The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates have quite a storied history. From the days of Stargell and Clemente (both of whom blasted epic homeruns that nearly hit the scoreboard at Wrigley Field — the only two guys to ever come close) to the more recent past, which we’ll get to in a second, Chicago and Pittsburgh have provided each other’s fans with some entertainment.
As a Cub fan, my most memorable experience with the Pirates comes from the 2004 season. That was the year immediately following the “Bartman Incident.” The Cubs crushed their fans in ’03, many of us are scarred even now, but they dangled a carrot in front of us in ’04. Idiots like myself legitimately believed that the ’04 team was the GREATEST EVER!!!! due to the offensive improvements in Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, and … well, that was it, really. Not to mention the amazing rotation that included young guns Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement, along with the return of Greg Maddux, and the addition to the bullpen of LaTroy Hawkins, who’d posted ERAs of 2.13 and 1.86 ever since the Twins figured out that he couldn’t close so much as a door.
Seriously. We thought the Cubs were more stacked than a room full of strippers.
Confession: although I have a fairly well-known Cubs blog, I live a long ways away from Chicago. I grew up about three hours north of Pittsburgh, actually, in a tiny town in Western NY State. I almost never get to see the Cubs in person, but in 2004 I saw more Cubs games than in any other season, and they were all on the road. Most memorably, I caught a game in Montreal and two in New York at the end of September, but I started it off with a trip to Pittsburgh in May. It was a double header that you Pirates fans may clearly remember.
Here’s what I remember: in Game One, the Pirates took an early lead that was erased by a Michael Barrett grand slam. Then, in the 9th inning, with the Cubs up 5-4, Joe Borowski gave up a lead-off triple, let the Pirates tie up the game, managed to get two outs against the Pirates, and then coughed up a grand effing slam to Rob Mackowiak. Game over. Finito.
Okay, it hurt, but there was a second game to be played. In Game Two, the Cubs took a 3-2 lead into the 9th, and added an insurance run, only for Dusty to turn to LaTroy (he was yet to earn the name LaBlow) Hawkins who started the inning with a leadoff walk to Tike Redman, only to serve up a game tying homerun to – wtf!? - Rob Mackowiak. Then Craig Wilson ended things once and for all in the 10th. Even now, I have to ask: who the hell is Rob Mackowiak, and why does he own the Cubs?
Think about that. I made it to Pittsburgh and saw, in one day, two games. Two crushing 9th inning losses. Little did I realize that the Cubs were setting a trend for the season. While the Bartman game was the single-worst thing I’ve ever seen happen on television, the Pirates double crusher was the single-worst thing I’ve ever actually witnessed. The Pirates hammered the Cubs. It was brutal. It’s been my only experience in the ballpark at Pittsburgh.
It’s been more than half a decade since then. The Cubs have put together some good years; the Pirates have continued to sink into their pool of mediocrity. But don’t think I’m making fun of your team, Pirates fans. I feel your pain. Everything you are experiencing now is something Cub fans lived with throughout the 1950’s … and 60’s, and 70’s, and most of the 80’s and 90’s. Pittsburgh is going through a tough time, but you are walking a path that was paved by the Cubs. However, you can cheer up about one thing, at least: like the Cubs before you, you have one of the most beautiful ballparks in the game. Seriously. Your park is awesome.
One other thing before I return the writing reigns to Tom. I’ve already mentioned how, in 2004, the Pirates dealt a handful of crushing blows to the Cubs, the impact of which I still feel to this day. But I have to also thank the Pirates. In 2007 and 2008, the Cubs reached the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in a century, and they had winning records from ’07-’09, also the first time to happen in about a bajillion years (yes, the Cubs suck). This wouldn’t have happened without the Pirates.
In 2008, the Cubs were 97-64. They were 14-4 against the Pirates. Take away those games, and the Cubs are 83-60. Still not bad, but not exacly world shakers.
In 2009, the Cubs were 83-78. They were 10-4 against the Pirates. Take away those games, and the Cubs are 73-75; not even a .500 ballclub.
So, it’s probably not the thing the Pirates would like to be known for, but in the last 2 seasons they kept the Cubs over .500 and even helped them reach the playoffs. How will the two teams do this year? Who knows — both are entirely capable of giving up (and scoring) a lot of runs. Whatever happens, it will be fun. I’m glad to be along for the ride with the rest of you. Now let’s watch some good baseball!
Kurt Evans is co-creator of a really cool blog. One day, I trust that RumBunter can be provide Pirates fans with just half of the enjoyment Goat Riders of the Apocalypse provides Cubs fans, and well this Pirates fan. Kurt recognizes that the whole purpose of Goat Riders is to proclaim the end of the world by way of the apocalyptic nature of a Chicago Cubs World Championship, and he anxiously looks forward to the day when the blog becomes irrelevant. He pledges to continue blogging about the Cubs even after they win, however, if only for the opportunity to say “I told you so” to all the cliff jumpers and broken-heart pessimists who would sooner slash their own wrists than allow for a baseball season to play out the way it always does – with ups and downs, wins and losses.
Check out Goat Riders of the Apocalypse. There are numerous writers which is cool. Brandon has this to say in the Pirates preview:
Fortunately, using the transitive property, we can see that the Pirates have been outscored by an average of seven runs per game in their six contests with the Brewers this year, while the Cubs have outscored the Brewers by an average of four runs per game; therefore, the Cubs will outscore the Pirates by an average of 11 runs per game in this series. That’s science.