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McGuire's Musings: There's no jumping on the bandwagon when you're a hard-core fan

July 19, 2013

Welcome to jumping on the bandwagon!!! The Bucco bandwagon that is.

If you're not a baseball fan, I'm talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't had a winning season since 1992.

Back when I was a kid growing up, in Parma, Ohio, in 1962, I enjoyed listening to Cleveland Indians games on the radio at night (back then, there were like 50 games a year on television).

I also enjoyed keeping score, which you don't see much of anymore, at Pirates games or any games.

The most distressing thing about my years of following the Indians was that they never won anything.

They were lovable losers, which I'm not sure there's any such thing, except for the Chicago Cubs.

When I was still living in Ohio, the last time the Indians had been in the World Series was 1954, and they had won it in 1948.

They played in the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which had seating for 78,000 for baseball and 82,000 for football.

For football, they could fill it, sometimes, but for baseball, they were lucky to get 20,000 fans, which looked nearly empty in the huge arena.

Which is why they looked forward to moving into their new baseball-only stadium, Progressive Field — originally Jacobs Field — in 1994.

The best Tribe year when I lived there was when my friend Dennis Lang's sister was babysitting for various members of the Indians' team, including pitcher Dick Bosman.

That connection allowed us to use Bosman's tickets to attend the most Indians' games I ever attended, and watch the Tribe play every team in the American League.

I remember July 19, 1974 — it was a warm day in Cleveland, but it was not killer-hot like it can be in Cleveland.

Bosman was slated to start against Oakland’s Dave Hamilton.

As two of the 24,000 looking on, Bosman, whose tickets we were using to attend the game, went to work, facing a lineup of Oakland A's bombers.
Bosman pitched a no-hitter that night, and the fans went crazy as he came out for a curtain call.

The unbelievable thing was that I watched him pitch his no-no on his tickets.

That was the last game that I attended with Dennis, who ditched me for someone else, because I was going away to Kent State University in the fall, and he found another friend, leaving me one team shy of seeing every team in the American League, the Texas Rangers.

When the Rangers came to town, I purchased a ticket and went and saw them on my own dime.

Unfortunately, that was my best day as an Indians fan.

Fast forward to 1982, when my wife, Linda, and I moved to Punxsy so I could take a radio job, and I was introduced to the Pirates.

It was a team that included John Candelaria, Don Robinson, Rod Scurry, Tony Pena, Dale Berra, Kent Tekulve, Dave Parker and Bill Madlock, just to name a few.

The first thing we noticed was that the team was still in contention in September, but yet Three Rivers Stadium was less than three quarters full, and no one seemed all that interested with the Steelers already underway.

No, the Pirates didn't make the playoffs that year and finished eight games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals in the National Leage East.

We also liked the colorful black and gold uniforms.

A funny thing happened. After we started to follow the Bucs, they started to lose, and the Indians started to win after we moved from the Cleveland area.

I'm not willing to take the blame that the Bucs haven't won since 1992 or that the Tribe started to win after we moved — when they first moved into Jacobs Field — and even had a couple of trips to the World Series.

Last year, we had free tickets to an Indians game at Progressive
Field, and they were shellacked.

We attended our lone Pirates game at PNC Park this year against the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Bucs played possibly their worst game of the year at home with Charlie Morton pitching his first game after having "Tommy John" surgery last year.

So, I guess the case could be made that I'm a jinx.

However, I'm proud to say that over the past 20 years, I have always worn my accumulated Pirates gear, which includes a rare black and gold with red trim Jason Kendall jersey that I purchased for a bargain following his departure from the team.

You may remember that Kendall suffered a severe ankle injury in 1999, which was described as one of the most gruesome 25 injuries in sports history.

The Bucs traded him following the 2004 season to the Oakland Athletics.
If you watch a Pirates game on television or attend a game in person, you'll find a variety of Bucco gear from a variety of eras, which must show that fans have been buying Bucco gear in short spurts — unlike Steelers and Penguins gear.

At our house, we're not jumping on the bandwagon — we've supported them since 1982.

Funny thing is, the Indians under new manager Terry Francona have had great success this season, also hanging close to the first-place Detroit Tigers (who I've always hated) in the American League Central.

Someone asked me the other day, if the Bucs and the Tribe were to meet in the World Series, who would I root for?

The Pirates, of course, although that would not be my preferred matchup.

I know, maybe I should root for the opposite, which might guarantee a World Series victory.

Larry McGuire is a Spirit reporter and the driver of the
Pirates fanwagon.

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