“I Was There” – Pirates versus a .500 season

In the six months of Ladies, this is the hardest post I’ve had to write.   So hard that I’ve actually been working on it since this game… 

That’s right.  Ever since the Buccos gave up a 10th inning walk-off grand slam to Dodgers on April 21

You know, after they gave up the lead in the 9th.   

So promise to stick with me if turns into the worst post ever in all of sport blogging history.  I have a boat and we’re going up the river…

I am not the best baseball fan.  I can score a game, I can maintain a fantasy team with a fair amount of success, and I can savor the stillness in the air when a pitcher takes that extra half a second before turning to throw the ball.  But I do not have a passion for it. 

I watch baseball with a cynical eye and a jaded heart.   I do not understand – no, strike that –  I do understand why baseball fans get upset over players like Barry Bonds,  Sammy Sosa, and Jose Canseco, but frankly I do not care. 

Maybe if there was a part of baseball that held some sort of special memory for me, something larger than the fleeting images of going to games with old friends, something other than a cold, Fall night my freshman year of college.  If I only had one positive emotion tied to the Pirates, I would be more upset over players doping, ballparks redesigned to be hitter-friendly, and balls being juiced.  But I don’t, so I can’t.

Because as a fan of a “small-market team”, the game has always been fixed.

I knew going to see the Pirates take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was going to be a rough trip.  Roy Hobbs up in Seattle had sent a cryptic message about Jeff Weaver being able to take down the team, even with a 10-some ERA.  And judging by the map,  Angels stadium was no where near my house, despite being called the “Los Angeles Angels”.

A quick check of SigAlert showed that the route was clear, but as soon as we pulled on to the 101 we knew our intelligence report had been flawed.  Good thing we had left more than three hours before game time.

For an hour and half TheStarterBoyfriend and I made our way down the 5, talking about past games, the lunacy of the up-coming Pirate Fan Protests,  the rage of many fans,  and the overwhelming sense of ennui that had taken over even the most rabid of Bucco fans.

After briefly panicking just before Disneyland that we didn’t know which exit to take and one $5.95 call to Verizon 411 Connect,  we finally ended up in the parking lot next to famous ice cream truck.

This isn’t what I had expected the enemy to look like.  It was reborn, shiny, and adored.  That fixed up van was everything Angels; crap through the ’80′s and ’90′s only to find glory in recent years.  

We paused and pressed on.

One of the natives came up to us and asked if we wanted her take our picture while I took this shot, and genuinely seemed hurt when I said thank-you, but that was not necessary.   ESPN will lead with  a Steeler story seven days a week, but the Pirates… I don’t know if they even make Baseball Tonight these days.  We didn’t exist any more.

Sadly, I think she’s  done FHM and not Playboy. 

Jeff Garcia?  A Browns jersey?  When did we cross in to Cambodia?  The enemy was everywhere and I couldn’t get Starterboyfriend out of the boat.

Watching the warm ups,  I could tell no one was in charge.   They knew they were out fighting for the biggest nothing yet, an inter-league game.

By the second inning we were already getting killed, 5-0.  I had texted my old baseball watching buddies across the country, “I get to go to about five Pirate games a year, and they blow it each time.”   Britcher, as always, was the first to respond, “Just you watch, we’ll come back and win this thing.”

The war was already over and he was going to keep on fighting.  It was then I knew he was never going to truly come home.

Nady made it back.  He had that light about him, that he’d be the one guy to score any runs for us all season. 

Bautista on the other hand, was going to keep on doing what he had done all series – blowing every play that came by third base and spending more time on his knees than a hooker back in Saigon.

Another message came from Britcher.  “You’re a Pghburger, see if they will you let you go out and catch.” 

This wasn’t my war anymore. 10-1 final score.  We certainly were not going to be building this any time soon.

Starting pitcher Ian Snell, the same man who I had seen go from winning a Dodger game to having his teammates blow it in the 9th back in April, lost it after the game.

I [expletive] hate this,” he said at his stall, his voice rising. “And you can put that in the paper. I [expletive] hate losing. I hate when the team doesn’t bring out its full potential. And if they fine me, fine me. I don’t care. Because this is getting stupid. We’re better than what we’re showing.”

That is the quote of a man’s spirit being broken.  Soon he’ll be as dead as the other villagers around the clubhouse.   “Welcome to hell” still hangs in air, even all these years later.

So walk out June 30th, it won’t matter.   Smizik from the Post-Gazette already has his response  as does Gene Collier. If you believe John Harris from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, it is the fans fault in the first place and that Pirate fans are just another cog in the wheel of keeping a 14-year loosing streak going by supporting the team. 

(It is convenient for Harris to forget that for most of the 90′s every other story was about how the city couldn’t support a Major League Baseball team.  It was drummed into even the most casual of fan that if they did not show their love, if they did not support the Pirates no matter what, that the team could be taken away.  Moved to a better, brighter city like Nashville and out of dingy old Pittsburgh.  For a town that has more civic pride than sense, these lessons are not going to disappear overnight.)

Nothing is going to change the plight of the Pirates. 14 loosing seasons will soon turn to 15.  Blame who you want, but I know where my fight belongs.

I cannot see Selig, but I can feel him everywhere.  

28 thoughts on ““I Was There” – Pirates versus a .500 season

  1. TSW’s toiled away on this one for quite a good long time, with a manic look in her eye and continually talking about “going to a dark place.” I steered clear and let her tap away on that blasted typewriter, hoping she’d come back to civilization. Some day.

    Sheer brilliance:

    “The war was already over and he was going to keep on fighting. It was then I knew he was never going to truly come home.”

  2. i remember the glory days of the buccos before the 14 year drought

    i fondly recall collecting Clark Bar wrappers to trade in for $1 tickets to decent seats at Three Rivers Stadium and sit with my dad learning to keep score

    im conjuring up images of skinny Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and the hotness that is/was Andy Van Slyke

    i’d rather win too, but i cant replace those memories

  3. Sheena – I had a crush in Doug Drabek like you would not believe.

    Clare – That was the nicest thing anyone has said to me in years.

    Andie – That is just The Doors you hear in the post. It has that effect on everyone when you have “The End” looped while writing.

  4. Great stuff Ladies!

    Harris is right – it is the fans fault. They just keep going, and going, and going. Goose said the same thing back in 2003, but nobody listened to him then either.

    Well, mark my words – in a month or two you’ll see Robert Nutting declare he wants to “turn it all around”, he’ll state Kevin McClatchy is now out, he’ll hire a new CEO by December 2007, and the new CEO will eventually fire Littlefield in mid-2008, and a new GM hired in December 2008 as the latest 5 year plan stretches into its 10th year.

    All the while Nutting will continue to make thirty trips per day to PNC Bank with those same fans money declaring every mile that they don’t have the right to question his families commitment to winning.

    Whoopie!

    BTW, how does Selig feel to you?

    Jake at Bucco Blog
    http://buccoblog.mlblogs.com

    PS – thanks for the shout. Nice site.

  5. Brilliance, TSW. The Cubbies have been losing for almost a century, and Cubs fans get infuriated at the front office every year- but there is a difference, because we always think we have a shot at the brass ring. And even though our management makes boneheaded moves, no one thinks they’re actively trying to torpedo the club.

  6. Texy – It wouldn’t be so bad if they team didn’t make money and could not afford players, but they do and they can.

    They play in stadium that got boat loads of public money and continues to have nothing but tax breaks for the owners. If they hadn’t been tied to the Steelers getting Heinz Field, they would have rioted in the streets a long time ago.

  7. TSW and Jake, the same argument could be made for the Phillies. I read somewhere that during this next homestand, the Phillies will get their millionth fan of this season–and it’s only June! One million fans coming out to see a barely .500 team that, let’s be honest, has an outside-at-best chance of making the postseason. With an average ticket price of $27.50, it’s not like the front office can’t afford to cut some dead weight [cough cough]Burrell[cough] or pay to keep a hustling, play-making fan favorite who’s heading into free agency [cough cough]Bacon Pants[cough].

    I guess what I’m saying is, PAT GILLICK AND DAVID MONTGOMERY I WILL CRUSH YOU AND YOUR EVIL FRONT OFFICE CABAL.

  8. I remember calling a Tony Pena home run the pitch before it happened at Three Rivers.

    Your post almost made me cry. All I want is one winning season.

    The fans have every right to walk out, since they paid for the stadium. But will Dave Littlefield do anything about it? I’d like to think we’re all smart enough to know the answer to that.

    And a walk out would look much more impressive/get much more attention if there were actually fans in the seats. I mean, this ain’t Florida, but its no Yankee Stadium either.

  9. Clare, you are absolutely right. Philly fans have been putting up with that front office stuff for as long as I can remember and have been a fan…back in the day when Kruk still had two balls and a bat. Its ridiculous. Every single year they pull the same stuff, the stadium is almost always packed and yet they don’t spend the money they need to keep their good players…they keep mediocre players and trade the good ones after a year because they think they will start to suck or past bad decisions, coughburrellcough, come back to haunt and scare them.

    I am half convinced they will never win because of this and yet the other half of me SWEARS we can win. Bleh.

    So, I feel your pain, tsw, it sucks.

  10. The Smizik article was really spot on. The Nutting family wants their 20%, and Smizik has been hammering on them for years now. But they don’t care – they get the revenue sharing and put it in their pocket, and they are happy as can be. Because people like me still will go to a few games a year, because they are lovable losers.

    I live in WV, and I live in the shadow of the Nutting family, and their ham-handed practices in how they run newspapers. They put out mediocre products and they shove it down the throat of the consumers and the advertisers. Much like what they are doing with the Pirates.

    Littlefield is just the latest of GMs to work off of bad drafts, a poor minor league system, and lack of scouting. The money should be in scouting, but even then you need to pony up the cash when they hit the big time. Except they always overpay a Jason Kendall type.

    a walk-out won’t do jack. Only the slowing of ticket sales will have an effect. If Bud was David Stern, he’d have a quiet conversation about “improving the product.” But Bud is weak, and probably thinks the team should move.

    Pittsburgh is a dichotomy. It’s a city which is still losing population at 5% rate, is no longer the power town it once was, but still supports a football team with great public support, and trust, and respect. A Rooney could commit a triple murder in broad daylight and a hundred witnesses and if the Steelers won the super bowl, a jury would not be able to find a verdict.

    Pittsburgh would not do well with a Mark Cuban type owner. Too flashy, too much in the face of people, too many ‘old skool’ types who like things a bit more sedate.

    This reminds me – I have email from Sacastro in my inbox regarding drinking and baseball. I need to respond to said message.

  11. Brilliant work, TSW. In a brutally painful way, that is.

    Harris will be disappointed to find out that I was there for Bill Mazeroski Plate night, but only because a) it’s a birthday present for my mom, and b) it represents a time when management gave a fuck.

  12. You what I am always left with?

    What if CMU had been the ones who had bought the team? What if we had built a new stadium back when Mayor Sofie Masloff suggested it – way before Camden Yards – when everyone laughed at her.

    So many blown chances, I always wonder when the next great idea is going to pass that team by.

  13. ah yes, the chance meeting with mazloff at the city’s Great Race back in say….1989 if im not mistaken

    almost as quality as bum rushing native son, Michael Keaton at Sandcastle

    he was not pleased when i looked at him and said “I’m Batman”

  14. TSW –

    I feel your pain. I, too, am afflicted and conflicted. I went to Seattle for that debacle (at least we won one game) and have travelled over the years to see the team play in different cities – the Puerto Rico games against the Expos being my favorite even though we sucked then, too. I’m old enough and lucky enough to remember the glory years of the 70′s and the late 80′s and early 90′s. My schoolgirl crushes were Rennie Stennet and Andy Van Slyke. No matter how hard I try to cut the cord, though, I can’t do it. I’ve resigned myself to a lifetime of baseball frustration, buffered by the success (and failures) of the Steelers, Penguins and Pitt.

    Keep up the good writing.

  15. Thanks for the comment Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Gal. Someone smarter than I am once said that the Pirates are our burden for having the Steelers, so I guess they’re my boys.

    Sigh…

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