The “Mc” that saved Pittsburgh

As story this good hasn’t hit Pittsburgh since 1979.

Back then, a fictional basketball team hit the big screen. The Warner Brothers movie, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, was about a struggling team – The Pittsburgh Pythons. Playing in front of minuscule crowds at the now-ripped up Civic Arena, the Pythons were led by Moses Gurthrie (played Julius Erving aka Dr. J.). He was the star, one of the best in the league and the only worthwhile player on a forgotten franchise.


The Pythons were bad, we’re talking Pittsburgh Pirates bad. Plenty of losing strung together with no real chance of ever getting better. Hopeless, downtrodden and demoralized, some players walked out on the team in Derek Bell-like fashion.

That’s where the story gets good. Wacky, rather.

Ready to attempt anything for the slim chance that the Pythons get better, Guthrie and chief team advisers go seek the tutelage of a star gazer. The fortune teller, of sorts, tell them to gather a team similar to Guthrie’s personal attributes if the Pythons wish to ever seek success. His astrological sign was Pisces, which is represented by a fish. The fortune teller advised them to assemble a team around the Pisces vibe, gathering players that all shared the zodiac sign of Pisces. Hence, the fish that saved Pittsburgh.

So, a ragtag group of less than-skilled players were signed by the team and, believe it or not, the Pythons who renamed themselves the Pisces in a true reshaping process, won the championships. It’s a tale that can only come true in Hollywood.

Or is it?

The Pirates may have taken a page from the Pisces, whether General Manager Neal Huntington and other front office brass have talked to a psychic remains to be seen, but they may have sought the guidance of a Waynesburg University student — Jon Anderson.

He’s had this blog called The McEffect for  few years now. Started in homage to Nate McLouth and rising star Andrew McCutchen, the site is a popular source for Pirates news, stats and all kinds of information. Jon has turned it into its own social media empire that has received national recognition and hundreds of thousands of views.

Huntington must have taken notice.

Even though McLouth was traded in early 2009, McCutchen came up to the bigs and made his mark right away. Then, along came pitcher Daniel McCutchen, who was acquired from the Yankees and James McDonald, who was acquired from the Dodgers.

In a flashback to the 1979 silver screen, things got even wackier.

Michael McKenry was brought in last year to help with catching duties and this offseason, Pittsburgh traded with the Brewers for 3B Casey McGehee and brought back McLouth. It rose the Mc total to six during spring training.


Jon had the above shirts produced and they’ve drawn greater attention to the blog and the sheer ridiculousness of having six players with eerily similar names on the same team. They’ve been a hit, this off-season, with Pirates announcers giving them a shout out, WTAE news in Pittsburgh doing a story on him and in Flat Stanley-style, taking these shirts to cool place like Spring Training.

Bonus points for a picture with an actual Mc, like this fan with James McDonald.


If the Mc’s aren’t the reason to believe in 2012, the B’s certainly are. Sticking with the name game, Huntington brought in catcher Rod Barajas, along with pitchers Erik Bedard and A.J. Burnett. Not a McEffect, but rather a bomb of B’s, the signings were a viable fall back plan that further fuels the conspiracy.

It’s been 33 years since a made up basketball team from Pittsburgh used some goofy formula to save their season and fix their losing ways.

Nineteen years have passed since the Pirates have finished a season with more wins than losses. Maybe it was just time — time to do something crazy of their own. If Pittsburgh does have its first winning baseball season since 1992, you have to think the Mc’s are to thank.

It’s like Jon said in his television interview, “what else would it be?”

photo credits:,


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