Pirates to host another viewing party for Wednesday's game

Chris Togneri
| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 3:36 p.m.

A Murrysville man promised to go to church, just to pray for a Pirates win.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials will wear black and gold. A local hospital will dress newborns in Pirates onesies and red bandanas, and fans will gather once again on Federal Street to watch their team.

Six hundred miles from the action, fans vowed to do what they can to will the Pirates to victory in the decisive fifth game of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals on Wednesday in St. Louis. This team is a remarkable story, fans said on Tuesday. The ending will not be written in Busch Stadium.

“I'm going to try a little harder this time,” said John Braun, 77, of Fine-view. “I can pray harder. I can pray that they'll win and that they take the time to get ready for the game. No staying up late, that they just concentrate on the game.”

A man known to Pirates players and fans as “Baseball Joe” made sure to do his part on Tuesday outside PNC Park. As the team filed onto buses headed for the airport, Baseball Joe Vogel Jr. — who cannot speak because of three strokes and communicates with a digital keyboard he carries — handed manager Clint Hurdle his favorite baseball and whistle, which Hurdle took with him to St. Louis.

“For good luck,” Baseball Joe typed seconds after handing over the keepsakes. “Relax and stay focused. BIG WIN YES!”

Other fans around the park said nerves would keep them from sleeping well Tuesday night.

“I'm pretty anxious,” admitted John Esker, 32, as he walked with his wife, Kate, 27, and daughter, Cadence, 4, to see the Giant Duck at the Point.

The Eskers are pastors with the Salvation Army. They said they became die-hard Pirates fans last year when catcher Michael McKenry and former outfielder Alex Presley visited their soup kitchen in Uniontown and helped serve food to the poor.

“I'm from Philly, but that really impressed me,” Kate Esker said.

Others, such as Mike and Debbie Venditti, both 53, of Murrysville, said they'll sleep just fine.

“Pedro's gong to drop a bomb, the Byrd is the word, Gerrit Cole is going to shut them down, and clear the deck because Cutch is going to hit a cannonball,” Mike Venditti said. “That's why the Vendittis will sleep well.”

The Vendittis followed the team to Denver, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington for road games this year. They said they have no superstitions, except eating a big bowl of homemade popcorn at game time.

“We believe,” Debbie Venditti said. “This is our time. This is the year.”

At St. Clair Hospital, spokesman Bob Crytzer said staff would continue their playoff-long tradition of dressing newborns up as “Baby Buccos.”

“Ninety percent of the babies are very content when they realize they've become Baby Buccos; the other 10 percent just continue being babies,” Crytzer joked. “The parents have all been excellent sports, so to speak. I'm sure they're tickled that their newborns are part of this new generation of fans who won't have to wait 20 years like the rest of us for the playoffs.”

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's staff will wear black and gold on Wednesday, spokeswoman Marissa Doyle said. However, it's not clear how the mayor will mark the occasion, because his staff declined to reveal where he will be for the first pitch.

As for Baseball Joe, he will join other fans on Federal Street, where the Pirates will host another viewing party. He said he has been a fan since he was a little child and claims to have never watched another sport besides baseball.

“The Pirates keep me alive,” he typed. “I am baseball 24/7/365.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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