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Location: Johnstown, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yes, there ARE Pirates fans (and other assorted comments)

It was brought to my attention by Pat from Where Have You Gone Van Slyke that I never made a post discussing my experiences on Saturday night's game (the Redman/Davies beauty of a pitchers duel). As such, allow me to tell you a story.

It was in the low 60's and raining when I left Johnstown. Knowing I'd later regret it, but being to lazy/stubborn to care, I put on jeans anyway. Needless to say, it was an absolutely gorgeous day in Pittsburgh, upper 70's and bright, very hot sun. Between the weather and the fact that it was Craig Wilson bobblehead doll night, I knew we'd get a good number of people. When we first arrived at the stadium, I was disappointed by the crowd - sure were a lot of empty seats. We enjoyed a lovely view of the city from row X of section 330, the first time I've ever sat down the 3rd base line (I had enjoyed my previous games from everywhere else - first base line, behind home, in the outfield, in the bleachers, etc, but never 3rd.) They announced the starting lineups, and of course I was nervous, expecting a typical "so what if these guys are playing well, let's throw them on the bench" lineup from Lloyd. He came through, however, putting out a lineup that's among the better ones he's put out this year. On to the game.

Kyle Davies is a pitching machine, especially against a team that can't seem to score runners once they're on base. Mark Redman, of course, is pitching an absolute gem. He hasn't struck out many (3 in 8 IP) but he's also only walked one. The crowd isn't exactly on their feet at every out, but they're pretty into it. The nearby sections are starting our own cheers and chants, and it seems to be spreading. At one point, we do one of the popular PNC cheers, and then they play that same one over the broadcast system. Coincidence? Maybe, but it kept everybody pretty happy. We squander a few chances to score some runs, but the way Redman's pitching we know that we just need one or two good hits and we'll be golden. Then we get into the 8th inning. Davies has been slowing a bit. He walks Lawton, the crowd cheers loudly. He walks Bay, the crowd goes nuts. He's replaced by John Foster. Foster walks Mackowiak, the crowd is on their feet. They know what's going on, and they know how good of an opportunity this is. And, for once, they actually feel like we can take advantage of it. There was no "well, at least we got the bases loaded" feeling, it was nothing but hope, which has been missing for a long time in Pittsburgh. Ward comes up to the plate. Ward, who at any time can take a ball out of the park. We had just seen a Mackowiak grand slam a few nights before, would Daryle hit one? The crowd grows so loud that I can't even hear myself think. The last time I remember hearing a crowd like this was at a concert, and before that was the Pitt/VT game 2 years ago. Daryle swings and....grounds into a double play. Noise level down a few thousand levels. We're still not losing, we're still in the game and can win it in the next inning instead. Then there was the fielding mishap that eventually scored a run for the Braves. In the bottom of the ninth, with us down one, the crowd was still hopeful, but it was more pleading than cheering. Quick out, quick out, quick out, ballgame. One of the best I've ever seen, probably the best I've ever been to in terms of quality of play, though certainly not in terms of outcome.

The point, you ask? Baseball is back in Pittsburgh. That game had roughly 34,000 fans, and they were legitimately expecting a win. A win against the Braves, the best team in the NL East that has given us fits over the last dozen years. This wasn't a crowd that was disappointed that their team was bad, we were disappointed that we didn't play as well as we should have. Things are looking up, way up. Watching the game on TV last night, I could hear that same energy in the stands.

On to a few other notes:
1) Matt Lawton has gotten on base 14 times in his last 4 games. Slump? What slump? Now if only he could quit screwing up on the basepaths and in the field, I might even like the guy.
2) Welcome, Ryan Doumit. I'm not sure how we're going to handle having 3 catchers or how we're going to get this kid playing time, but he has a lot of promise and I'm excited to see what he can do.
3) Watching Jack Wilson play baseball is the most fun I can have right now. I mentioned this in the comments section of WHYGAVS and others seem to agree. The guy plays with such heart and emotion that it's almost impossible to not like him. After he hit that homer last night, he was like a little-leaguer who just won the game running around the bases. He was jumping up and down and smiling and yelling and cheering and carrying on. He really loves baseball, playing baseball, and making other people enjoy watching baseball. You can tell that he's playing to play, not for the money, and I hope he never goes anywhere. There were some nasty trade rumors about him early in the year. If this team trades Jack away, our owners, GM, manager, and all other members of the front office will be run out of town so fast it's not even funny.
4) As mentioned in the comments section of Honest Wagner, Daryle Ward has been destroying the ball lately. Unfortunately, he's always about 2 feet short of a homer. He's lined at least 4 balls off the wall in the last few days, most of which ended up being 320' singles. There's got to be somebody who keeps track of distance the ball travels per number of bases accumulated, and Daryle's gotta have one of the funniest ratios. Regardless, last night we all knew it was time for him to get that extra lift, and he sure did - 420 feet of pure, game-tying goodness.
5) Dave Williams needs his chops back. Ollie grew his and he's doing better, Dave got rid of his and he's doing worse. I don't see this as a coincidence, I see this as karma telling Dave to not get rid of his chops. In fact, I think Kip would look pretty mean with a set, as would Fogg and Redman.
6) Speaking of hair, was anybody else at the game Saturday? During one of the inning breaks, they took one of the Craig bobblehead dolls and put a fake beard on it, then put it up on the scoreboard. Only the highest of comedy. However, I was greatly disappointed with the Pierogi race, as the Parrot merely waved them on. No drop kicks or flying elbows or anything...where's the fun in that?!

I need to start making these things shorter.



Blogger Too Many Jims said...

I was at the game too. One minor correction, Ward only grounded out in the 8th (though he did groung into an inning ending bases loaded double play in the 6th). Otherwise your post captured the feel well. It was electric just before Ward grounded out in the 8th.

Of the between innings sheninigans, my favorite was discovering that most Buccos thought Kip Wells would look the best in lingerie.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Zach XOR Jeremy said...

My fault, you're right on the innings mix-up. And yeah, I love when do Q&A...they undoubtedly make fun of Kip, usually for being metro, as they did at that game. They'll ask questions like "what do you like on your Cheeseburger?" and players will respond with things like "I bet kip would like really girly stuff, cause he's kind of metro." Man, what a great team.

3:24 PM  

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