Field fairly regularly. From Mazeroski’s Wall, you can look up to the Cathedral of Learning and imagine those Pitt students listening to the game on their little radio and cheering when George Silk snapped that amazing picture. Sometimes, you can even hear Chuck Thompson screaming, “The Pirates win!” through the haze of 50 years and many disappointments. Since we’ve started winning again, a lot of the games have had just a touch of that electricity. If we can just gut it out this year and get above .500, I know that we’ll be champions again before too long.

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