Pirates fans showing up for game-watching party
Taking a page out of the Penguins' playbook, the Pirates showed Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on the big screen at a block party on Federal Street.
Police blocked off the Clemente Bridge and Federal Street in anticipation of the 5:07 p.m. first pitch. Pirates officials invited fans to bring chairs, show up early and watch the game on a 15- by 20-foot projection screen.
7:45 p.m.: With the score 9-1 Cardinals, the crowd on Federal Street had thinned significantly from the start of the game.
But around 7:30 p.m., it vanished as the remaining faithful fled a downpour that swept onto the North Shore accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Within seconds, Federal Street was empty. The big screen was shut off. And television sets inside local bars flicked to the Penguins opener.
The Pirates and Cardinals meet again Friday afternoon.
7:20 p.m.: It looks bleak for fans on Federal Street, but not everyone is ready to give up just yet.
Despite an 8-1 deficit in the sixth inning, Clint Bridges, 43, of East Liberty has started the “Let's go Bucs” chant repeatedly.
“You have to be loyal, a true fan, or you're just bandwagon,” Bridges said. “It's going to be hard for them to come back from 8-1, but it can be done.
“And if they don't, there's always tomorrow.”
6:29 p.m.: Hope gave way to dejection on Federal Street as the Pirates surrendered seven runs in just a few painful minutes. Many in the crowd packed up their folding chairs and left.
“I'm ready to leave myself,” said Pat Narey, 55, of Oakland. “It's so dejecting. Especially for the little kids — they don't have anything to cheer about.”
6:03 p.m.: An anxious crowd broke into their first chant of “Let's go Bucs” after pitcher A.J. Burnett induced an inning-ending double play.
Still, many of the several hundred fans on Federal Street were nervous, unaccustomed as they are to postseason baseball.
“This is absolutely as nerve-racking as it gets,” said Mary Jo McNamara, 76, of Whitehall. “Especially after Tuesday night when it was sheer joy from start to finish, this is just killing me.”
She added with a smile: “I'm OK. I've got a little wine here, so that's going to help.”
5:11 p.m.: Ireland Cornelius has never in her life seen a losing Pirates team.
Perched on her mother's lap, clad in a tiny pink Pirates shirt, Ireland was born Aug. 5. She and her parents are on Federal Street Thursday, watching postseason baseball.
“She goes everywhere with us,” said Ireland's mom, Michelle Guidish, 33, of Brentwood. “The Pirates are going to win, everybody is going to be excited, and we're going to cheer them on.”
About 200 people were on Federal Street for the first pitch of the game, at 5:07 p.m. Officials expected the crowd to grow throughout the evening.
4:52 p.m.: How good was business Tuesday night on the North Shore for the Pirates' first postseason game in 21 years?
At Beer Market, a new pub on Federal Street, customers put away about 5,000 beers in a single night.
“It was unreal,” said Tim Conti, a manager at Beer Market. “We sold $25,000 worth of beer. On a typical Tuesday night, we'd sell maybe $1,500. This has been really good for business.”
Like others here, Conti is not sure what to expect Thursday night. Twenty minutes before game time, more than 100 fans had set up chairs in front of the big screen. Conti expects more to arrive.
“I think there will be a nice crowd,” he said. “Thursday is not typically an active night. So what the Pirates are doing is great for business.”
3:23 p.m.: As fans continue to set up shop on Federal Street, Pirates officials and local businesses are gearing up for what they hope is a memorable evening.
“We wanted to give the fans hopefully the same kind of experience they had Tuesday night,” said Christine Serkoch, Pirates' special events coordinator. “It's exciting. We're excited to see how many people come down.”
Officials are hoping the weather holds off. Thunderstorms are forecast.
Serkoch said officials would evaluate the situation if a storm bringing downpours and thunder strikes, though she did not know if the Pirates would cancel the block party or simply delay it.
Nearby bars and restaurants, meanwhile, are expecting huge crowds two days after many reported record sales during the wild-card game against the Reds.
“It's unbelievable is what it is,” said Jonathan Erhart, manager of Soho Restaurant. “Thursdays are our slowest night. Tonight, we could get four times, maybe five times, the business we get on a typical Thursday.”
2:36 p.m.: The Pirates hope to recapture some of the electricity fans displayed during Tuesday's wild card win against the Cincinnati Reds in the first playoff game in PNC Park history, Pirates President Frank Coonelly said.
“We want to give fans the opportunity to join together again to cheer on the team,” he said.
The first fans set up folding chairs in front of the big screen more than four hours before the first pitch.
“I've been to Pens' outdoor viewings and we know the atmosphere, but this is going to be totally different,” said John Rozell, 24, of Crafton, who came with his brother Mike, 26.
“It's going to be insane,” Mike Rozell said. “Everybody's been waiting for this for 20 years.”
Though the team will be in a different time zone, the Rozell brothers believe the players will feed off the energy generated on the North Shore.
“St. Louis has home field, but the Pirates will know we're out here,” John Rozell said.
Stick with the Trib throughout the day for regular updates on the game in St. Louis and the atmosphere on the North Shore.