October 14, 1992 is a date that will be forever etched into my memory. It was a brisk fall night and I was an 11-year-old boy living in Butler, Pennsylvania. That night, I was doing what most everyone in the Pittsburgh area was doing, watching game 7 of the NLCS; the Pittsburgh Pirates versus the Atlanta Braves. I can remember sitting on my living room floor, my Pirates memorabilia laid out in front of me, full of nervousness, excitement, and hope that I would finally get to see my team play in the World Series for the first time in my young life.
Unfortunately, the unimaginable happened. Francisco Cabrera hit a single that scored two runs in the bottom of the 9th inning that catapulted the Braves past the Pirates and into the World Series. That 9th inning will forever haunt me mainly for the fact of the controversial call at home plate when ex Pirate, Sid Bream, slid into home and was called safe though, to this day myself and other fans alike would say that he was out. I watched on as the Atlanta Braves celebrated, warm tears threatening to spill down my cheeks. I never would have thought in a million years that in that moment, it would be another 21 years before I would see my beloved Pirates make the Playoffs again.
21 years is a long time. A lot has happened in those 21 years. I have gone on to achieve 4 college degrees including a Masters; I married and had two wonderful children. In those 21 years, the Pittsburgh Steelers would go on to appear in four Super Bowls, winning two and the Pittsburgh Penguins would go on to appear in two back to back Stanley Cups winning one. The Steelers and the Penguins both won championships in the same year putting the Pirates in the dust as the only non-championship team in the city. Also in those 21 years, America saw four different Presidents. The Pirates set the record for being the only team in any sports history to have 20 consecutive losing seasons. Fans begin to lose hope and stopped believing. The games became empty as people stopped attending. Year after year, the Pirates continued to disappoint and became the laughing stock of the MLB. That all changed this year when the Pirates had their first winning season in 20 years and made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.
On October 9, 2013, the Pirates entered game 5 of the NLDS all tied up. They fought hard and lost the battle against the St. Louis Cardinals. Pirates fans from all over were upset and saddened that the Pirates stellar season was over, in the blink of an eye. Though after the loss, you wouldn’t think they lost but you would think they have won instead. In the eyes of the fans, the Pirates did win.
It isn’t a coincidence that the Pirates entered the playoffs 21 years later, which just happens to be the jersey number of Roberto Clemente, one of the best Pirates to ever play the game. Somewhere up above, Clemente was watching over his team and smiling. The first round loss was a tough pill to swallow but the Pirates accomplished more than any team did the entire season. Not only did they have their first winning season in ages and not only did they make the playoffs for the first time in ages, but they also brought back the fans.
For the first time in 21 years, the fans had something to believe in and to hope for. The Pirates brought together old and new fans; they rekindled the love that lost fans once had for the Pirates. Most importantly, they brought a city together and once again, established themselves as a championship team. For the first time since I was a kid, I was able to put aside the botched call at home plate in game 7 and look ahead at what this new age team can accomplish. In my eyes, the Pirates are champions already. Thank you to the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates for bringing back my childhood memories and for making me believe once again. The city of Pittsburgh should be proud to have such a hard fighting and dedicated team as the Pirates. I’m sure I can speak for the Pirates fans all over when I say that we are proud and will continue to believe in the magic and relish in the fact that the Pirates taught people of all ages that with dedication and hard work, anything could be accomplished. Thank you again for the memories past and present.