AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Sports

October 16, 2013

EXTRA INNINGS: Happy for past season; happier for seasons to come

OPINION — WHEN A TEAM that has not won much does well and is eliminated from extended post-season play, people often shrug off their exit by explaining, “Hey, they were just happy to be there.”

After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates—and their fans—were not “just happy to be there.” No, we all were ecstatic!

Had you been asked last spring if a .500 record would please you, you would have jumped on such a deal, at about the same time people were snickering, not always behind Clint Hurdle’s back, when the skipper projected his team would win 95 games during a season when it lost five of its first six games to open the 2013 campaign, then went 93-63.

Especially after having been stung in each of the two previous summers’ meltdowns, we would have signed up for .500.

But unlike each of the past two seasons, this version of the Pirates stiffed its back when it teetered on the edge of a losing streak, never losing five consecutive contests.

“We definitely had an amazing year,” Andrew McCutchen said after the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated the Bucs in the fifth and deciding game. “A year to remember. A year that's going to go down in the books forever. Definitely happy to be a part of it.”

It was a year that has fans licking their chops for 2014, when season ticket sales are expected to near 20,000. For the first time in two decades, the off-season will be more than a time of signing free agents nobody else wants and trying to promote players whose ceilings are lower than those at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Moreover, if there were any question in the first place, the Pirates re-established themselves as Pittsburgh’s clear number two team, behind only the Steelers in popularity. Nobody can question the Pirates’ fan loyalty.

If anyone doubts that Pittsburgh is a solid baseball town, answer these two questions: Had the Penguins or Steelers been under .500 for 20 straight seasons, what kind of fan base would they enjoy in year 20?

In the Pirates’ 20th consecutive losing year in 2012, the team drew more than two million fans after watching 1.9 million spin the turnstiles in 2011. And this year’s 2.25 million ranks historically only behind PNC’s inaugural 2001 season of 2.4 million.

In contrast, when the Pens’ 11 straight playoff appearances (Doesn’t everyone make the NHL three-month playoffs?) ended after 2001, attendance fell in 2002 and 2003, landing dead last among the 30 teams in 2003.

Even when the Steelers don’t qualify for the playoffs (2013?), the team still sells out. But ask season ticket holders how many of the original ticket buyers show up in December when the team is out of contention. There are starved fans all too willing to buy those unwanted tickets held by season ticket holders. And scalpers already have fistfuls of tickets available around Heinz Field during this lost season.

In the meantime, Pirates fans continue to bask in the warmth of an exciting season that reignited the city’s love of its Buccaneers and in anticipation of awards for McCutchen (MVP, Gold Glove), Hurdle (top manager), Francisco Liriano (comeback player), and Neal Huntington (top executive).

And with the Cardinals just two wins from advancing to another World Series, most Bucco fans are pulling for an organization that has had consecutive losing seasons just once (1994 and 1995) since 1960.

A Sports Illustrated article last May reminded that the organization’s 11 championships have been well distributed. According to author Ben Reiter, no son or daughter of St. Louis born since 1902 has reached the age of 25 without having lived through at least one World Series victory.

Those sighs you hear are from Pirate fans who will be watching their 35 straight World Series without a Pittsburgh participant.

But this winter there is fact-based hope that might change in 2014.

Thanks, Buccos, for the past…and the present.

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • On to baseball GC coach Bell retired — sort of!

    You can take the man out of coaching, but you can’t take coaching out of the man.
    Former Grove City High football coach Jeff Bell has spent his first few months of retirement hearing the ping of a baseball ricocheting off an aluminum bat instead of clap of shoulder pads coming together.
    “My grandson Maddox (Bell) and a few of his friends play on a traveling team, so I’m helping out with that,” said Bell, who retired as the Eagles’ football coach this past winter. “They’re a good group of kids to work with and this is a lot more enjoyable. It’s a lot less stress.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • RANDOM THOUGHTS: Pouncey latest Steeler to make court news

    HERE I THOUGHT, we were going to make it through an offseason without a Pittsburgh Steeler getting in trouble for something stupid.
    Thanks Maurkice Pouncey for allowing that to not happen.
    I just love seeing Steelers players in the police blotter or on the court docket (tongue firmly in cheek).

    July 30, 2014

  • EXTRA INNINGS: Forget trade deadline, focus on signing Martin

    WHILE BASEBALL fans are focused on tomorrow’s 4 p.m. EDT non-waiver trade deadline, there is an issue that is even more pressing for the Pirates: re-signing catcher Russell Martin, eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.
    Andrew McCutcheon is the team’s most valuable player, but Martin is the most valuable TO the Pirates. It is no coincidence that the Pirates’ return to the postseason last year occurred in Martin’s first year with the Bucs.

    July 30, 2014

  • NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U

    Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).

    October 19, 2011

  • steez pc.jpg NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return

    Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • wheldon, dan pc.jpg IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life

    Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.

    October 19, 2011 3 Photos

  • pens pc.jpg NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2

    The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.

    October 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • canadiens logo pc.jpg NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh

    A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.

    October 19, 2011 4 Photos

  • High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011

    A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.

    October 19, 2011

  • washington, ron pc.jpg Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011

    News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.

    October 19, 2011 5 Photos

Featured Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide