Welcome Back, Baseball

October 10, 2013 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

If you’re an older Pittsburgher, you were kind of spoiled as a kid when it comes to sports. And, beyond the thrill of winning, beyond the community pride, beyond the bragging rights, a part of you forever yearns to relive those days.

Not, as outsiders may think, because you’re part of an obnoxious fan base that always expects to win. But because your love of sports is forever entwined with the past, when:

  • Your grandparents (and for some, your parents) were still alive. You learned about sports because they loved sports. You love the Pirates because they loved the Pirates. You watched games together crowded around a small TV or radio. And you miss those days. You miss them more than a World Series appearance.
  • Gas stations still had attendants. A man would pump your gas, wipe the windshield, and hand you the latest Pirates give-away, like a drinking glass or a glossy 8×10 of a player.
  • If you were lucky as me, you had a big brother who let you and your sister sit in his room, where he used a team photo poster to help you memorize every name and number.
  • There was no ebay. Kids lined up to get autographs for the pure joy of having the signature of a player they adored.
  • It was nearly impossible to get tickets to Opening Day.
  • Team budgets weren’t hamstrung by greed.
  • Baseball players were baseball players, part of one team, part of the city where they played the game.
  • Pittsburgh wasn’t a small-market town struggling to make payroll. It was your whole world.

Somewhere, in the same brain that now wrestles thoughts of mortgage and clients and deadlines, you still have Manny’s smile, Steve Blass’ leap, the towering-fame/guy-I-could-have-a-beer-with dichotomy of Bill Mazeroski, the grace and heartbreak of Clemente, the grin and grit of Danny Murtaugh, an enduring crush on Richie Hebner, the mustache of Phil Gardner, the crazy arm of Kent Tekulve, the reassuring presence of Willie Stargell.

As we have a tendency to view most of the past from a distance:  It was better then.

As we have gotten older, as we have been forced to let go of the ways of childhood, it felt unfair to also be asked to give up Our Team. To handle years of losing. Years of disappoint. Years of expending deep empathy for the young men who tried. Years of watching bright sparks fade away. Years of feeling like hostages to folks who did not appear to share our beliefs, who did not seem to care, who did not behave as if they had a clue about baseball in this town. Even a couple of years when we very nearly lost baseball altogether.

And then.

Changes were made. A cog shifted and the wheel of a plan we had ceased to believe in began to turn. The gate creaked open and in that rush of air, from that collective gasp, a roar went up. A resonating, goose-bumping, awe-inspiring roar in the hearts, in the homes, in the stands, and in the town where the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball.

Something in each of us came alive again. We believed again. We hoped again. And that’s a fairly miraculous phenomenon, a life preserver for those of us of a certain age. Even if the season didn’t have a movie script ending. The current run may have ended last night, but — for at least a year, and maybe more — baseball returned to the City of Pittsburgh.

A very Pittsburgh-y group of men led by a very Pittsburgh-y coach gave us an awesome gift.

It was not 1992 all over again. It was not the last hard kick in the pants that pushed you into adulthood.

It was something else.

Let's Go Bucs

Entry filed under: Life Preservers. Tags: , , , .

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