And so, the 2009 season wraps up with the Yankees winning the World Series. The team with the biggest payroll, the brightest stars, and the prettiest girlfriends win again. I see people on my Facebook from Western Pennsylvania that I’m fairly certain have never even been to New York crowing about “finally” winning another World Series like it’s something they’ve been waiting for their entire lives. All while I’m stuck trying to remember what that last winning season way back in 1992 was like.
I won’t sugarcoat it; it sucks to watch. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair that they get to celebrate five championships while we cling to a bad baseball team that won 79 games by accident in 1997. But here’s what I can honestly tell you; I wouldn’t trade the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates for anything. We might only have five banners, but every single one means something special and unique. 1909 is Honus Wagner’s championship, the one where the greatest shortstop that ever lived bested Ty Cobb and solidified his place as the best baseball player of the deadball era. 1925 was the year that Pie Traynor, Kiki Cuyler, and Max Carey, all of them Hall of Famers, beat the great Walter Johnson. 1960 is the most improbable World Series victory, topped off by one of the greatest home runs in the history of the game. 1971 was Roberto’s year; when a sublime baseball player and a better human being showed the World what it truly meant to be Great. 1979 was Pops and the Family rallying together to fend off a 3-1 deficit winning Games 6 and 7 on the road, something no one has done in a World Series since.
And I wasn’t alive for even one of those Series, but I know each one almost as well as I know the current ones. And maybe it sounds crazy to someone that’s not a Pirate fan, but I wouldn’t trade Roberto or Pops or Maz or the Waners or Traynor or Vern Law or Ol’ Hans for Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth or Whitey Ford or Yogi Berra or anyone.
I recently started reading Joe Posnanski’s The Machine, his book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. As I stepped off of the bus one morning, I closed up the book and realized I was wearing a red hoodie while reading about the Reds. For a brief second, I flashed back to a second grade soccer game in which my Notre Dame Vikings were playing the St. Joe’s Spartans. As Notre Dame, we naturally wore blue and gold. The particular day of this game, though, was cold and windy and rainy (all the wonderful things about late fall in Western Pennsylvania that I suddenly miss in North Carolina when it’s 52 degrees in November and a girl boards the bus in a big coat, scarf, and stocking cap) and so I wore a jacket over my uniform during the game. Usually, no one cared about this sort of thing (again, it was second grade, I was eight, and we still played the style of soccer that resulted in 15 kids clumped around a ball, five kids playing in the mud, and two goalies) but the coat that I wore that day was red. Red just happened to be the same color as St. Joe’s team. So as I took the field, their players began passing me the ball while my coaches yelled, “PATRICK!” because no one called me ‘Pat’ back then, “TAKE OFF YOUR COAT! IT’S RED!!!” I tore the coat off in a panic and thought, “Oh no! I knew it! Everyone thinks I’m a Reds fan!”
It wasn’t until much later that the real source of trouble caused by my jacket dawned on me. But that’s me; it always has been and it always will be. And so, while I watch the Yankees and their $200 million payroll celebrate with bottles of champagne that I probably couldn’t even buy with one my rent checks, part of me is just smiling and saying, “I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but some day it’s going to be our turn again.” Some day.