It was a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates to the forefront of infamy. Another losing season. Count them: 17. No team in the four major sports has been this bad for this long. Heck, the Tampa Bay Rays could only do it 10 straight years.
“So,” Stu Samuels said, “we’re a little streaky.”
Samuels is a Pirates season ticket holder from Pittsburgh who drives a black 2004 Chevy Malibu with the tag “MAZ 1960.” He and his wife, Darlene, finally made the pilgrimage to McKechnie Field before the 2008 season to see their beloved Buccos under the breezy Florida palms. That’s when most of us see the Pirates, and don’t they look good, too? Everyone looks good in March.
But Samuels sees the other side of the Pirates. He sees April, May, June, July ...
We watch their best players train. He watches their best players get traded.
We see signs of hope. He sees a third baseman with eight home runs and 50 RBIs on Sept. 10.
“By Memorial Day, people’s minds begin to wander, because the Pirates have shown their true colors,” Samuels said.
God Bless the Steelers and Penguins.
And the Cubs.
Compared to the Cubs, the Pirates are the New York Yankees.
Samuels has celebrated three World Series titles since 1960. The Cubs’ title drought is at 100 years and counting.
“There is a difference between and streak and a way of life,” Samuels said.
But losing is a way of life for Pirates fans, who, Samuels said, never, ever utter the words: “This could be the year.”
According to Samuels, there are two ways of dealing with the trades, poorly stocked farm system and managers who sit stone-like in the face of all the losing: “Cold turkey is the way out,” he said. “Wild Turkey gets you back in.”
And, yet, they love their baseball in Pittsburgh. They love their past: Mazeroski and Stargell and Clemente. They are warming up to this Andrew McCutchen kid, too.
But the streak? Like the 17-year locust, Samuels and the rest of the Buc faithful saw it coming.
“The first 16 years were the hardest,” he said.
And he expects the next few years to be somewhat difficult, but he is numb to the losing, and his expectations rest with Sidney Crosby, Ben Roethlisberger and Pitt football and basketball.
Samuels will watch the Pirates until the final out of the final game of the 17th losing season in 17 years.
“I love the Pirates. They’re in my DNA,” Samuels said. “When that last game is over and they’re 30 games back, maybe 35 games, I’ll wish we had another week.”
Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.