In some respects, this is easy: I root for the Black and Gold in all professional sports, so, of course, I would root for the Pittsburgh Pirates; and, I am doing it now because they are winning, right now. This is only a partial explanation for my bandwagon romp. I’ve never followed baseball. My family did not watch baseball. I still don’t know how to score a game.
You may justifiably ask what kind of American I am if I have never been a baseball fan, do I eat apple pie? Well, I can answer the latter question with a “yes” if it’s quality–no phony jelly stuff, just real apples, etc. I would answer the real question by saying, firstly, that I am a first-generation American, and, secondly, that I never understood the finer nuances of the game. (I do get that when you are at bat you try to hit, run three bases and make for home; that if you fail to hit three times, fouls accepting, you’re out; that if you get four bad pitches and don’t swing you walk; that if the baseball you hit is caught by a guy in the in/outfield or you get tagged while running bases you are out; and, that three outs means the other team gets to bat unless it is the bottom of the 9th inning and there is no tie.) Maybe I should add that the last time the Pirates had a winning season was 1992. When you are 29 and the home team has lost for 18 years it may be difficult to figure out what makes for good baseball versus bad baseball.
So, my leap onto the wagon is a little different than that of others (compare my post with Chris Mack’s blog post). I come fresh, hopeful and skeptical at the same time, fairly ignorant and excited about having a team to root for in the summer! I reached this position because of a confluence with my love of history and the Pirates’ first place standing in the National League Central. This past semester, I taught a history course looking at America’s past through the lens of sports. The class and I watched The Tenth Inning by Ken Burns. I loved every minute of it! (FYI the rest of his baseball series is on my Amazon Wish List . . . and I have a birthday in September . . . just saying.)
All this baseball talk relit an old curiosity I had purely because the sport is entrenched in my country’s history (much like soccer—sorry, Fussball—in the Old Country). I had this curiosity around the time Bonds was in Black and Gold, but, when the Braves knocked us down into the MLB’s basement, my one baseball friend gradually lost interest. My only chance for entry onto the diamond evaporated with an eighteen season draught.
So, this time it was a perfect storm. Sports history—combining sports, society, economy, politics, etc.—left me with an intrigue that had me turning on the TV, here in Baltimore, looking for Pirates games and counting the days they kept a record better than the BoSox. I had limited expectations. Can we get to .500? Can we maybe get above it and stay for a while? 1st place in the NL Central was above my hopes and expectations! Pittsburgh fans have learned cautious optimism and probably hold onto skepticism longer than most cities where their baseball team is concerned—the standards are considerably different than that of the Steelers and Penguins. Still, it is exciting that ESPN will feature the Buccos against the Atlanta Braves on Monday Night Baseball next week. It is a significant landmark for me as I observed that The Tenth Inning began with the Pirates and the Braves, and then did not mention the Pirates again, nor interview anyone from Pittsburgh.
So, it is with giddy anticipation that I head to the Pittsburgh area briefly this weekend, leaving what I hope will be the new MLB desert, humid Baltimore. I, like Chris Mack, look forward to buying a Pirates hat, unlike Mack, however, this will be my first!