When Do I Get My Chance to See Pirate Greatness?

No offense to the rest of you old fogeys, but I’m in my prime. Early 20s, college student, all that jazz. No one’s going to call me a geezer. I have the whole world in front of me.
My only question is this: Will the Pirates ever be a competitive baseball team in my lifetime?
An entry in Dejan Kovacevic’s Post-Gazette Q&A hit home this morning:

I am 22 and vaguely remember watching the Bucs vs. Braves at my grandmother’s Carrick home in 1992. My question is: Do the Pirates publicly acknowledge that they lost my entire generation of fans who are now apathetic? And do they realize the problems of building the next generation based on bobblehead junk?
My little brother and his friends, born around 1994, only know of rumors connecting “Pirates” to “baseball.” Now at age 13, they also outgrew the promo junk and have not one winning memory.
If Nutting doesn’t start spending money, how does he think the Pirates will exist without two generations of fans?

Like Dave Yochum of Scott Township, I have only vague memories of going to Three Rivers Stadium as a child. My family had a season ticket package and I do remember bouncing around through the bowels of the ballpark, playing games with a crumpled-up hot dog wrapper for a ball and my extended arm as a bat. I think I may have even sat through a few innings of a game here and there.
The most disappointing aspect of losing year after year is the otherwise proud tradition of the Pirates. I have the A&E DVD set of the 1979 World Series, and the highlight videos from 1991 and 1992. When I was attending the University of Pittsburgh, I stepped on Forbes Field’s home plate and touched the old outfield wall. My favorite jersey to wear to a game is a custom replica with “Wagner #33″ on the back. I know that the Pirates used to win.
But will I ever see it with my own eyes?
When I was younger, I loved baseball with all my heart. I started Little League a year early, and I was coordinated enough to make the All-Star teams until pitchers started throwing breaking balls. Still, I played up until high school before quitting the sport in favor of scholastic wrestling.
I’m still not sure why I did that. Part of me knows it’s because I was flat-out terrible at the plate but decent on the mat. The other part wants to think the pathetic Pirates had something to do with it—I didn’t have anyone to look up to.
It’s never been cool to root for the Pirates. No one will ever, ever accuse me of being a bandwagon fan. Truth be told, I don’t even know how I got back into baseball after a handful of seasons away. Maybe all the bobbleheads helped.
Now that I’m writing about the Bucs on a daily basis, though, I have to wonder when my turn will come. I hear all the time about guys who were in the stands for Mazeroski’s walk-off blast or Clemente’s 3,000th hit. But will I ever see a moment like that?
The Pirates don’t have a single star in their system. Even Andrew McCutchen projects to be a modern day Marquis Grissom. It could be another decade before a first-class talent comes through Pittsburgh.
When do I get my chance to see Pirate greatness? And will anyone still care enough to watch it with me?

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  • Joey

    I too am from your generation (though I bit younger so I remember nothing of the early 90s), and wonder the same things. I do also know that it has never been cool to root for the Pirates. Among my peers, I can count no more than 5 people I know that actually follow the team. Nevertheless, the discussion lately (in the PG and talk shows) about the team losing the support of young fans is a bit questionable in my mind. Every game I attend, I see many fans that actually are young people (esp. on weekends). College students turn out in droves to games, even if they may be there simply for the night out and not the baseball (who can blame them?). Should the team ever start to win, I think these students may turn into good fans. No matter what, many young people will continue to come to PNC to have fun with their friends. The entry that hit home with you this morning was incorrect in saying that two generations of fans are lost. While I mentioned that I know only 5 true Pirate fans, I also know dozens of my peers consider a night at the ballyard a fun and cool activity.

  • Cory Humes

    Okay, Joey, how about this, then … do your friends that attend games care if the Pirates win or lose? Or will they show up for the “experience” no matter what?
    I think the writer of that question was more concerned that young people don’t take much of an interest in the team. It’s to the point where college kids could name more Penguins than Pirates.
    If the Pirates ever win, the fans will come out for sure — but any winner gets support. I don’t believe the Pirates are developing a fan base that they’ll be able to carry through leaner years.

  • Garrett

    I’m almost exactly your age, Cory, and it kills me too to see so much apathy in our generation. Sure, college kids like to go to baseball games for atmosphere, but I’ve never seen even half the enthusiasm for the Pirates as for any given Steeler game.
    Partially I know that’s because in football, each game is statistically way more important than a baseball game. But I remember taking a few trips to Cleveland in the late ’90s, back when they had the “Power Company” team, and the ENTIRE CITY had Indians fever. I remember standing outside of one major building – city hall, maybe – which was flying three flags: the American flag, the Ohio flag, and one with Chief Wahoo’s face. Baseball was everywhere.
    Until the Pirates can put together a winning product, there’s no hope for that kind of enthusiasm in Pittsburgh.

  • Travis

    I think some of the apathy comes from baseball loosing popularity to the younger generation. When I was younger, all we did was play real baseball outside all day as kids trying to be like Stargell and crew winning the WS. (I’m old enough that Atari was the main console game system as a young kid). This pathetic ownership group certainly doesn’t help matters.

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