Saturday, January 14, 2012

All things being equal, I would have been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan

I've been a Red Sox fan has long as I could remember.

I remained loyal even when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Los Angeles.
My Red Sox fan credentials are solid. Don't believe me? Turn on HBO.

But I wonder what my fandom would have been if I didn't grow up in New England.
What team would I have picked if geography didn't play such a factor?

Simple. I would have been a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
And anyone who reads this blog regularly would see why.

My theory that you truly start following a team when you are 7 or 8 years old have the Pirates playing a huge part of my baseball life.

The 1979 World Series was the first one I remember watching, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. The Orioles were terrific but the Pirates were just cool. Their players seemed to be more fun, their uniforms were bonkers and the players were dancing to disco in the dugout.

I've written a lot about the 1979 Pirates, including this post which is my personal favorite one.

Willie Stargell remains one of my favorite players ever. I banged the drum loudly for Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame candidacy and for Dave Parker as well. And to this day, I get goose bumps when I hear Sister Sledge's We Are Family and can close my eyes and see Pops take McGregor deep.

Years later, I got emotionally attached to another Pirates team. I rooted for the 1990 and 1991 Pittsburgh Pirates to win their Division and in the NLCS. They lost a pair of heart breakers.

But it was the 1992 team that I really loved.

I was first and foremost a Red Sox fan in 1992, but that edition was a truly boring team.

Boggs and Burks were finishing out their time with the Sox. Veterans like Greenwell and Jack Clark were hurt and Tom Brunansky led the team with 15 homers. Clemens was still great but the team was a non contender. (Back then the Red Sox and Yankees were boring, losing non contenders. Go figure.)

I found myself following the Pirates, who were supposed to finish behind the Mets after Bobby Bonilla defected to Queens (along with new comer Bret Saberhagen.)

Instead the Pirates got off to a 12-2 start. The fought with the Cardinals, Mets and Expos until mid season they blew the competition away. An 11 game winning streak in late July and early August made a joke of the race. And there was a sense of urgency with the team.

They knew that Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek were going to be free agents and this would be their best shot to win a pennant. And if you saw me during the 1992 NLCS, you would have thought I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. And after the Francisco Cabrera hit stabbed Pittsburgh in the throat, I was crushed more than any baseball event since 1986.

On the blog, I've constantly got on the Pirates for their awful drafts, their lousy trades and I was so excited for them last summer when for a few months they looked like contenders.

But I also find myself being drawn to the Pirates of the past.

I have an obsession with 1925 World Series hero Red Oldham.

I wrote about the alternate history of a potentially integrated Pirates team in 1938.

I watched the MLB Network rebroadcast of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

I am currently reading a book about the 1971 Pirates and have a Roberto Clemente book next on my shelf.

I have a Pirates fascination.
It is easier to root and follow a team now with, XMRadio, etc. If I had all of that back in 1979, maybe I wouldn't be a Sox fan. Maybe I would have been a die hard Pirates fan.

Then again, if that were the case I would have missed out on 2004 and 2007 and I'd have had no winning season since that 1992 season.

Maybe it is best.

But let the record show, I am rooting for the Pirates. The NL Central is winnable. The 7 year old version of me is cheering you on.

And one final Pirates obsession... I LOVE this video about Dock Ellis and his no hitter.

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  1. I could have seen myself picking Pittsburgh overall... I like the fact that all of their teams share a color scheme. It makes it easy for fan appearal. As a kid you could have just sported some black and yellow and that would cover your hockey, baseball, and football. Well, maybe not the Panthers, they kind of screw up this sweet deal. Oh well, I will stick to my black and orange tiger stripes and all red.

  2. I was at Stargell's HOF induction in 1988. They handed out little yellow stars to all the attendees. I wish I knew where mine is now.

    That '79 World Series was the worst-looking Series ever. Not for the play, that was really good. But the look. Black and gold vs. black and orange. The footballness of Three Rivers. The awful turf. The Memorial Stadium field was grass but yardlined and torn up by the Colts. And it had the worst lighting system in baseball. (2nd if you count the as yet unlighted Wrigley Field.) Every time I'd watch the Yanks play the O's on Channel 11 and someone hit one out, the lights would leave such awful streaks on the screen. Bad camera filters, maybe? Let's not forget the hair and the mustaches. Dan Epstein of "Big Hair and Plastic Grass" must've loved it, but I would've preferred the radio.

    Don't forget the most obvious Red Sox-Pirates connection. The first World Series, 1903. There's never been a rematch -- the only times since that both teams have reached the postseason were 1975 and 1990.

  3. When I was 7 it was the Yankees vs Dodgers then at age 8 the Cards vs Yankees, I guess I would have been a Dodger fan but my Dad and Mom never forgave (Is that a word)? the Dodgers for moving But I followed the Dodgers during those years with Koufax, Drysdale, Wes Parker, Roseboro and so many other good players

  4. flippyball343:39 PM

    Marlins fan but the Expos will always be my first love. I was 16 in '94 and had it not been for the strike I feel they would have won the series behind Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom. I even have a Youppi! plush. Viva les Spos!

  5. well actually I have several friends that are Pittsburgh pirates fans and they seem to enjoy the games of their team even though the team does not win often LOL