Yesterday, 28,758 people went to PNC Park to see the Pirates play their last meaningless home game of 2011. It turned out to be another disappointing loss in the autumn of a season that’s closed with almost nothing except for disappointing losses. There’s going to be a lot of talk in the next few months about whether 2011 was a good year or a bad year for the Pirates in the long-term and what, if anything, the front office should do to try and make the 2012 team one that’s better than the 2011 version. There has been one undeniably positive thing that’s happened to the Pirates in 2011 and it doesn’t have much to do with the team on the field.
Yesterday’s crowd brought the Pirates’ season attendance total to 1,940,429. That’s not great. It’ll make them 15th of 16 teams in the NL, ahead of just the lowly Marlins. It puts them 22nd in all of baseball, though, and PNC has been on average 63.2% full this year, which is 16th in baseball. Most importantly, it’s a huge increase from 2010’s 1,613,399, it’s more than the Pirates drew the year the All-Star Game was in PNC in 2006 and attendance was 1,861,549. It’s the second highest total in PNC history behind only the inaugural season of 2001, when the Pirates brought 2,464,870 people through the gates.
This is important. Before the season started, I wasn’t honestly sure if Pittsburgh would rally behind a good Pirate team. That’s not me being a cynic, that’s just the reality of seeing how bad this team is year after year and the way that Pittsburgh used to collectively fall asleep during Pirate season. This year, though, if only for a couple of months, the Pirates were all anyone wanted to talk about. I had to buy tickets ahead of time to get to the game on the Fourth of July. PNC was packed every night I watched the games on my computer. I had more radio and podcast requests from late May through July of this year than I think I’d had in the previous six seasons I’ve written this blog combined. I got to write this post.
It was awesome. Remember it this winter when someone gives you crap about being a Pirate fan. When someone tells you that no one cares about the Pirates. When someone asks if they even still have a baseball team in Pittsburgh. There is a baseball team in Pittsburgh, and it’s one that plenty of people care about. And my goodness, if this team ever gets things pulled together in a real and sustainable fashion, it’s going to be one hell of a party. If I’m sure of one thing after this 2011 season, it’s that.