Back in my earliest days of being a Pirate fan, I had a pretty well-defined daily routine during baseball season. If it was a school night, I’d watch the earliest part of the Pirates’ game (on KBL!) and go to bed at whatever time my parents deemed appropriate for school nights. If it was summer, I’d be allowed to stay up a little later and fall asleep with Lanny Fratarre or Kent Derdivanis on the radio, calling the game as it faded into my dreams.
School night or summer, the next morning would always begin the same way: I’d wake up, hop out of bed, and run down the hall to find my dad shaving in the bathroom to ask him the same question. “Did we win? Did we win?” Most mornings I’d seen enough of the game from the night before to know what the answer would be. As much as any baseball fan loves baseball and it’s unpredictability, you learn pretty early on that the game has its rhythyms. Some nights, I’d go to bed with the Pirates ahead or behind by enough to be fairly certain of the outcome. Some nights, I’d go to bed knowing that I had no idea how the game was going to end, genuinely curious of the outcome.
The best mornings were the ones when I’d wake up certain that the Pirates had lost the night before, only to learn that something dramatic an improbable had happened and the Pirates had actually won. If it was late in the year, I’d mentally adjust the magic number down in my head, one game lower than I’d expected it to be when I woke up. There was something magic, though, about forming an opinion one way and just not knowing if I was right or not until the morning.
Of course, that part of my life didn’t last long. Baseball games on the East Coast don’t usually run all that late and so it wasn’t long until I was old enough to stay up for the end of most Pirate games. Throw in the ESPN scroll, and eventually the internet and smartphones, and it’s hard to be surprised by the outcome of a baseball game. I’m not complaining about this; I’ve been away from Pittsburgh for five years now and without technology, I couldn’t follow the Pirates at all. It’s an amazing boon to be able to follow the details of a baseball game from anywhere.
I don’t every night, though, mostly for my own sanity’s sake. I worked late on Monday and had the game on in lab long enough to see the Pirates fall behind 4-0. I forgot about the summer bus schedule, so I had to walk home. I listened to the game on my phone for a bit, before talking to my brother about how we somehow went to Montreal 18 months apart but both ended up hanging out at the same bar without coordinating. I got home and found out that the reason that I couldn’t find a ride home from lab after the buses stopped was that of the three people that I called for a ride, one was in an airplane and the other two were out, killing time waiting for the first. Since they were at a place with cheap Monday pizza and I hadn’t eaten yet, I figured it was logical to join them.
Even though the Pirates had crept back to 4-2 by the time I left, I didn’t think twice about the game. Casey McGehee had just struck out to strand Neil Walker on second and it was the seventh inning. This Pirate team doesn’t come back from four-run or two-run deficits, because they don’t score that many runs all that often. The weekend, between Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, was pretty hard to take and I just wanted a night off from fretting over the Pirates’ impotent offense.
And then I checked my phone at 10:45 and saw, “Pirates 5 Mets 4.” All I was looking for was the confirmation of a loss; I had no expectation that the Pirates would come back to win and I was genuinely surprised to learn that something else had happened. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that sort of feeling. Sometimes, it’s the little things about baseball that are the best.