I started following the Pirates on a regular basis in 1984 at the age of 12. For those of you familiar with the history of the team, that wasn't a good year to start following the Pirates on a regular basis.
It was the first of three straight last place finishes, as the organization, once one of the most talented in all the majors from top to bottom, would soon hit rock-bottom with drug trials, threats of relocation and changes in ownership. While the Pirates did recover and give us some reminders of the past (well, older fans, not me) by winning a few division titles and participating in some thrilling (and heartbreaking) playoff baseball in the early 90s, in a lot of ways, that 1984 season acted as a major demarcation point in franchise history. After 1983, the last true reminder of Pittsburgh's great baseball teams from the 70s, the Bucs would go on to finish with a losing record in 25 of their next 29 seasons--including 10 last place seasons and six fifth place seasons.
That first season as a die-hard Buccos fan was a bit hard to swallow for Yours truly, and to rub just a little salt in the wounds, on September 24, 1984, at old Three Rivers Stadium, before about 5,742 in attendance, the Chicago Cubs, a team that hadn't been to the postseason since the 1945 World Series, clinched the National League East with a 4-1 victory.
I remember watching Chicago clinch the division and seeing all the Cubs fans in attendance going nuts and taking over the park (I believe they made up most of the people in the stands). Later that night, after the sports report on KDKA, the anchor (I believe it was the late Ray Tannehill), said "Why'd they have to clinch it here?" Of course, postseason clinches on the road at a non-contenders park are kind of like mob hits--nothing personal. However, it's always a bit depressing to see another team partying it up on your team's home turf.
That year has always been special to Cubs fans, and I can certainly understand why. After not experiencing something for a long time, you always have fond memories of when that magic came around again. Just look at all the fans that were in attendance at Wrigley Field that day to watch their team win the division and finally bring home a pennant after nearly four decades.
Between the '45 Series and that day at Three Rivers Stadium, there wasn't much to celebrate if you were a fan of the Cubs, so that day had to feel so wonderful, so cleansing.
On Monday, September 23, 2013, when the Pirates clinched their first postseason trip in 21 seasons (just weeks after ending 20 years of losing) with a 2-1 victory over the hapless Cubs at Wrigley Field, I was so caught up in the euphoria of the moment as I watched the guys go nuts in the clubhouse, spraying champagne on each other and singing their rally songs, I didn't even realize the similarities, and how eerily full-circle things had come.
Heck, moments earlier, I even tuned into WGN, Chicago's Superstation and a source for many Cubs telecasts, in the hopes of seeing the exciting bottom of the ninth inning, only to be disappointed with visions of a Chicago newscast and a couple of anchors.
I didn't stick around long enough, but I wonder if one of the anchors complained about the Pirates clinching at Wrigley.
If you're a 12 year old Cubs fan who witnessed Pittsburgh's celebration on Monday, it had to be doubly-annoying, considering the Braves clinched the National League East at Wrigley just a day earlier.
Hey, wait a minute, the Pirates and Braves are in the postseason at the same time, once again? Speaking of things coming full circle.................