I have read “Blink” my Malcolm Gladwell, and a pair of books about Pirates history. But the one that stuck out, not only from the books I have read this summer, but from all books I have ever read is “Are We Winning?” by Will Leitch.
I have always been a fan of Leitch’s. I loved “God Save the Fan” where he trashed ESPN and other media outlets, it really got me thinking. I also enjoy his columns in The Sporting News. But this book is the end all be all of Leitch and baseball books everywhere.
It is an honest tale of the game of baseball and how special it really is to fathers and sons. The memories made, the lessons taught and the good times that can ony be shared and understood by a father and his son.
Each chapter in entitled as an inning, top of the first, bottom of the first, top of the second and so on.
The premise of the book details Will’s trip to Wrigley Field where he meets his father and college buddy who is a die-hard Cubs fan. The Leitch family lives and dies by the Cubs’ bitter rivals, Cardinals. Just as you can expect hilarity ensues with raunchy slurs and colorful words
to describe Wrigley Field, Wrigleyville, Cubs fans, Vince Vaughn, beer, women and everything and everyone in between.
He gives a vivid recap of the game at hand, it is a special game as the Cubs are just one win away from clinching the Division title. Along with the game play by play he also flashes back to important moments in his life.
College days, Cardinal games and life in general. It is a perfect autobiography that all men who love baseball can easily relate to, and get many laughs in the process.
While Leitch doesn’t necessairly bash the Pirates he just tells the truth. Many times he spouts that there are not any Pirate fans, well quite frankly there are not. When he spoke of this fact many times he really made me sad, driving me to put down the book a few times and collect my thoughts. I thought long and hard about what the Pirates mean to me, what baseball means to me, what I would possibly do without being a Pirates fan and what a shame it is that more people in Pittsburgh have turned their back on this franchise.
However, all the disdain will eventually turn to the most powerful statement of the whole book. Towards the end he describes baseball towns and how other sports take a backseat to these citizens compared to their baseball teams. New York, Boston and St. Louis are examples of these baseball meccas. To conclude the chapter he delievers a bold prediction.
“Kansas City. Pittsburgh. Cincinnati. Baltimore. These are baseball towns. They will rise again.
Man is that beautiful and I simply could not agree more. All four have had their time in the sun with a large period of famine since either one of the franchises have seen a good baseball season. Cincinnati is seeing what could happen when winning occurs and it has transformed that city in Ohio. If the Pirates have even just a winning season within three years fans will flock back. My generation does not know what winning feels like. The book makes that clear and makes me jealous when Leitch describes how amazing it is to live and die by every pitch, call your father after a must win game and live out dreams by seeing a World Series live and in person.
While its been a tough 18 years with the 18th consecutive losing season just a few games away, the Pirates redirected their future today by signing their first and second round draft picks, Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie.
Taillon and Allie have been touted as the two best high school pitchers in the country. They are now part of the Pittsburgh organization. Homegrown pitchers have been a specialty of the Bucs, however they never seem to live up to the hype let alone pan out as formidable Major League starters.
This pair has a chance to change that mantra and allow the Bucs to become part of the competitive baseball landscape. We’ve seen that this year has been dominated by pitchers and now that the Pirates have two pitchers with the potential to dominate it just shows that down the road Pittsburgh will rise again.
photo credits: amazon.com, destination360.com,mackmetblog.com, hotstoveinfo.com
In a word, the Pirates were dominant, scoring five runs in the opening frame.
The Pirates played a persistent, strong game throughout the contest. Very uncharacteristic of the lovable losers.
The three game series sweep was the Pirates first over the Cubs since August 30, 2006.
While no homeruns wer ehit in the blowout, doubles came supreme. In fact Lastings Milledge rocked a near grandslam just two feet away from me in left field. Look closely at the below picture. On the left is my arm pointing out at Alfonso Soriano.
The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play. However it looked as if it would clear. Fireworks are going off, “They Hey Song” is playing, everyone thinks its a dinger. Even Milledge. He trotted around the bases and was tagged out rounding second. I cannot me too mad at him. He shouldn’t be looking at the ball, the extracurricular activities led him to believe it was a home run. In the end it was just his second double of the game.
Beyond the stats and onfield play this game meant a lot more. Pride was on the line.
My WVU buddy Marc is a die-hard Cubs fan. Growing up in West Virginia the Cubs were his t-ball team. Continuing to follow his team some 15 or so years later Marc is almost like a transplanted fan from the streets of Wrigleyville. The last time I was at a game with him the Cubs scored eight runs in the first inning en route to a 14-3 beatdown. Lets just say the taste of revenge was almost as sweet.
With a handful of Cub fans around us he was in somber company and had more than enough shoulders to cry on. A lot of ribbing was going on by a pair of drunks behind us. These guys were around our age and pounding over priced beers like it was their job. They were making fun of everyone in their general area including Marc in his “Theeeeeeeriot” jersey, the charismatic ederly man with his young granddaughter and the cute West Virginia girls who we struck up a converstations with. They were dissing the Pirates left and right, had no baseball knowledge and took the joy out of me greatly. Marc was the most ticked I had ever seen him. The happy go lucky Southern boy had his fuse lit but kept his emotions in check.
After the game Marc owed me a little something. A beer. We had a bet riding on the game and we had a nice sit down at Mullens, a sports bar on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. There we engaged with chats from a University of Colorado grad, numerous Cubs fans, a guy who knew Lou Pinella and this charming guy.
Communicating in sign language and written notes the guy was very nice and was bubbly to everyone in the bar. He was mute but did not let his handicap keep him from having a good time and supporting his Buccos.
From the bar we ran into Frank Coonelly, Pirates President. Nice fellow, said my name again after I introduced myself which is always a sign of respect. Now there were two pertinent messages I could have told Mr. Coonelly,
1. To read my blog! Doubt he would have but shoot I may never see him again could have at least told him about it.
2. My buddy Andrew Schuerholz was also with us, his uncle is John Schuerholz, President of the Braves. Either would have sufficed and created a great convo. But knowing Coonelly’s background as an attorney I told him that Marc was interested in law school.
Speaking of Marc, he needed a pitstop on the way to the car and enjoyed the beautiful skyline of the city of Pittsburgh (recently ranked the USA’s most livable city by Yahoo).
However I will leave you with a snippet of information when visiting Pittsburgh or any big city for that matter. Do not stop walking. Homeless people and creeps are always abound and danger could strike at any second. We learned that tonight. Mom and Dad if you are reading this no need to freak out. We’ve all seen it before and know how to handle ourselves.
Bring on Pujols and the Cardinals! The Bucs are in 3rd place!