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Big League Stew

The 10 best things about being a Pirates fan

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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(Getty/AP)

The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?

We're about halfway through our little experiment and we're glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the ride. Up next is a BLS series regular, Tom Smith of Rum Bunter, to tell us why he's still a Pirates fan after all of these playoff-less years.

1. It has to end soon: There are Pittsburgh Pirates fans all over this country. And yes, we are well aware our baseball team has lost 1,713 games over the past 19 years.

The last 19 years of our lives have been wrapped up in waiting for a winning season from the Bucs. Nineteen years of shaking our heads. Nineteen years of screaming into our hands at the top of our lungs as another first-round draft pick gets the news that he will be heading to see Dr. Andrews.

You're right.  It has been a long time, with plenty of people calling the team a laughingstock along the way, but there is no way we can give up on 'em now. We have too much invested.

So before we leave for the opening day tailgate on April 5, we will take our familar spot in front of the bathroom mirror and say "this will be the year."

2. The franchise just signed a superstar: His name is Andrew McCutchen. He's faster than your center fielder. He's more powerful than your center fielder. He will be wearing black and gold for years to come.

3. There's a brand new bar opening in right field this year!: Just in case my trash talking fails and the losses start piling up once again, the Pirates now have both outfield corners covered with large bars to drown the sorrows of Bucco fans. It looks great with an open floor plan overlooking right field, as well as the Allegheny River and downtown Pittsburgh cityscape.

It's also a single dad's dream. Bucs getting blown out? Children are upset and want to head to the playground, but you don't want to miss the comeback? The new right-field bar answers your prayers. No longer do guys have to try and watch a game on that awful, glare filled, 15-inch, 300-pound television still around from 1992 while the kids rip up the playground. Now dad can keep one eye on the brats while enjoying an ice cold IC Light or God forbid a BL 'Num with his other eye on the Buccos. They don't call it the Best Ballpark in America for nothing.
 

4. The Pirates had the lineup that changed baseball: On Sept. 1, 1971, Pirates skipper Danny Murtaugh did something that no other manager had done before. All of his players on the lineup card were minorities. Because the Pittsburgh papers were on strike at the time here is what the Sporting News had to say:

What is believed to be the first all-Negro starting lineup in major league history turned back the Phillies on September 1. Manager Danny Murtaugh's combination of American and Latin Negroes pounded out 13 hits en route to a 10-7 victory.

"This is the first time," slugger Willie Stargell said. "Back in 1967, in Philadelphia, Harry Walker started eight of us, but the pitcher, Denny Ribant, was white."

That September lineup card was one that changed the game. It was a great time for the game, for the Pirates and for Pittsburgh.

5. Accessibility for musty smelling basement bloggers: The Pirates have embraced bloggers despite how badly we might smell. The team has given access to players for interviews, front office management, and has scheduled dates for blogger night events at PNC Park. The team gets it in regard to social media and has made significant improvements over the past few years. The fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates have some cool opportunities thanks to the recent efforts made by the team.

6.Waiting for what Mr. Bob Nutting will say next ... and waiting for him to sell the team: From the looks of things, Mr. Nutting is a very, very smart businessman. He has gained control of the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club, which was valued at over $300 million, without paying nearly that amount of money.

But even smart businessmen say silly things. Nutting has called team president Frank Coonelly and GM Neal Huntington "the single best management team in all of baseball, maybe in all of sports." Some would say differently, but just how much of the trouble in Pittsburgh is due to Coonelly and Huntington? It boils down to the haves and have nots of MLB baseball.

To me, the Pittsburgh market is clearly a have not. The fact that it is controlled by a wily businessman who didn't have quite enough money to turn around the organization quickly sucks. But it's what we were dealt as fans.

So the fans of Pittsburgh are left to wait as the value of the organization grows. Hopefully it will grow quickly enough that Nutting might be able to cash out before he tells his players he believes the Pirates will win the National League Central this year. Wait ... he already told them that.

7. Fandom in Pittsburgh is divisive: Being a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates is great. There are numerous places on any single day that a Bucco fan can go for information. But the information might not come easy. Visit any of the 239 Pirates blogs such as Bucs Dugout, McEffect, Raise the Jolly Roger, Pittsburgh Sports Tavern, Pirates Prospects, WHYGAVS versus some of the newspaper blogs and check out the comments section. It can be brutal.

The anti-Nuttings for a lack of a better term feel that they were simply promised better competitive baseball in return for their tax money. They feel the Nutting family are thieves and haven't held up their end of the deal. In essence, the franchise has grown exponentially in value, but the product for fans to enjoy has been the exact opposite.

Before McCutchen became the face of the franchise, he was the latest poster boy for a Pirates franchise that for many reasons was perceived as not serious about winning.

When the Bucs signed McCutchen, most fan bases would be thrilled that the franchise player would be building a new house, locked up in black and yellow until he is into his 30s. But not in the Steel City. Pirates fans have been through a lot since Barry Bonds threw wide to catcher Spanky Lavaillere that night in Atlanta, so trusting an owner doesn't come quickly.

But that's what we enjoy. The fiery Internet debates among Pirates fans all over the country are great fun because, you know, everyone is a 6-foot-6 U.S. Army Ranger trained tough guy on the Internet.

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8. Pittsburgh is a baseball town: Our names are easy to remember. Willie Stargell. Bill Mazeroski. Honus Wagner. Pie Traynor. Josh Gibson. Satchel Paige. Barry Bonds. Baseball's last hero, Roberto Clemente.

Some would say that long before the Steelers won four Super Bowls in the '70s, or Mario Lemieux brought the Penguins back from the dead, that baseball ruled Pittsburgh. In 1903, the Pirates represented the National League in the first World Series losing to the Boston Pilgrims. The Pirates then won their first world championship in 1909.

In 1921, Pittsburgh's KDKA radio was the first station to broadcast a baseball game in the world. The Bucs won the World Series in 1925 when they beat the Senators. In 1927 the Pirates lost the Series to what many consider to be the best baseball team ever assembled -- a New York Yankees team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig leading the way. In an amusing side note, when the Pirates began trading off veterans from the 16th (or was it 17th) consecutive losing season, GM Neal Huntington laughed at reporters and said, "it's not like we're breaking up the '27 Yankees."

The Pirates have done a solid job of making sure the storied history of baseball in the city will never be forgotten. A baseball fan in Pittsburgh can't help but wonder what could have been if the amazing Negro League players that played for the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords had been able to join the Pirates. Many of the Negro League players were invisible to most of America as segregation reigned, but several Pittsburgh businessmen put together some of the best teams baseball had ever seen.

The story written in the Pittsburgh Courier back in 1938 suggested the Pirates grab a few of the Negro League players and getting by those Chicago Cubs wouldn't be a problem. The Pirates ignored the article and the Cubs went on to snatch the tightly contested division.
The Bucs are well known for their 1960 World Series win over a stacked New York Yankees team. The 1971 and 1979 World Series titles over the Baltimore Orioles will never be forgotten. Being a baseball fan in Pittsburgh is special, hang around a few old-timers at the park and it's hard not getting caught up in some great stories from long ago. Nine NL pennants, five World Series victories -- all in the seventh game are hard to forget.

9. We pay less than what you're paying: The Pirates employ the most fan-friendly people in the game. The ticket staff is insanely great at what they do for the fans of the Bucs. Of course, Pirates baseball is the best value going. We pay less for tickets. We pay quite a bit less for 16 ounces of beer and soda, too.

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(Rum Bunter)

10. The future: As much as baseball is built on its past, the stories from yesteryear only go so far with the current generation. Eight-year-old kids in Pittsburgh grow tired of the Arky Vaughn stories, hell, even an 80-year-old boy grows tired of hearing about why Smith's homer was just as important as Mazeroski's in Game 7. Eventually it comes down to can we win this year?

Well, the Pirates front office has put together a plan that certainly has things looking up in Pittsburgh. If everything falls into place, 7-year-olds won't be wearing Kent Tekulve shirts to PNC Park. They won't have to find their World Series heroes from teams 30-plus years ago.

That's progress.

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What are your favorite things about being a Pirates fan?

Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit TigersCincinnati RedsKansas City RoyalsOakland AthleticsMinnesota TwinsLos Angeles AngelsArizona DiamondbacksSan Francisco Giants,Baltimore OriolesMilwaukee BrewersNew York YankeesColorado RockiesSt. Louis CardinalsHouston AstrosNew York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays

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