When Sid Bream slid into home safe, I was only 3. So I was asleep and didn't have to witness the beginning of a 20 year struggle for a winning record in Pittsburgh.
Like most kids, baseball was one of the first sports I played. Playing in the Evans City Farm League on ball fields next to the railroad tracks that ran through the town. I wasn't very good, and had a three month stint as a little league starting/relief pitcher they placed in left field most of the time who made contact with the ball less times than Brandon Inge.
The first Pirates season I can remember was "The Freak Show." The 1997 lineup that had a chance at winning the division with a team that resembled the Cleveland Indians in "Major League."
My dad had season tickets, so I remember weekend games, especially Sunday afternoons at Three Rivers Stadium. We sat along the left field line and I watched them with no thought of a certain number of losing seasons or records.
A part of growing up is learning that not everything is perfect, and that your favorite baseball team is not as good as you thought they were.
As they blew up Three Rivers Stadium and built the most beautiful ballpark for one of Major League Baseball's worst teams, I began to notice around the age of 11 that the Pirates were entering the first decade of losing seasons.
Like most season ticket holders, my dad gave up and got tired of wasting money on a loser. They say young people shouldn't be so jaded and cynical. Sadly, I became just that with the Pirates.
Saying "Yeah, I'm a Pirates fan" became a running joke, especially since I went to college in Central Pennsylvania, and the Phillies won the N.L. Pennant my freshman and sophomore year. Celebrating the Yankees 2009 World Series title was a low point.
Anyone under the age of 25 could tell you the same thing I'm saying right now. Some of us were born during the streak of division titles in the early 90s. Others have been born and raised amongst a losing team.
Nobody should shed a tear or sympathize with people my age who grew up following Pittsburgh sports.
The Steelers have played in multiple conference title games, and have won two of four Super Bowls since 1995. The Penguins have had their ups and downs in my lifetime and have raised the Stanley Cup within the last four year, but overall, they've been one of the best teams in the NHL over the last 20 years. So it was easy to leave the Pirates behind in late July and focus on the Steelers training camp and gear up for hockey season.
This season, things were different. The Steelers have been mediocre (to say the least) and have taken a backseat to the Pirates in the papers and media. The Pirates playing meaningful baseball in late September had me paying little to no attention to the Penguins as they prepared to open the 2013-14 season.
Call us bandwagoners. Shame us for walking away years ago when a losing season was guaranteed come late July. That's fine.
Baseball is like any sport. It can be a love/hare relationship. It can do a lot of negative things that make you turn away in disgust. But then there are the positives that remind you why you loved baseball as a kid.
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates reminded us why we love baseball. Making adult me remember those days at Three Rivers as a kid. My glove in hand, the red brimmed Pirates hat they wore with the old black alternate tops, and the late, great organist, Vince Lascheid, playing a medley of songs during the pregame.
I stopped taking my glove to games when I was about 10. That red brimmed hat probably got thrown out during a closet cleaning (or didn't fit my big head anymore), and a recording of Lascheid's rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is what remains of his legacy.
Memories are a funny thing. They make you remember the good times and the bad times. There have been a lot of bad times with the Pirates in my lifetime, but this season and even the two before this one reminded me of the innocence of my youth, when the Pirates were the best thing in the world.
I would bet that you're feeling the same way too.
Thank you Pirates. For making this 24 year-old remember why baseball can be great. Especially in Pittsburgh.
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