Pittsburgh is a sports town, plain and simple. The Pittsburgh Pirates know this more than any team in the city.
Everyone who has lived in the Steel City or even visited during any given Sunday, you will see nothing but a sea of black and gold stretching from the tip of the North shore to the bottom of the South side. Citizens of this great town are sports savvy, educated, loyal , and frenzied when it comes to their boys.
When was the last time you were in a large city and saw practically not a single person walking in the streets? Or a single car driving on the interstate? For Pittsburghers, that’s just a typical game day. You could look down Liberty Avenue at 1:30 on Sunday and if tumbleweed blew across your line of sight you would honestly think that it fit in perfectly because the street will be completely abandoned.
In any of the multiple neighborhoods intertwined within a 20 mile radius of Heinz Field you can hear a synchronized chorus of boos and cheers from your living room for 3 straight hours. You don’t even have to watch the game to know what’s happening.
When a touchdown is scored you will be able to listen to the echoes of sounds that you immediately associate with victory. “Yaaaa”. When the opponent scores, you can hear an even more fervent echo you immediately associate with disgust. “Nooo”. To someone from out of town, they’d probably think that there’s a serious party going on down the street. Little do they know that there isn’t. They’re just watching the ballgame, that’s all.
That’s just the city we live in. We’re used to it. It’s normal to us.
So when the Pirates started winning again I knew it was just a matter of time before this town got behind them. Pittsburgh sports fans are proud and they respect tradition. Everyone was aware of the great teams the Pirates have had in the past. October 13th, 1960 is a date that grandfathers often remind their grandsons of. Bill Mazeroski, the greatest .270 hitter the Pirates ever saw sailed the second pitch he saw off of 22 year old Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry over the wall in Center Field to win the World Series that year.
We all remember Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Mike LaValliere, John Smiley, Andy Van Slyke, Doug Drabek, Jose Lind, etc. The greatest thrill imaginable for any 10 year old Pirate fan back then was to go to the Clark Bar after a ball game and see those same guys feet away from me. Most were usually holding a mixed drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, but they were always more than happy to sign your baseball and give you a pat on the head or ask for a high five. Most not named Barry Bonds that is.
So what did you expect PNC Park to look like when the Pirates played their first game in the playoffs in 20 years. People use the word electric to describe an atmosphere in a stadium that is magical. But that wouldn’t do it justice. The fans packed into those seats that night were more hostile than any other crowd I’ve ever seen in baseball. True mob mentality overtook the entire stadium for 9 straight innings and tt was like staring at a pack of wolves while they honed in on their prey.
In this case, that prey was Johnny Cueto.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to a moment I consider to be the epitome of why Pittsburgh fans are clearly unique. We are antagonistic. We are unforgiving. And we are downright brutal. Turn up your volume and witness what will forever be known as one of the rarest occurences you will ever see in sport.
What just happened there isn’t normal. That type of noise is what you would expect to hear if you’re maybe watching Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. Never has that happened in baseball. At least not to that end.
This is arguably the greatest moment of ‘fan-dom’ Pittsburgh has ever seen. Since WHEN has a crowd got so deep into a pitchers brain by mercilessly chanting his name over….and over…. and over…. that it forces him to first drop the ball out of his glove and then immediately deliver an absolute meatball on the very next pitch that gets jacked for a home run? When? It just doesn’t happen folks. The true gravity of this event is still not fully realized and probably won’t be for a long time, but to me, it’s hands down one of the greatest moments in MLB playoff history.
Look at Cueto’s eyes as Martin is rounding the bases. Sheer disbelief. Even the announcer Dick Stockton, who’s been around since practically the inception of baseball, said he hasn’t experienced a phenomena like this in over 30 years. But to us, that’s just Pittsburgh. And that is why Pirate fans will be known as the rowdiest in baseball.
So a note to visiting players that may not have experienced Pittsburgh yet. Have no doubt. Baseball is back in this town. We will heckle you once again from behind the left field wall. We will tell you where to go after you strike out. We will call at you while you warm up in the bullpen. We’ll taunt you, we’ll scream at you, and we’ll take great pleasure in watching you fail. Why? Because this is Pittsburgh.
That’s what we do.