Thursday, March 25, 2010

The World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates!

Before the Tampa Bay Devil Rays arrived on the scene I was a Pirates fan. I am speaking of the Pittsburgh Pirates-back in the 70s when I got my first Pirates cap you didn’t have to specify. Now if you tell someone you are a Pirates fan they think you are talking about Seton Hall. I still do love the Bucs. I get mad at the team, but I still have a special place for them. I root for them because somebody has to. It hasn’t done any good though… Still as any good baseball fan, I remember my team’s worst moments. I will never forget the game I saw on October 14, 1992. I wasn’t at the game; I was at my friend Bryzan’s house watching it on TV. It was game 7 of the NLCS and Doug Drabek started for the Bucs. He also started and lost game 1 and game 4, but not because he pitched poorly. Anyway, he got the call for game 7 and outdueled John Smoltz. Going into the 9th the Pirates has the lead and looked like they were on their way to their first World Series since 1979, but then Francisco Cabrera came up to pinch hit for Jeff Rearden. Cabrera, the backup catcher who only had 10 at-bats that whole year. Cabrera who was the last guy on the bench for Bobby Cox. Cabrera who should have been an easy out. Cabrera who hit the game winning 2 RBI walk-off single. Freaking Francisco Cabrera. I repeat, Freaking Francisco Cabrera. You ruined a once proud franchise Mr. Cabrera. He delivered the game winning hit, gave Drabek his 3rd loss of the NLCS and effectively ended his time in Pittsburgh. The Pirates 3-time MVP left fielder Barry Bonds left for San Francisco. Andy Van Slyke and Tim Wakefield both left the following year. Jay Bell and Kevin Young stayed for a little while longer, but had nothing around them. Anyway, this was an awful long introduction for tonight’s Nitty Gritty Card of the Day. It is from the 1972 Topps set, card #1. It celebrates the Pirates being World Champions in 1971. They won it all again in 1979-that was the first time that “my team” won it all and I was too young to realize how special it really was. I don't remember much about the '79 season, but the '92 playoffs remain clear in my memory. In 1992 they came close, but couldn’t get past Francisco Cabrera and the Braves. After that, the team was dismantled and hasn’t been rebuilt since. I keep on bringing up 1992 for a reason. That was the last year that the Bucs had a winning season. Yep, last season made 17 straight losing seasons. I think that is a record. I don’t see it changing any time soon either. It isn’t the same team that Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski spent their entire Hall of Fame careers with. Sure, they have had some decent players pass through over years. I have become a fan of Al Martin, Jason Kendall, Tony Womack, Aramis Ramirez, Freddy Sanchez, Xavier Nady, Nyjer Morgan, Brian Giles and Jason Bay. They all brought hope, but they were all just passing through on their way to bigger and better things. None of them were there long enough to build a team around either. Nowadays I get excited about Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Aki Iwamura and Lastings Milledge. If they do live up to their potential, they won’t be in the ‘Burgh for long. So enjoy the card of the day and remember a time, 30 seasons ago, when the Pittsburgh Pirates were Kings and no one laughed when you said their name. LATER!