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The year was 1992. The price of a gallon of gas was $1.13. The No. 1 song at the time was “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men, which, by the way, could not be downloaded; it had to be purchased at your local record store as a single on cassette.
Cassette? What is this and why can’t I find one on iTunes? iTunes sure wasn’t around, and instead of an MP3 player, the Sony Walkman was all the rage.
That’s how long ago this was. This was also the last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning record.
Most college students today were not old enough at the time to remember this, and some were not even born yet. So here’s a recap. The 1992 Pirates were led by a 27-year-old outfielder by the name of Barry Bonds, who went on to win the league MVP this year. Heard of him? They were coming off two straight seasons of playing in the National League Championship Series and ended up making it to a third that season.
They were a storied franchise and have fielded some of the game’s best players. The 1970s Pirates were some of the best baseball has ever seen, featuring future Hall of Famers like Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski and Willie Stargell. The Pittsburgh Pirates were a good baseball team that had a rich history within Major League Baseball.
Fast-forward 21 seasons to today. Not only have the Pirates not made the playoffs since 1992, but they haven’t even had a winning record — until now. The victory that wrapped up this momentous occasion came last Monday against Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers. Rookie right-hander Gerrit Cole took the mound for the Pirates and was the game’s winning pitcher.
Cole was only 2 years old when the Pirates last finished above .500. In fact, the average age of Pirates players is 27.8, which means most of the players themselves fall into that category of those not old enough to remember the Pirates’ last winning season.
This milestone made headline news with all local media outlets. It comes in a city that is spoiled with winning professional franchises. In the last 21 years, the Steelers and Penguins have had only seven losing seasons — combined. This has left Pirate fans out of the city’s winning ways.
While this significant mark gives a reason for Pirate fans to cheer, I’m almost sure the team’s goal to begin the season was not simply to end with a winning record. It was more likely to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs. I would also be willing to guess that the Pirates are not satisfied with just a winning season. They are currently in a tight division race and, as of today, are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead and will have some important games coming up to end the season.
To end a losing streak like this is a big deal for the die-hard fans of any sports team. It’s a big deal to the fans who don’t measure their fanhood by the success of their team, but by their devotion to it. It requires this type of devotion to go through 21 years of losing and still call them “my team.”
It is also this devotion that makes celebrating this historic season so great. Without the devastation of your team losing, the winning is not truly appreciated. I really hope it is not another 21 years before another headline can read, “Winning season guaranteed for Pirates.”