After successfully completing the initiation rite of recapping Sunday's debacle, I'm happy to introduce myself to the BD community and grateful to Charlie for the opportunity to add my voice to coverage of this promising baseball season.
I grew up in northern New Jersey, close to New York, in a family of Brooklyn Dodgers fans. After the Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast and before the Mets arrived, we rooted for anyone who had a chance to beat the Yankees. In 1960, I adopted the Pirates and watched them beat the Yankees in the Series, staying home from school to see the Hal Smith and Bill Mazeroski homers in Game 7 on TV.
KDKA had a strong signal, and you could pull it in late at night on a transistor radio. Bob Prince was unlike any other announcer I had ever heard on a distant radio broadcast -- the deep Pittsburgh accent that I had never heard before, his unabashed advocacy for the home team (a rarity in those days), and an alcohol-fueled irreverence that reinforced my sense of Pittsburgh as an exotic and fun place. I mostly forgot about the Pirates after I adopted the Mets in their inaugural season, but my brief time as a Pirates fan left a trace.
When I moved here in the early 1970s with a band I had formed at Penn State, I didn't pay much attention to the Pirates until 1974. I had throat surgery that year for vocal nodules -- the consequence of shouting from the bandstand in too many smoky bars -- and was directed by my surgeon to be silent for a month. So to kill time, I started going to Three Rivers Stadium, sitting in the $2 seats in center field by myself, keeping score, and not talking to anyone. I had just missed Roberto Clemente, but I got to see Al Oliver, Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Richie Hebner, Richie Zisk, Manny Sanguillen, and all those other great characters from that era. My annual obsession with the Pirates began then and has continued since.
I was in a new band in the late 70s, and all of us except one were baseball fans (the other guy drove the van). We experienced the stretch run in 1978 when the Bucs came from nowhere to almost overtake the Phillies -- there were two Phillies fans in the band -- and we drove all night to get back from Washington, D.C., for the Friday night Bucs-Phils doubleheader, the Bucs needing to win three of four to catch the Phils and win the division. They swept the Phils in the double-header that night before it all ended the following day.
By a strange coincidence, we found ourselves onstage at a club in Baltimore a year later for the final out of the '79 series. Our sax player quoted "We Are Family" in all of his solos that night, and at the end of the show, the club owner put a pie in my face.
In the early to mid 80s, we were on tour perpetually on the East Coast and especially in the Southeast, and to kill time, we started an APBA draft league and played two full 162-game seasons in the van. It often seemed that the purpose of our playing music was to make it possible for us to play APBA, and not the other way around. Around this time I also became hooked on the annual Bill James Baseball Abstracts. I devoured them when they arrived every year and learned from them a lesson I've never forgotten, broadly applicable: don't believe things that everyone thinks are true just because everyone believes them.
During the years in Dry Land, many of my acquaintances wondered how I was able to stay engaged with the Pirates, year after year, when they never won anything. The answer was and is that, for me, following a bad baseball team is just as engaging as following a good one. My son Calvin, who managed to become a fanatical Pirates fan despite never having experienced a winning Pirates season in his lifetime, evidently agrees with me. He and I started Romo Phone Home during the early days of blogging in 2006, followed games together over WeChat and mlb.com while he was working in Beijing in the glorious final days of the 2013 season, and then revived Romo after an eight-year hiatus during the stretch last year.
I'll be doing more recaps here, hoping that the games I get to recap are more compelling than that first one, and some longer pieces too as I get ideas for things I feel like writing about. I'm looking forward to getting to know a lot of you and to being part of the Bucs Dugout community. Thanks for reading!