Even the most stoic and fierce competition would have been shaken by the spectacle that took place within the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park on October 2nd. There was not a soul in the arena that did not feel the magic that was happening in Pittsburgh that night. Over 40,000 electrified fans, wearing Pirate black and screaming uncontrollably at each play, rattled the visiting Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card matchup for a ticket to the playoffs. The city had come alive. The collective clamor of the record-breaking crowd caused Red’s pitcher Johnny Cueto to drop the ball on the mound, igniting even more provocation from the lively horde. We have all seen moments like these in sports before, but we were probably in a movie theater. This was a real life Cinderella story happening before our eyes.
Baseball fans in the city of Pittsburgh earned every enchanting moment of their wild card matchup through 21 agonizing years of disappointment, shame, futility, and emotional anguish. Not only had the ballclub failed to make the playoffs throughout this time, but they also fell embarrassingly short of even mustering a winning season. Their streak of losing seasons had reached the legal drinking age, and it was the longest playoff drought for any team in major sports. The last time the city of Pittsburgh had anything baseball related to smile about, George H.W. Bush was in the White House, a gallon of gas cost $1.05, web browsers were text based, cassette tapes were still in use, and the Cold War had just ended. Between 1992 and 2012, the Pirates had won a mere 43 percent of their games. Seven managers had attempted to turn the team around, and failed. However, though they had become the laughing stock of professional sports, the city endured.
Pittsburgh had patiently waited for this moment, when a hero like Russell Martin would step to the plate and send his second home run of the game speeding over the outfield fence of PNC Park with cracking ferocity in order to put his team up 3-0 in the third inning. And the other side of play, the torch passed to left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano, who allowed only one run in seven innings. The forecast had become unmistakably clear, as everyone in the baseball world knew that the night belonged to the Pirates. By the bottom of the 9th inning, the team earned themselves a 6-2 victory, and their first trip to the playoffs in two over decades.
Though the Pirates had been long removed from respectability, something about their 2013 playoff run just felt right. PNC Park was built for games like the one against the Reds. More importantly, the Pittsburgh fan base was meant to cheer on a baseball team in October. The crowd showed that with their unmatched and unwavering enthusiasm that began long before the first pitch, they could help will their team to victory. The city of Pittsburgh can finally rest knowing that they are no longer the running joke of baseball, that the fire of the future burns bright, that there are no such things as curses, that good things do come to those who wait, that small market teams can make a splash, and that miracles are not confined to movies.