Pirates honor 99-year-old usher who's been with them for 81 years

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly (left) honors usher Phil Coyne during a pregame ceremony on Wednesday. (AP)
Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly (L) honors usher Phil Coyne during a pregame ceremony on Wednesday. (AP)

“It’s not the years in your life, but the life in your years,” was among president Abraham Lincoln’s most profound quotes.

It immediately comes to mind when thinking about Phil Coyne. Not because Coyne’s life has been short on years, but because he’s fit so much life, so much passion and so many experiences that would make any baseball fan jealous into his now 99 years on earth.

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For 81 years, Coyne has led fans to their seats at baseball games in Pittsburgh. He started at Forbes Field as an 18-year-old back in 1936. He moved with the team to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, and then again to PNC Park in 2001, where he oversees Sections 26 and 27.

Throughout those years he’s seen some of baseball’s greatest legends, including Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente and Barry Bonds. He’s experienced nearly every defining moment in Pirates history, including Bill Mazerowski’s walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. And he’s done it with an unwavering passion that is still evident today.

It’s only appropriate then, that before the Pirates defeated the Cubs on Wednesday night, the team celebrated Coyne’s service and honored him in a pregame ceremony. Team president Frank Coonelly was on-hand to present Coyne with a No. 99 Pirates jersey that might appear to be just a number on the surface, but tells a much deeper story of the relationship that has grown between Coyne, the Pirates and an entire fanbase.

Usher Phil Coyne shared a moment with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. (AP)
Usher Phil Coyne shared a moment with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. (AP)

“He’s full of energy, especially for somebody of his age,” fan David Cashdollar told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “He’s got all kinds of folklore of the Pirates and things that have gone on.”

Coyne is not just a guide. He’s an encyclopedia of Pirates history. He can recall Mazerowski’s legendary home run as if it happened yesterday.

“We were supposed to keep people off the field,” Coyne says of that moment. “I just turned around and went back. I let them go.”

He can also tell you anything you need to know about Clemente or Bonds or Andrew McCutchen’s career.

We encourage you to read more on Coyne’s incredible life and legacy in Sarah K. Spencer’s piece at Pittsburgh Post Gazette. The biggest takeaway is that while the Clemente Bridge outside PNC Park helps connect the city and the stadium, Coyne serves as a bridge throughout Pirates history. He’s invaluable and irreplaceable, and it’s good to see that will never be lost on the Pirates.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!