I’m pleased to step away from the keyboard for a night and offer up the first guest post on Chasing the Horizon. This awesome piece comes from the mind and heart of my dear friend Kevin Henry, and it’s what inspired this current series on “Why the Little Things Matter.” If you missed the first installment, you can read it here. Sports, in this case Baseball, fits my definition of “a little thing.” Obviously sports are a big deal to many and generate gazillions of dollars; but what I mean by “little” is that most people think of sports as something fun and diverting, but not all that important in the grand scheme of life. Baseball, after all, is called the National Pastime. But as Kevin beautifully illustrates, “little” things like Baseball actually are important, because they’re about more than what’s on the surface. The so-called little things in life almost always hold deeper meanings and point us to bigger things. But enough from me (this is supposed to be a guest post after all). Kevin can tell you in his own words, as he writes about his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, their stunningly good season, and why it means so much. Enjoy! - TWJ
(Note: If your baseball knowledge is limited, “Bucco” ”Buccos” and “Bucs” are all nicknames for the Pittsburgh Pirates. And, even if you’re not a baseball fan, read this, cause it’s about a lot more than baseball).
Why This Whole Bucco Baseball Thing Means So Much – By Kevin Henry
My brother, Scott, paced in the basement and at that moment found the strength to toss the free weights all over the basement.
I found no such strength.
When Home plate umpire Randy Marsh signaled “safe,” I screamed “No!!!” and didn’t talk after that.
For a solid hour, I said nothing, if shaking, sobbing and whimpering qualify as saying “nothing.”
With arms wrapped around my head and the rest of my body curled up as it was in my mother’s womb, I heard Tim McCarver, in muffled tones, interviewing and congratulating the victorious Atlanta Braves.
As I lay motionless, my head on the carpet saturated with tears and snot, I needed my mom, I suppose. She, herself, is a Pirate fan since birth. That night, she was heartbroken, but more concerned if her two sons were going to make it through the night without doing something drastic.
“Ray, what do we do? Do we need to call somebody?,” she asked my father.
I don’t remember what his answer was, except maybe we needed a shot of whiskey to calm ourselves down. It was offered. We declined.
Years later, I confessed something to my mother. I told her that the night Sid Bream ended things was one of the worst days of my life. I went on to tell her that I felt worse about that loss than I did about the loss of my grandparents.
Her response to that?
“Yeah, I can see that.”
Diehard Bucco fan to the end.
It’s dumb. I know that. It just doesn’t make sense for something of so little consequence to the world to mean so much.
But the teams for which we declare our undying devotion for life do mean that much.
In 2002, nine coal miners found themselves trapped miles underground after they broke through the wall of an abandoned mine near Somerset, Pennsylvania.
That other mine was full of water. It flooded the mine in which the miners were working.
It took crews more than three days to rescue the Quecreek Nine. All of them were pulled from middle earth alive.
When asked by a reporter what it was like to be rescued from certain death, one of the miners didn’t think twice.
“It was like the Steelers winning the Super Bowl.”
I can’t say the Pirates winning the World Series would mean that much to me. But I can’t say with 100% certainty that it wouldn’t.
Pirates baseball never put a man on the moon, found a missing child, solved or prevented a horrific crime. It sure as hell hasn’t cured cancer, but It has cured boredom, brought families and friends together, brought strangers together on line at a grocery store in Falmouth, Virginia, 275 miles from Pittsburgh.
“You see the game this afternoon?”
“God, I hope this is the year.”
“You from Pittsburgh?”
“Oh yeah? I grew up in Charleroi.”
“Just down the river.”
“Enjoy your cook-aht.”
“You, too. Grillin’ Green Weenies tonight.”
It’s not about worshipping players like Roberto Clemente, although he did give us plenty of reasons to do so.
In fact, it’s not even about the players.
It’s about hopping the 53F to downtown Pittsburgh 20 times or so a year with my little brother, walking through Point State Park, crossing the bridge to glorious “Three Rivers.”
It’s about walking to the North Side after the game to wait for dad to come pick us up, and win or lose, buying him a banana milkshake at Rally’s Burgers. Rest in Peace.
It’s about those days in mid to late September from 1990 to 1992, counting down the Pirates’ magic number with homemade numbers in the front picture window. Whoever woke up first the next morning would take care of the very important task of informing anyone who happened by West Eugene Avenue that indeed your Battlin’ Buccos were one game closer to the postseason.
It’s about all those years since, still going to games as a family even though our family has grown 300 percent. Still going even though these teams were never really playing for anything. That, thankfully has changed.
It’s about going to Wrigley Field for the first time with my wife and kids, getting choked up as we made our way to our seats and my 12-year old daughter understanding why her dad couldn’t take off his sunglasses at that moment.
Twenty-one years is a lifetime.
A lot has happened since 1992.
I’ve been engaged twice. One of them worked. I’ve had seven cell phones, seven cars, two apartments, two townhouses, five houses, one wife, one dog, three kids, eight jobs, lived in five cities and two states and backed just one baseball team.
If you’re from Pittsburgh, you get it. You don’t move to another city and root for that town’s team. How many one-time Steelers fans are now Dolphins fans or ‘Skins fans? Not many, if any.
That’s how it is and always will be with the Pirates.
On October 14, 1992, we all just knew it was the end. They were never going to get back. The economics of the game wouldn’t let them. A generation later, we’ve been proven wrong. And boy, is this fun!
But, again, it’s not about Andrew McCutchen being awesome, although he’s damn good. It’s not about Pedro Alvarez being “strong like bull.”
It’s about our city, one of the most special places on earth to me.
It’s about us.
When the Battlin’ Bucs finally break the 81-win mark, hopefully sometime this week, I will cry. I know I will. I’ll think of my family, with whom I’ve shared so many memories, good and bad, given to us by our baseball team.
What will happen if the Pirates actually win the World Series? Hard to say, but it will likely include a puddle of tears and snot.