Posts tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Dear Andrew McCutchen


In response to Andrew McCutchen’s article, Dear Pittsburgh.


Dear Andrew McCutchen,

I wanted to sincerely thank you for your letter to me (and everyone).

I have been part of Pittsburgh since 1963. I remember 1971. I remember 1979.

I remember 1992, when a guy who had wished to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, a guy who had offered to take a pay cut to stay in town and be a Pittsburgh Pirate, slid to the plate wearing a Braves uniform and knocked the wind out of this city.

I won’t rehash the Pittsburgh pIrate years except to say this: The biggest difficulty wasn’t the losing. We don’t need trophies to be happy (we have plenty). Sure we like to win, but we have our priorities straight. We do not like laziness. We do not admire greed. And we get rather peeved at those who crap on tradition.

In the midst of the bad years, I also remember June 4, 2009.

Your first game in Major League Baseball was a great game, and I was in the stands. You were a stand out, a bright spark, a star. And, as the cheering subsided and I walked to my car, I wondered how long it would be before you were traded away in the night for a handful of beans.

But they didn’t trade you. And you became The Guy.

You’re The Guy we got to hold onto. It was a symbol, a pivot, a change. You’re The Guy who had skill. The Guy who had heart. The Guy who liked being a Pirate. A leader. An inspiration. The Guy who brought confidence—and fun!—back to the dugout. The Guy who didn’t get lazy, didn’t stop trying.

You’re The Guy cynical, middle-age folk snuck a peek at while pretending not to care about baseball anymore.

You’re The Guy who set the tone for the team who gave baseball back to Pittsburgh.

And beyond all that, you’re you. And we love you.

We love you like we love an incline. We love you like we love a parade. We love you like we love pierogi made by little old ladies in the South Side.

We love you like we love rivers. We love you like we love ketchup. We love you like Christmas morning. We love you like Friday at 5:00. We love you like Primanti’s really late at night.

We love you like we love the street we grew up on. We love you like a neighbor. We love you like a friend. We love you like We Are Family.

We love you like our first baseball glove, the one Dad bought at Honus Wagner’s downtown. We love you like the crack of a bat. We love you like sunshine.

We love you like we love Mario. We love you like we love Myron. We love you like we love Bill Mazeroski and Willy Stargell.

We love that you want to be here. We love that you understand what baseball means to this town. We love that you love Roberto. We love your smile. We love your style. We love your game.

So, last season wasn’t the cherry on top. So what. We’re from Pittsburgh. We are very well aware that not every story would sell to Disney. We know turnarounds take time. We know setbacks make us strong. We weren’t worried.

Until the rumors started.

I heard the trade rumors exactly two days after I bought my brother a McCutchen jersey for Christmas.

(True story. When I saw a McCutchen jersey on a sale rack, I said aloud, in the store, “Huh, they’re not trading McCutchen are they?” And I laughed. I laughed! The sheer absurdity that the Pittsburgh Pirates organization would give up The Guy? That they would decide to trip momentum? Turn back time? No way. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Even for people who don’t give a damn about the love of Pittsburgh, the financial benefits of the resurgence had to be enough to keep them happy enough to not do something as preposterously, stunningly stupid as trading The Guy, right? I laughed.)

Such a punch to the gut. A reminder of 1992 and all that followed. The disconnected years. The fool-me-20-times years. And I wondered if maybe it was all a lie. Maybe nothing had changed. Maybe the plan all along had been to do the minimum required to lure in a new generation and then sit back and make concession/advertising/profit-sharing money for another 20 years. Maybe the decision makers still couldn’t see beyond their wallets to the soul of a thing, to the ripples of a baseball hitting a river, to the importance of The Guy.

I held my breath. I wrinkled my brow. I grew gray hairs. I expected the worst but I hoped.

And then.

Perhaps they recognized the importance of The Guy. Perhaps they saw the error of their ways. Perhaps a collection of lucky circumstances kept a deal from getting done. Or, perhaps, there is simply nothing that can stand against the fervent, collective wish of the people of Pittsburgh.

And perhaps it was coincidence that the news of you staying arrived and we got spring in February.

However it happened, dear Andrew McCutchen, we are very glad you are here.

Sincerely,
Beth Schmidt

February 20, 2017 at 3:22 pm 3 comments

Welcome Back, Baseball

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

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

Missing Opening Day

It’s Opening Day for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I can’t help recalling what it would be like to be at the ballpark. The sun is shining after a couple of wintry spring days. I suddenly have a hankering for a steamed hot dog in a mushy bun. At this moment, I’d like to be playing hookie at a turnstile, showing my ticket, part of the frenetic crowd, chatting with an usher. I’d like to see pristine grass on the ground and that train whistle guy on the JumboTron.

Being born in the 60s into a family that loved baseball and knew it well, I was taught to swing a bat before I could lift one, and I learned to catch and throw before we had figured out if I were left or right handed. (I used to catch a ball, take off the glove, and throw with the same hand.) When we’d sorted that out, my Dad took me to Honus Wagner to pick out my very own baseball glove.

That was a BIG day.

I became cognizant of the Pirates when they were winners. When they were a respected organization. Pirates Fan was as equivalent to the term Pittsburgher then as Steelers Fan is now (believe that or not those of you who buy most of the beer at sporting events these days). Pirates Fans cheered and screamed and grieved together. We remember—too clearly still—the day Roberto Clemente died. We remember “Chicken on the hill” and “By a gnat’s eyelash” and “We Are Family”—which truly was something more than an advertising slogan.

The Pirates were winners. I knew each player’s name and number and position.

I attended the last game ever in Three Rivers Stadium. And on groundbreaking day for PNC Park, I was there for the re-naming of Clemente Bridge and the digging ceremonies. And when I saw Willie Stargell walk through the crowd, I was in awe.

I will admit to you that I was one of the people who thought financing the new ballpark was a great idea. I believed when they told us how it would help the team. And this city’s economy. I believed. And I loved baseball. And the Pittsburgh Pirates have always resided in a very special place in my heart. They were a Life Preserver. I was a Fan.

But. You know the old saying:  Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 18 times, shame on the Nuttings.

Last year was the year I gave up. Last year was the year it became too personally unethical to give Pirates ownership any more of my money. Last year was the first year in my life that I did not attend a single game. Nor watch one on TV. Nor even listen to one on the radio. (Which I find to be one of the most singularly pleasing sounds in the universe; I’m not sure why, but it reminds me of the radio at home on the kitchen counter, when the cabinets were green and my grandparents were alive.)

Today, I heard a lot of hoopla, stirred up by advertising dollars and, god bless them, a few who still seem to believe. I am willing to admit that some of the young guys may be good players, exciting even. I wish them well, but I will not be sucked into the lies yet again.

If the Pirates win a lot and all these exciting young men are still around after the trade deadlines, perhaps I will try to learn their names. Perhaps, when the owners stop spitting on the history of a once proud organization and decide to care more about America’s past time than bobble heads and fireworks and overpriced food, perhaps I will pay them some attention.

It’s opening day in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And I am missing it.

April 7, 2011 at 11:38 am 5 comments

The Grin in Chagrin

The NFL football season ended last night. I, like all of Steeler Nation, feel bad.

But. I don’t feel that bad.

I haven’t screamed. I’ve barely pouted. Until 7:35 this morning, I had not shed a tear.

I don’t feel that bad. And that baffles me.

I suspected, at first, a scenario in which I am in a coma, last night was an IV-induced dream, and Rocky Bleier is my doctor.

But. At work, fully clothed, unable to fly, pinched myself. I’m awake.

It’s real, eh?

Well, maybe I don’t feel that bad because I got to have a lot of fun this season. Having attended only two Steeler games in my life (both losses), this year I got to attend two more:  the opener and the AFC Championship game. And, despite a temperature difference of about 70 degrees, I had a similarly exhilirating, palpitating, voice-losing, Towel-twirling, high-fiving-the-nephew, brought-home-a-winner blast at both.

Or maybe I can’t feel pain because my endorphin levels are still so high from the game of January 15. Could a win last night possibly have felt any better than the night we beat the Ravens? I wonder.

Then again, maybe I don’t feel horrible because the Packers are a team that’s hard to hate. Small market, storied history, fans who know the game—I’ve always felt the affinity. (Losing to Dallas in XXX was worse. So much worse.)

Look, I’m not saying I’m turning cartwheels (or would be turning cartwheels if I could do a cartwheel). But. I’m okay. Which is weird.

I was pondering thusly, in my car, coming up on 7:35 a.m., as I crossed the West End Bridge and veered right, onto the ramp to 65. And with the car aiming North, there—in a wee trickle of rare February morning light—sat Heinz Field. And I reached for my Steelers scarf like Linus Van Pelt.

Last night, I believed. Not wished. Not hoped. But believed the Steelers were going to win the Super Bowl. Even though (or, actually, because) the odds makers called them underdogs. Even after nearly all the talking-heads picked the green and gold. (Good on ya, Terry B.) Even after Pouncey finally, most definitely, had to sit out. Even after 58 minutes and 1 second of losing. I believed.

How is that possible? I’m a devout lapsed Optimist.

Think for a moment about how this season started. After last year? With Santonio gone and Ben suspended? With some rookie at center? Remember that? Yeah. Now, think about how you’ve felt for the past few weeks. How you felt going into last night’s game.

This year was extraordinary. This year was a transformation. This year surprised. And it wasn’t us. It wasn’t the media. It wasn’t Goodell. It wasn’t luck or juju or even our beloved Myron or the Rooney tradition or some dynasty magic.

This year was extraordinary because of that group of men on the field last night. The Steelers 2010 squad. Players and coaches. Good guys and “bad” guys and even a kinda skeevy guy (who I want to believe has changed but, bottom line, either way, is still an incomparable quarterback). Quiet guys and crazy guys. Big guys, tall guys, fast guys, and small guys. Veterans and rookies. This happy few. They made us believe. They overcame the obstacles. They played through the tendon-tearing, ankle-twisting, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking injuries. They stepped in and stepped up. They unselfishly supported each other. They kept their cool right next to their swag. They played with heart. And talent. They gave us an amazing season. They made it to the Super Bowl and let us come along for what was a wild and wonderful ride.

Maybe I don’t feel that bad because pride trumps disappointment.

But maybe they do feel that bad. And so I say, Gents:  Chin up. Stand tall. You had a great year. Thank you for being one of my favorite life preservers. And thank you for making me proud to be a Steeler fan every day—even today.

What was your favorite thing about the 2010 Steelers?



February 7, 2011 at 6:20 am 3 comments

Are You Ready?

It’s a Legend. An Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Coming over the next 28 Days. An entire city stricken by the same affliction.

It’s about to happen. You know it is.

The little hairs on the back of your neck sense it. And those goosebumps that slide down your arms like the snow and ice that cover the landscape. There’s a chill wind. I pull my scarf a bit tighter around the collar of my black jacket, which I bought to go with the scarf and not the other way around. And I observe this super-natural town.

A normally well-groomed friend has begun to wear the same shirt regularly—and will not wash it.

A dear and respected friend of the family who had to be coaxed and “feeling good” to dance even one dance at his son’s wedding has begun to leap about, executing an intricate pattern of steps, an interpretative voo-doo dance meant to curse.

Serious businessmen, street-wise policemen, and the most faithful folks of the cloth have turned superstitious. Even the roughest men from the mills are not immune to changes, oddities, mysterious charms.

Certain words and phrases are hereby banned from speech. Loud people have gone quiet. Quiet people will get loud. Strangers will become comrades. Knuckles will crack. Nails will be nubs. Breath will be held. Teenage children will borrow clothing from their parents.

Keep your head up. Pay attention. You’ll see the signs. Above roadways. On the fronts of buses. Above tunnels. On storefronts. On Church letter boards. Car washes. Burger joints. Front porches. Flagpoles. Vehicles. In people’s yards. In their windows.

And in their eyes.

Get ready. Stock up. Pull friends and loved ones close to you. Huddle together. Because it’s about to get a little weird in this town.

Screams will be heard. Pacemakers will pulse. And towels will be waved.

The playoffs are about to begin in Pittsburgh, PA .

Here we go Steelers. Here. We. Go.

Got a playoff superstition? What is it?

January 10, 2011 at 4:12 am Leave a comment

The Winners’ Circle

Yesterday, I played volleyball for the first time in about two years.

My head was in the game. My heart was in the game. My arms and legs? Not so much. Fifty percent of my serves just barely made it over the net. The other fifty just didn’t. My jumps, or the attempt thereof, weren’t what you’d call vertical. My sets were clumpy, lacking the height and the control that, at one time, I was (I’ll admit it) kinda proud of. Oddly enough, I did actually dive a time or two—apparently due to some sorta spastic kamikaze muscle memory—but the current body is way more rock than roll.

Thud.

In short (and I’ve never felt shorter), I played badly.

Worst of all perhaps, yesterday, I walked out of my house wearing shorts to run around in the heat in front of a large group of people, some with cameras.

It should have been a heart-breaking disaster, a big ol’ mid-life bum out, the final crumbling of the little shred of ego I pretend not to cling to.

But here’s the thing.

I wasn’t stumbling around alone on that court. I was part of a team. We do not wear a uniform. We have no locker room. We have no coach or strategy. We don’t even meet at the same gym on the same day of the week anymore. But we’ve known each other a long time and remain connected by a unique mix of memories, simpatico, respect, abuse, alcohol, silliness, and true affection. You know, we’re friends.

I don’t need trophies. I don’t need prizes. I have no need for any new bragging rights beyond this:   Yesterday we sat, as the playoffs continued, in the winners’ circle.

We sat in a circle of lawn chairs. Relaxed in the shade. Sharing picnic food and cold beer. We slipped out of our volleyball shoes, peeled sweaty socks, unhooked braces, and laughed our freakin’ asses off.

We used to play volleyball multiple nights a week and tournaments on the weekends. My life pretty much revolved around it. It took pretty much all of my free time and, in gear, gas, travel, fees, and entertainment, a significant portion of my income.

There is a part of me that doesn’t miss it:  that’d be my right shoulder. (And the feet, knees, and back.)

But, the rest of me? Yeah. Most of me misses it. A lot.

Cheers my friends. See you next year.

August 8, 2010 at 7:24 am 2 comments


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