Not a lot changes in baseball. That’s one of the wonderful things about the game, at least when they are good things.
The Pittsburgh Pirates suck, to be concise. That’s something that hasn’t changed for the last 20 years. The club didn’t ease into that period either; it was onset by a split second in which Atlanta’s Sid Bream slid safely into home plate at Turner Field. The Braves won. The Pirates lost a game, a series, and every bit of momentum the entire franchise had been building over the last century.
I was four years old and sleeping when that happened. My dad was downstairs in our living room, on his knees in front of the TV in utter disbelief.
The Bucs were having a heck of a summer in 2011. It seemed that they had a legitimate shot at ending that sucking streak that had been showing little sign of slowing. They had made their first national television appearance in five years the night before—and won. The Bucco game was the cool place to be. Those of us who had been fans for years were losing our minds.
Then July 26 and 27 happened.
I’m the scorekeeper for a summer league ball club. We had a game that night, it wasn’t close, but the teams did combine for 15 hits and made me work a little. I came home and flipped on the TV to relax and watch the exciting Pirates take on the Braves. They were in the sixth inning, tied up at 3-3. At least I would get to see the winning run.
I was tweeting and in a chat room with a few other fans, just talking ball like a hundred other nights that summer. And we watched, and tweeted, and chatted.
10:19pm in the chat room: Bonus Bucco Baseball
And then we watched, and chatted, and tweeted. Innings passed, nobody scored, they did the tomahawk chop for the 817th time.
Bottom of the 12th: Braves lead off with a walk, next guy singles.
Chat room: He could’ve gone to third on that.
Lineout to the third baseman, groundout, intentional walk to load the bases with two out.
Chat room: Dear Pirates, don’t screw this up.
Bet he ends the game with a hit.
Groundout to third base.
We’re not quite dead yet.
11:26 in the chat room: This is going 20 gentlemen.
1:35am Buster Olney tweets: Fan of the Year: This little girl (about 8 or 9) screaming with every pitch, for the Pirates. Can hear her clearly on the Braves’ broadcast.
1:36am in the chat room: Jon Weaner is gonna cry.
Haven’t turned the channel for 7 innings.
Mine’s been this way for 18.5 innings.
1:43am in the chat room: Some guy in a concession stand has been filling cups up with pop for the past six hours.
Daniel McCutchen, now in his fifth inning of relief work and looking like his arm is about to fall off his shoulder.
In the chat room: Put another pitcher in!
Need a relief pitcher.
Everyone do the tomahawk chop in their living room.
Braves lead off the 19th with a ground out, walk, and single putting runners on first and third with one out. You know the rest.
1:51am in the chat room: ARE YOU ******* SERIOUS?
I thought Greg Brown was going to come through my TV.
Bream was out.
There were quite a few of us still up at the time the game was over, it was a true marathon. The umpire who blew the call at home plate, Jerry Meals, became a Pittsburgh villain and legend. That happened five months ago and a week still doesn’t go by without some twitter reference to #JerryMealsSaysItsSafe.
The Pirates’ momentum was instantly deflated. They lost the game, the division lead, 12 of their next 13 games, and any hope of winning that season.
As bad of a memory as it was, it’s one I’ll never forget… as that Braves’ infielder slid into home plate at Turner Field, I was in the living room on my knees in front of the TV in utter disbelief.
No, baseball doesn’t change much.