The Bucs are back
By Paul Kengor
Published: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
This is an unforgettable year for Pirates' fans — the end of the 20-year nightmare of consecutive losing seasons and the playoffs. But if you're like me, you still can't get over what happened on Oct. 14, 1992, at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium.
Something evil transpired that evening, which only now has been exorcised. The Braves defeated the Pirates in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. The Braves advanced to the World Series, where they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays.
For the Pirates, their hopeful run was over. Was it really that bad? You know it was.
Since 1887, the Pittsburgh Pirates had been one of the most storied franchises in sports. By the mid-1980s, the golden years were a distant memory. A bunch of sorry individuals trudged through the clubhouse, culminating in the embarrassing drug trials. The city had hemorrhaged population. The Pirates had dwindled into a small-market team struggling to retain talent.
Alas, a wondrous thing happened. The Pirates got a general manager named Syd Thrift and unknown coach named Jim Leyland. Through some shrewd deals, Thrift assembled a superb team. The Buccos surged, displacing the arrogant New York Mets atop the National League. They made the NLCS three years in a row, fielding arguably baseball's best team, but they couldn't break into the World Series.
That was troubling enough but the Pirates' chances were slipping not only in the immediate term; other teams with gobs more cash — the Mets, the Braves — were poised to buy away the Pirates' stars. It wasn't that those cities had more dedicated fans. As a percentage of local population, the Pirates outdrew them.
No, they had more money because of massive cable TV revenues. For the Braves, that reality was particularly revolting: they had gazillions thanks to owner Ted Turner, a cable TV maven and radical leftist contemptuous of the very system that permitted his riches. Turner's politics matched those of his wife, Jane Fonda. “(I)f you understood communism,” the Viet Cong pinup girl once told a student audience, “you would pray on your knees that we would someday be communist.”
Well, America wasn't communist, to Jane and her hubby's bizarre chagrin and to the extraordinary financial benefit of the Braves.
Such was the ownership of the Braves on Oct. 14, 1992. It was such teams that meant the Pirates had a very short window. This was it. And the Buccos succumbed.
For the Pirates, it was all over, as each and every top player assuredly left. It was baseball death. It was death for a literal generation, the longest losing streak in professional sports history.
Well, the debacle finally is over. And for that reason alone, the 2013 baseball season is satisfying enough.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama‘s Mentor” and “Dupes: How America‘s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”
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