The Pittsburgh Pirates made their debut at Exposition Park in Pittsburg on April 22, 1891, losing to the Cubs, 7-6. Exposition Park had opened the previous year as the home of the Pittsburgh Burghers of the short-lived Players’ League. The Bucs would call Exposition Park home until 1909, when they moved to Forbes Field.
Technically a couple days late, but I would argue it’s still early enough for this to count. I stumbled across this piece last night. It’s full of baseball metaphors being applied to business. Apparently in 2014, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle shared this poem with Pirates staff on Opening Day that year. That day, the Pirates won 1-0 in ten innings over the Cubs.
Today you’ll dig in the closet for your glove and snap a ball into it while sipping your morning coffee.
Today you’ll drive to work and admonish yourself to “keep your head down” and your eye on the road.
Today your team will be in first and planning to stay there. Today you’ll wonder about developing and selling tobacco-flavored toothpaste, as you spit into the sink.
Today you’ll still be able to turn the double play.
Today you’ll end your contract holdout.
Today you won’t lose a business deal in the sun. Today you’ll find yourself rotating your arm around your head to stretch the shoulder and keep it loose.
Today sunflower seeds strangely find their way into your back pocket.
Today you’ll think of wearing a black suit to match the eye black.
Today you’ll have the steal sign.
Today you slip up in a meeting and mention “our sales team vs. lefties.”
Today as the toast comes out of the toaster, you’ll still remember how to execute a perfect “pop-up” slide.
Today a hot dog and peanuts for lunch will sound about right.
Today you tell a co-worker to “get loose.”
Today the only strike you’ll know about is above the knees and below the armpits.
Today you’ll wear your jacket only on your pitching arm.
Today you’ll buy two packs of gum and stuff them in the side of your mouth to look like a player.
Today, during lunch, you’ll wonder why Coke doesn’t come in a wood can.
Today you’ll scratch yourself and spit for no apparent reason.
Today you’ll wonder why stirrup socks never caught on as a fashion rage.
Today you’ll be the rookie looking to make it big.
Today you’ll be the wily vet with just a little something left.
Today you’ll look for the AM dial on your radio.
Today mom’s watching.
Today dad’s in the backyard with his glove.
Today will be hopeful.
Today it’ll still be a kids’ game.
Today you’ll be a kid.
Today is Opening Day!
After a long hiatus, due to having to return the series to the library and wait for others to finish their turns with it before having my chance at checking it out again, I have finally made it back around to watching the Ninth Inning of Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns. This installment in the series covers the time period from 1970 to 1993, the ending representing present day at the time, as the series was originally released in 1994.
The Ninth Inning opens with a baseball game being played between a pair of Dominican teams. A couple players from one of the teams give interviews expressing the importance of baseball to the Dominican culture. “It’s like a religion,” one player says. “There’s never been a revolution or war during baseball season.” Historian Manuel Marquez-Sterling compares baseball to the opera, insisting the two are essentially the same kind of thing.
On this disc we learn about Brooks Robinson leading the Orioles to the 1970 World Series championship against Pete Rose and the Cincinnati Reds. In 1971, the Orioles found themselves on the losing side of the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Roberto Clemente of the Pirates made a name for himself during this period. He was an icon for both the black community and for the Puerto Rican community, and he gave back to society as much as he could. On New Years Eve of 1971, however, Clemente’s plane crashed in an effort to bring relief supplies to Nicaragua following an earthquake.
Baseball’s reserve clause met its end during this time period. Curt Flood’s battle in the courts against the clause at the start of the decade came away largely fruitless, though it did serve to bring the issue into the public spotlight. In 1975, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, with the help of Marvin Miller, took on the reserve clause by claiming free agency. In the end, the reserve clause was abolished and players were now eligible for free agency after six years. This, as we see through today, resulted in an explosion of baseball salaries. The collusion of baseball owners in the late-1980s threatened this newfound free agent market, in much the same way owners once had observed the “gentleman’s agreement” to never sign a black player. This collusion, however, would soon get exposed and would cost the owners a considerable sum.
The treatment of both Roberto Clemente and Curt Flood highlighted the points made by Jackie Robinson shortly before his death. Certainly, as Buck O’Neil mentions, a lot changed in baseball, and in American society, as a result of Robinson’s role in breaking the color barrier. Nevertheless, baseball still had a long way to go in terms of racial equality. Henry Aaron knew all about this reality, playing for the Braves and chasing Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run record. The hate mail sent to Aaron, some of which gets read in this episode, sends chills down my spine. In 1974, Hank Aaron did break Ruth’s record, and deservedly so. The 1987 interview of Al Campanis regarding the reasons behind a lack of blacks in baseball management drove home the existence of the persisting prejudice.
The Oakland A’s of the 1970s drew attention, not only due to their excellent performance, but also due to the appearance of their players. Players were given bonuses to grow their hair out, and many went on to sport some quite interesting facial hair. Catfish Hunter’s pitching for Oakland was stellar, almost unfair in the eyes of some hitters, who noticed the strike zone seemed to grow larger whenever Hunter took the mound.
The Cincinnati Reds returned to the World Series in 1975, this time against the Boston Red Sox. Not only did the Reds have Pete Rose on their roster, but also boasted of names like Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey, and Joe Morgan. Game 6 of this Series proved one for the history books, featuring Carlton Fisk’s dramatic walk-off home run for Boston in the twelfth inning to tie the Series at three. Cincinnati would win the Series, however, in Game 7. As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the various stories told by pitcher Bill Lee on this disc. The man was certainly a character. He speaks candidly and hilariously about his own experiences, blunders, and shortcomings, and his wild gesturing made it just as fun to watch him speak as it was to listen.
The 1970s saw the rise of George Steinbrenner as owner of the New York Yankees. Free agency worked in Steinbrenner’s favor, and he spent freely to build a winning organization. Though they lost the 1976 World Series, they won it in 1977 and 1978, led by Reggie Jackson. Steinbrenner became notorious for running through managers like a child runs through fads, bolstering his reputation for trying to buy his way to championships.
The 1979 Series featured Willie Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then in 1980, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Kansas City Royals, led by Pete Rose, who had signed with them after becoming a free agent. Rose would return to the Reds later in his career. Nolan Ryan also took advantage of free agency, dominating from the pitcher’s mound with multiple teams. After the collusion among the owners was busted up, baseball contracts exploded, and player after player made headlines as the newest highest paid player.
After this point, the documentary ceased to cover every single World Series championship, but rather focused on the ones that would be deemed “most popular” in baseball history. The 1986 World Series saw a continuation of the Curse of the Bambino. The Boston Red Sox lost the Series in a stunning fashion to the New York Mets. After giving up what seemed like a sure victory in Game 6, the Red Sox also lost Game 7. The 1988 World Series went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a championship victory that included the unbelievable tale of Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 in spite of his injuries.
In August 1989, Pete Rose was banished from baseball. Bart Giamatti gave the announcement in a press conference, stating that Rose’s involvement in gambling had hurt the game, and that the game must be held to the highest standards. In spite of a depressing end to the 1980s, and in spite of all the scandals and other struggles in baseball, John Thorn and Buck O’Neil exalt the continuing survivalist spirit of baseball. Admittedly, the timing of these statement is a bit ironic, considering that the next World Series after this documentary was released, the 1994 Series, did not get played due to the players’ strike. In spite of that, baseball did come back, and I’d say the fact that so many baseball blogs, such as this one, exist is a testament to the continuing love and wonder that baseball brings.
The Phillies traded first baseman Babe Dahlgren to the Pirates on December 30, 1943 in exchange for catcher Babe Phelps and cash. Ellsworth Tenney “Babe” Dahlgren would be best remembered in baseball history as the man who replaced Lou Gehrig in the lineup on May 2, 1939, at the end of Gehrig’s fourteen-year, 2,130 consecutive game streak.
Having been also pursued by the Mets, Braves, Pirates, and Royals, Pete Rose signed with the Phillies on December 5, 1978 for four years and $3.2 million. Rose’s new deal comes after having spent sixteen years with the Cincinnati Reds
On November 22, 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased the contract of Roberto Clemente from the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ AAA farm club. The right fielder would play eighteen seasons for the Pirates and became the first Latin American and Caribbean player to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame after his death in 1972.
This piece by Paul Blackburn provides an abridged look at Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Living in New York, he describes the experience of Yankees fans, and there is something almost mystical about the City That Never Sleeps quieting down for a baseball game. I imagine that silence must have continued for a few days after that blast by Bill Mazeroski, the only winner-take-all walk-off home run in World Series history.