Pittsburgh Pirates: Back on Top in the City of Champions

Even for a pajama-clad citizen journalist encased in an air conditioning dome it’s too hot and humid today to fret about the Beltway deficit debacle and similar matters. So I’ll continue my now long-established tradition (two weeks and counting) of trying to find good news to report on Fridays.

And this might not be good news for everybody, but I noticed while scanning the NYT the other day that the Pittsburgh Pirates are at or near the top of the heap in the National League Central Division. Whoa, big guy. The Pirates have been the worst team in baseball for decades so how did this turnaround happen? It’s akin to Congressional Republicans reneging on Grover Norquist’s mandate to never increase taxes.

I don’t follow baseball — or any professional sports for that matter — much these days. And the closest I’ve been to a Pirates’ game in 30 years came this May when I ran the half-marathon in Pittsburgh and crossed the Roberto Clemente Bridge and passed Bill Mazeroski Way on the road to the finish line at Heinz Field.

Still, that brought back some great memories of growing up in the Steel City, taking the street car from my home on the North Side to Forbes Field in Oakland, and spending many a day and night huddled around the radio listening to Bob Prince and Jim Woods call the action on KDKA.

Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, here’s the NYT article that got me heading down memory lane, “Over .500, Pirates Get Back in the Mix“:

PITTSBURGH — For 18 years, baseball teams have known where to shop for help in the pennant race. The Pittsburgh Pirates have finished each of those seasons with a losing record, and by July, things are usually so hopeless that they trade veterans to contenders. The last two World Series winners have each included two players acquired from Pittsburgh for prospects.

“You’re happy for them individually, because that’s why every one of us does this,” said Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager. “You love to win.”

But now it is the Pirates (51-45), of all teams, who are winning again, tied for the lead in the National League Central after Wednesday afternoon’s 3-1 loss to Cincinnati. It is the latest they have led their division since winning it in 1992.

The subsequent streak of losing seasons is a record for the four major professional sports in the United States. It has bruised a proud city that has claimed two Super Bowls and a Stanley Cup since the Pirates’ last winning season.

“Times before that I’ve been here, it’s been hard to go out to dinner,” said Joel Hanrahan, the Pirates’ closer, who joined the team during the 2009 season. “You didn’t really want to go out because you didn’t want to have somebody come up and go, ‘Why don’t you ever win?’ Now, you can go out in town and not feel embarrassed. They’ll clear off the table for you real quick.”

OK. Long way from July until the World Series in December (or whenever it’s being played these days). And for my friends and family in Europe, I know we’re not talking about snooker here, but wouldn’t it be great to see the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series?

Well, you can dream. And as I shuffled past Bill Mazeroski Way in May, I thought about the seventh game of the World Series in 1960 when Maz hit the greatest home run ever. I’ll leave it at that as we head into the weekend where we can expect more hot, humid weather and nothing but good news.


2 responses to “Pittsburgh Pirates: Back on Top in the City of Champions

  1. I remember Bill Mazeroski’s HR way back then. Don’t know if you watch Regis Philbin in the A.m. but he predicted the Pirates would be on top this year. Hey, looking at you in the marathon–have you thought about getting a second job as “Santa Claus” this year? I think you’d be a dead ringer. Saw Bev’s fb post–and had to comment!

    • Helen,

      Hi. Hope you’re having an enjoyable summer. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the Pirates but at least it gives people in Pittsburgh something good to talk about before football season. And your suggestion about Santa Claus. Hey, not a bad idea!

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