Fun! But why are those guys running around down there?


Mike and I had the chance to attend a Pirates game on Saturday, courtesy of one of Mike’s clients. We were invited to join 200+ other customers and employees the company bused in from Somerset to enjoy the game from the comfort of the upper-level World Series boxes — a set of five private suites, one for each World Series the Pirates won. I’ve been to PNC Park a handful of times since it opened, but this was the first time in a box. (I had the chance to go to a Bucs game at Three Rivers in a box once, too.)

It was great — especially on a blustery evening that felt more like October than May, with temps about 50° and wind gusts of 40+ miles per hour.

(Ironically, contrast this to our previous memorable freebie game  — courtesy of our mortgage broker when we bought our house. We took Mike’s parents and had great seats behind the visitors’ dugout. An afternoon game — 93° at least. I had terrible poison ivy so had to wear long sleeves and pants. The game went 13 excruciating innings before the Bucs lost. Mike’s dad got terrible sunburn, as did everyone else who had exposed skin. So maybe those long sleeves weren’t so bad?)

This time, we enjoyed copious food & drinks indoors, great seating outdoors on the third base side (even though I had 4 layers of clothing on), and even a fireworks show afterward, as I mentioned. Unlike many of our fellow party-goers, we sat outside for a good portion of the game. The Pens playoff game was on the TVs inside, so, humorously, many were riveted in that direction, oblivious to the baseball game outside the windows behind them. Amazingly, both teams won (which really means: Amazingly, the Pirates won).

PNC Park has lots of snazzy gizmos — big scoreboard, changing displays around the perimeter of the field, opportunities to send text messages or pictures to appear on the scoreboard or displays — and a beautiful view across the river to downtown. Great food that only costs an arm and leg. (Mike got up to “buy a beer” for a friend we were sitting with. Had he really had to buy that can of Yuengling instead of getting it from the mini-fridge, it probably would have been $7 or something. As our friend put it, how do people afford to get drunk at a game?) Like everyone says, it’s a great place to watch a game. But still…something was missing.

Was it the organ music?

Yes, that was sorely missed. That Vince Lascheid music used to keep you in the game no matter what the score. That music could have you all cheering or screaming or booing or stomping your feet. And smiling at those funny little snippets of songs he’d play to announce each player as he came to bat. Sure, they have music now. Mostly rock or rap, some of which I knew and some I didn’t. Sure the Let’s Go Bucs music played sometimes and people would clap and cheer along, but not that often. It was just as likely that someone out in the right field stands (it seemed) would bang on what sounded like a steel drum (or a kitchen pot) to start Let’s Go Bucs going. It certainly wasn’t like the old days in Three Rivers, when everyone would stomp their feet and you could literally feel the place rock.

I found this old story from the Pittsburgh Business Times that describes the Vince Lascheid phenomenon well. Mr. Lascheid died last year. They play tapes of his music during the games — I think “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”  was done that way. But it’s not nearly enough.

Then there’s the fact that I recognized the names of exactly two Pirates players — Andrew McCutchen and Lastings Milledge. And I only know them because we watched a game at the bar a few weeks ago and I got them confused (I think I asked Mike, “Why is the same guy up at bat again? And why did he change from long pants to short?”). A far cry from the days when you knew the whole starting line-up, plus many of the alternates. (Thanks, Nuttings.)

Mostly, what’s missing at Pirates games is the game. It’s all about what else is there — food, drink, scenery, giveaways, events (like upcoming concerts by Collective Soul and Steve Miller that would be fun to see). Oh, and by the way, there’s a baseball game going on.

Still, we had fun. Free fun. (OK, $5 to park downtown fun.) We’d do it again anytime. And we might even pay to go depending on what else was going on, like one of those concerts or another fireworks night. But really, does anyone go to a Steelers game or a Pens game for the food and peripheral stuff? It might be part of the fun — tailgating or getting a bobblehead — but it’s not the main event. I wonder if that’s true of baseball games in other cities, or is it just a ‘Burgh thing, after years of losing seasons?

Anyway, I’m thinking the way to get people to sit through anything is to have a fireworks show after. So here goes, for all of you that made it through this post…fuzzy fireworks, thanks to my camera enjoying the game from the back seat of the car and Mike’s phone pinch hitting. (And did I mention the wind…?)


Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed
three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.
~ Ted Williams

1 Comment

  1. Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Good one, Chris. And I think “Thanks Nuttings” is your answer to much of it. Although our once proud franchise is now a laughing stock, the owners are STILL MAKING MONEY. They make money on the peripherals, so why sink their profits into something unnecessary like baseball players? I can pretty guarantee they are spending way more on stupid crap tchotchkes (remember when being made into a bobble head was a special honor for a special player?) than on payroll.

    I think baseball, overall, sunk itself. As a whole, it had the opportunity to vote for controls (like the NFL did with salary caps, etc.) but opted for greed and an every man for himself mentality. Which, ya know, has absolutely nothing to do with the grand game of baseball.

    In the mix also I’m sure is the piranha generation that blindly desires and devours new plastic crap every 10 seconds.

    I stood by the Pirates for many many many years. And, although I still enjoy going to the ballpark (I say no thank-you to the give-away and I watch the game.) (Oh, and a plastic, semi-warm bottle of domestic light beer costs more than $7, fyi.), I don’t go often because I don’t like to support what’s going on.

    Pirates ownership needs to stop thinking like an accountant and start thinking like a Pittsburgher and/or a sports fan. That they can’t look at the Pirates past (and the Steelers and Penguins present) and see the financial benefits of having a good team.

    Ah. Don’t get me started 🙂

    It breaks my heart.

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