As we enter the final month of the season, there are many teams and games and players to be excited about. But, today, there’s one game that stands out above the rest. No, it isn’t the battle between the Orioles and Indians – two teams trying to scratch their way into the playoffs. No, it isn’t the game between the Reds and the Cardinals – two teams fighting each other for the division title. And, no, it isn’t even the Tigers and Red Sox – two of the best teams in the AL, with one of the best players in the game trying to accomplish an unprecedented feat. No, today’s most exciting game is the one being played in … Milwaukee.
I know what you’re thinking – this guy’s out of his mind. With all of the pennant races, and Wild Card races going on . . . with all of the great players in the game today . . . why would anyone care what happens in the Brewers’ game today? Well, allow me to tell you why you should care what happens in Milwaukee tonight. Baseball history may take place tonight. Or, perhaps more accurately, the end of baseball history may take place.
Tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the opportunity to break a streak that has lasted 20 seasons! A streak that dates back to the days of Andy Van Slyke, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, and even pre-PED Barry Bonds. Ever since their heart-breaking loss in a 7-game NLCS to the Atlanta Braves in 1992, the Pirates haven’t been the same. Bonds left for the west coast and the San Francisco Giants. Van Slyke never played a full season again. Drabek left for his hometown Astros. And, the Pirates organization went into an unprecedented tailspin – twenty consecutive losing seasons. It’s a streak that isn’t just the worst in baseball history – it’s the worst in the history of North American sports!
And, we aren’t just talking about several seasons where they managed to come up just short of a winning record. Last year, they finished 79-83, just 4 games below an even .500 record. That was the first time they had come even that close since 1997! Half of their losing seasons included 90 or more losses. They only finished higher than 4th in their division 3 times – most recently, however, was a 3rd place finish in 1999. A team that once was beloved by its fans and by its city, was virtually irrelevant for 20 years.
But, tonight, that can all be put in the past. Tonight, the Pirates have the opportunity to win their 81st game of the year. And, if they were to lose every game the rest of the season, they still would finish with an even 81-81 record – their first non-losing season in over 20 years. No, I don’t expect an enormous celebration if the Pirates win tonight (they do have bigger goals in mind, after all). But, I hope we all can rejoice alongside the Pirates fans who have had to watch their team lose more often than not for two decades. Finally, they have turned things around. Finally, there’s reason to celebrate baseball again in Pittsburgh.