The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

March 22, 2014

BILL EGGERT | Pirates: a rite of spring

— Opening day for the Bucs is March 31. Every year, hope springs eternal for Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Especially for the past two decades, since outfielder Barry Bonds’ errant throw allowed gimpy-kneed Sid Bream to score the come-from-behind winning run for the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series.

Every year for the past twenty seasons the Buccos have found a way to break the hearts of their fans, either from April on, or playing winning ball until their August swoon and collapse.  

That is, until last year. 2013 proved to be a lucky season for the Bucs, who made it to the playoffs in exciting style. Last year the patience and guidance from the past few seasons came to a successful conclusion in making the playoffs. Pirates President Frank Coonelly, General Manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle were all instrumental in developing a winning prescription for the Bucs last year.

My old friend from Sears, Bernie R, is a devoted Pirate fan. He has suffered through the bad times, but remembers the “glory days” when the Bucs fielded winning teams. Many years a season ticket holder, Bernie gets free tickets to the annual Piratefest  each winter. Bernie had an extra ticket last year, and kindly asked me if I wanted to attend with him. We headed to Pittsburgh one frigid December Sunday.

It was encouraging to see the many Pirate fans there, from small kids to middle age folks. The Pirate Parrot and “bouncy castles” were there for the kids, and current and a former Pirates were there for kids of all ages. While the new players were very nice, I had the misfortune of getting former pitcher John Candelaria’s pre-signed photo card, which he handed me with all the pleasantness of someone asking him for a skin graft. If he did not want to be there he should not have attended.

By contrast, pitcher Jeff Locke (who looked like he was still in high school) was gracious and friendly as I kidded him about his long hair.

Bernie and I also got to meet Pirate announcer Tim Neverett, who was friendly and accessible. As I spoke with him I thought back to former announcers Bob Prince (28-year career) and Lanny Frattare (33-year career) and how much broadcasting has changed since the days of the Gunner.

I also was able to speak to Coonelly after the question-and-answer session. I thanked him for bringing winning baseball back to Pittsburgh. I mentioned to him that I remembered the last three World Series the Pirates won. He complimented me on not looking old enough to remember the last three.

The most enjoyable part of the Piratefest for Bernie and myself was the question-and answer-session. A long line of Pirate fans, mostly young boys and a few 20-something guys, patiently waited in line to question the panel of Huntington, Hurdle and Coonelly. The often repeated questions (to the point of being funny) had to do with what about the “right field and first base situations.”  Patiently, one of the panel would address the same question. Other memorable questions included “What is your starting lineup for Opening Day?” (Answer: have to see how spring training plays out) and “Have you given any thought to using (pitcher) Gerrit Cole as designated hitter during interleague play?” (Answer: audience laughter). Mostly, it was fans expressing their gratitude for bringing winning baseball back to Pittsburgh. It occurred to me that those 20 and younger had never experienced a winning Pirate team.

As for Bernie and myself, it was a reality test, realizing that not only were we older than the ballplayers, but also the manager, general manager and president. Scanning through the memorabilia vendors there, Bernie and I relived memories of the Pirates of our youth: Clemente, Maz, Stargell, ElRoy Face, Moose, Lamb and Veale. Seeing a baseball card of pitcher Don Schwall, at 6-foot-6 one of the taller Pirates ever, I reminded Bernie that Schwall had a hot wife (from Family Day photos in the Pirate yearbooks) and the 30-something  woman next to me burst out laughing.

Maybe baseball fans will never grow up or grow old, always being the “Boys of Summer.” Maybe baseball will keep us forever young.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Bill Eggert
  • EGGERT AND CHILLY BILLY Bill Cardille brings back childhood chills

    One of the nice things about moving back to this area was being able to connect with childhood heroes from local television. Some, like Paul Shannon (“Adventure Time”) and Hank Stohl (“Popeye and Kinesh”), unfortunately have passed on. Others, like wrestling champ Bruno Sammartino and Bill Cardille (“Chiller Theatre”) are happily still with us.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT6 Riverboat reverie on ‘uncle time’

    Thoughts of the summer months bring to mind annual weeklong vacations with Granny, Pop-Pop and Uncle Don in Pittsburgh. One memorable summer, “Unck” took me to see the Delta Queen riverboat, sitting majestically in the Monongahela River, moored at the Mon wharf.

    July 5, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Bill Eggert | ‘Whatever it takes’: remembering Chuck Noll

    Once upon a time there was a colorful yet inept professional football team, owned by an equally colorful Irishman who participated in sports during his younger days. Unlike their crosstown professional baseball and collegiate football team counterparts, the pro football team never tasted the sweet nectar of success for about 40 years. That all changed in 1969, when Steelers owner Art Rooney and his family found a wise, humble and grounded 37-year-old man named Chuck Noll.

    June 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo Life after Dad: A Father’s Day reflection

    One of my dad’s favorite movies was the 1947 classic “Life With Father,” starring the great William Powell (coincidentally also born in Pittsburgh) as the stern but lovable family disciplinarian.

    June 7, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert columnist  photo BILL EGGERT | Hollywood’s take on the Great Flood

    About 37 years after the Great Johnstown Flood of 1889, Hollywood decided to make a motion picture of Johnstown’s most catastrophic event.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • EGGERT4 75 years of Batmania: The Dark Knight’s evolution

    The appeal of Batman is universal. We can identify more with Batman.
    Local resident Wayne Faucher has been a professional artist/inker on the various Batman titles for over 20 years.

    May 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Captain America: Sentinel of liberty for 70-plus years

    When I was a kid reading comic books, my two favorite superheroes (Batman and Captain America) were not really super; maybe that is why they were my favorites.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

  • BILL EGGERT AND FRANK COONELLY BILL EGGERT | Pirates: a rite of spring

    Opening day for the Bucs is March 31. Every year, hope springs eternal for Pittsburgh Pirate fans. Especially for the past two decades, since outfielder Barry Bonds’ errant throw allowed gimpy-kneed Sid Bream to score the come-from-behind winning run for the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 National League Championship Series.

    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert BILL EGGERT | Going home can sometimes be only walking distance

    One of the most popular topics during my eight years of writing this column is the one of looking into the past of the Johnstown (and my areas of Moxham and Richland) of my childhood. A lot of baby boomers relate to these time trips with a sense of nostalgia, remembering a kinder, simpler, more innocent era. Or at least that is the way we remember our childhood, looking through those rose-colored glasses.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads