PITTSBURGH - It felt like I was entering a funeral home while walking through the PNC Park gates Sunday afternoon to watch the Pirates. The Buccos have lost for 16 straight seasons and were one more defeat away from achieving 82 losses this year. That would break a professional sports record for consecutive losing seasons. I was 9 years old when the Pirates last had a winning season, and today was the first time in my life I rooted against them. I came to the ballpark because I wanted to stare this woeful accomplishment in the face.
The game seemed to be going according to plan when catcher Jason Jaramillo chucked the ball over pitcher Paul Maholm's head, allowing a run to score in comical fashion. What else would you expect from the worst franchise in pro sports history. The Pirates clawed back to tie the game until Rick Ankiel launched a Jesse Chavez pitch into the centerfield bleachers in the top half of the 9th. I stood and applauded the Pirates' tragic destiny as Ankiel rounded the bases.
But it wasn't meant to be because rookie first baseman Garrett "The Legend" Jones cranked a single into the gap for the game-winning RBI. Many of the 19,000 fans in attendance roared with approval. I did not. I just stood there with my hands in my pockets and watched the celebration near second base. They escaped this shameful record for one more day.
Then I caught a glimpse of a father and his young son cheering next to me. They had been talking the whole game as the father taught his boy about baseball. That's when it struck me. No matter what owner Bob Nutting and these atrocious Pirates do on the field, they still can't take baseball away from us. There's no other place in Pittsburgh I'd rather be than PNC Park on a beautiful summer afternoon.
UPDATE - 9/7/09: The Pirates clinched their 17th consecutive losing season Monday and set a professional sports record in doing so. Congrats, and no luck next year.
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