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  • April 2019
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Pirates Season preview

Winter is FINALLY over.  So that means that the weather is at last getting nicer and it is time for baseball season!  This should be an interesting year for the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates.  Lat year they almost ended their record streak of 20 losing years in a row, but struggled in the second half and ended up finishing 79-83.  This offseason has seen a few changes, most notably the loss of All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan and the addition of former Yankees catcher Russell Martin and former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano.

There are some interesting questions this year that will go a long way in determining how well the Pirates do this year.  How will Pedro Alvarez hit?  Will he be the batter who hit 30 home runs or will he be the batter who hit .244 and had 180 strikeouts (second in the National League)?  He will probably be both!  Just like he was last year, but hopefully he can raise his average and cut his strikeouts a bit.

The second big question is when will Gerrit Cole make it to the big leagues, and how will he do when he gets there?  The number 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft had a good spring training, but will start the season with the Triple A Indianapolis Indians.  It is very likely that Cole will be up with the Pirates by the summer and hopefully, he will be the first of many of the young pitching prospects that the team has drafted in the last few years.

America's Best Ballpark

America’s Best Ballpark

Even if the Pirates don’t break .500 this year (and I don’t think they will), you can still enjoy the beautiful PNC Park.  It was just named  America’s Best Ballpark by TripAdvisor.com.  The team just announced some of the new features they will have this year and I am already looking forward to the new Brunch Burger, which is a patty made of beef and ground bacon topped with more bacon!  It also has cheddar cheese and a fried egg and is served on a glazed doughnut!

The Brunch Burger!!

The Brunch Burger!!

How Disappointing; Pittsburgh Sports in 2012

Oh, sports. All year, through each and every season, you give me hope. I invest time and emotion into you and sometimes it’s even worth it. Then there are the other times, years like 2012, when you fulfill your awful, inevitable promise to ruin my life.

OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s been a bad year for Pittsburgh sports. This year, every team that I care about has completely self-destructed in one way or another. Let’s review, shall we?

The Pittsburgh Pirates The Pirates came into the season facing a seemingly inevitable Major League Baseball record-breaking 20th consecutive losing season. It was an ominous milestone, but the Pirates decided to temporarily shake the monkeys off their collective backs and put together a very solid season through the all-star break.

Their record shortly after the break was 67-54. That’s right–13 games over .500. Things were looking up. Nobody wanted to jinx it, but, at 13 over, people in this city seemed ready to come out and say it–there’s no way the Pirates will screw this up. No, sir, this is the year we at least finish above .500. And that’s just about the time the slide started.

The Pirates started to lose and lose big. Even then, with a September schedule that featured plenty of games against the Cubs, Astros, and Mets, the suddenly flat Buccos could find a way to limp into the playoffs, right? No. The Pirates kept losing, prompting me to calculate daily first their playoff chances and then the number of wins they needed to stay above .500.

That great feeling permeating small-talk around town began to fade. Sports fans who were excited to have a meaningful conversation about the Pirates had to come to the realization that 2012 was different, yes, but not in the way they’d hoped. It was, instead, the year the Pirates engineered the biggest collapse in Major League Baseball history. Better focus on the Penguins and Steelers, right?

Wrong. After a sad first-round exit last season courtesy of their hated rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, The Penguins haven’t played at all this season due the the NHL lockout. They have, therefore, disappointed fans by default. I won’t blame the players, but a lost season is a lost season.  Will we see the Pens take the ice at all this winter? It’s not looking good. All games through Dec. 14, along with the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star Game, have been canceled. The last NHL lockout resulted in a completely lost 2004-05 season and Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby is talking about playing in Europe.

The Pittsburgh SteelersThen there’s the Steelers. The Steelers made the playoffs last season like they usually do, but they were Tebowed. In fact, I think we were the only team to truly BE Tebowed. So sad. This season, the Steelers are confounding us all with injuries, inconsistent play, and some suspect coaching decisions. You know how the Steelers seem to always lose to bad teams? Yeah, they’ve done that a lot this year. The Steelers have lost to the sub-par Titans, Raiders, Chargers, and Browns. One week you get a gutsy, seemingly season-saving performance by 3rd-stringer Charlie Batch, and the next week you get a completely incompetent effort at home against the San Diego Chargers. (If the CBS sports guys didn’t pound it home enough yesterday, I will remind you that the Chargers had never won a regular season game in Pittsburgh until yesterday’s blase performance.)

Wow–reading over all of this reminds me that it truly has been a terrible year in Pittsburgh sports. (And I didn’t even get into college sports.) What good can come of that? Well, for me, there has been the surprising upside of finding a way to not let it ruin my day. Believe me, I’ve let a Steelers playoff loss, or Penguins’ first-round playoff exit, ruin my day(s) before. That’s why I don’t want to let it happen in the future. Why? Because it’s inevitable. All of these teams will lose again in excruciating fashion, so don’t think that it won’t happen. It’s a game, and while I totally understand getting caught up in the stories  and the emotions, out boys in black and gold will play and win again.

Need another reason to get over the latest sports disappointment? We’re spoiled! The Steelers have more Super Bowl wins (6) than any other NFL team! The Penguins, too, have won three Stanley Cups and recently captain signed Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal that will keep him in town until he’s close to retirement. As for the Pirates, well, they haven’t done much in a while, it’s true, but that doesn’t invalidate what they have accomplished–five World Series championships and rosters featuring Roberto Clemente, Honus Wagner, and Willie Stargell.

I’ll leave you with this, video of the greatest, most clutch, home run in history, and proof that, sometimes, things do work out–it’s Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run against the juggernaut New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. It was the only walk-off, series-clinching, home run in World Series history and it happened across the street here in Oakland.

So, even though it’s the Monday after a Steelers loss, I hope you have a good one.

– Corey, The Labs @ CLP

Will this be the Pirates’ year?

Can the Pirates end their infamous losing streak this year?  In two words- probably not.  In the early part of the season, there has been a glaring weakness for the team- they CAN’T HIT the ball!  They rank near the bottom of almost every hitting statistic in the league.  They are last in batting average, home runs, and on base percentage.  And they are not even last by a point or two.  It’s a pretty big gap in almost every stat between them and the next worst team.  Their power hitter of the future, Pedro Alvarez, is batting around .050 and is on pace to break the alltime record for strikeouts by a better in one season!  On the bright side, the pitching looks pretty good, Andrew McCutchen is signed to a long term deal, and PNC Park is still a great place to watch a game.  But to me, that is not nearly enough to end the Pirates‘ 19 year losing streak.  It looks like they will make it two straight decades of losing.


21: The Story of Roberto Clemente

21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago

If you’re a teenager, you’ve never seen The Pittsburgh Pirates finish better than .500. Sad, but true. I barely remember the ‘Bucs being competitive when I was a kid. Since Jose Lind’s error in game seven of the 1992 NLCS it’s seriously all been downhill. Not one winning season!

But there were many years when they were great. The Pirates have been around since 1882 (they’ve been known as the “Pirates” since 1891), winning 9 NL Pennants, and 5 World Series titles.

Some of the greatest players of all time have suited up for the ‘Bucs: Honus Wagner, Ralph Kiner, Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Barry Bonds, and OF COURSE Roberto Clemente–humanitarian, member of the 3,000 Hit Club, and strong-armed right fielder.

Now is a great time to learn more about Clemente–a wonderful graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente has just come out and the author/artist is going to be signing copies at Phantom of the Attic Comics in Oakland on May 21st.

And if that’s not enough, here are a couple other great Clemente resources from your friends at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh:

Chasing 3000 (motion picture, 2008) – Two brothers, one of whom is afflicted with muscular dystrophy, make the drive from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh in hopes of witnessing Roberto Clemente’s 3000th hit.



Clemente: The passion and grace of baseball’s last hero by David Maraniss – “Maraniss deftly balances baseball and loftier concerns like racism; he presents a nuanced picture of a ballplayer more complicated than the encomiums would suggest, while still wholly deserving them.” (Publishers Weekly)


Corey, CLP – Main


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