For the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to the playoffs, clinching at least a National League wild card birth. The team that never stopped believing finally healed the broken hearts of a city who saw 20 years of losing. The only tears shed on Monday were tears of joys for this team and their fan base.
“Even though I didn’t lose for the last 20 years, they make you feel like you are. You feel like you lost those 20 years,” Andrew McCutchen said. “That’s all you hear. You hear it every single day — ‘When’s it going to change? You think this is the year?’ You get sick and tired of hearing that. It’s awesome that there won’t be any questions anymore. The question is are we going to be able to go farther.”
The celebration in the clubhouse was one not to be forgotten, as the Pirates sprayed each other with Champagne and sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” They took pictures and manager Clint Hurdle had them gather for a group photo in the middle of the cramped visitors’ clubhouse.
“The people of Pittsburgh have been waiting a long time,” said Neil Walker, who has experienced 20 years of losing with Pirates fans.
The Pirates sealed the deal in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth with the final out at the plate.
With two outs, McCutchen picked up Ryan Sweeney’s bloop single, which Byrd charged over to backhand the ball and make a throw to keep the runner at third. Instead he missed the ball, and ran past it. McCutchen picked up the ball and threw it to first baseman Justin Morneau who was positioned just in front of home plate. Morneau relayed the ball to Russell Martin who applied to tag on Nate Schierholtz. Schierhotlz tried scoring from first when the ball rolled away from Byrd.
Still on his knees, Martin held the ball over his head in jubilation. Jason Grilli grabbed Martin and celebrated.
Some people thought it was tacky of the Pirates to celebrate a Wild Card spot, but to the city of Pittsburgh it was so much more.
“Twenty-one years since we popped champagne in a Pirates and we’re acting like it’s been a long time,” Hurdle said. “The hard work, the fun. I’m just proud of each and every man in here, the fans they represent, ownership, general manager, president … the scouts, players. This has been a group effort for a long time.”
Walker gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead in the first with his 14th home run of the season and fourth in five days.
Mark Melancon surrendered a run to the Cubs in the eighth to tie it, but Starling Marte gave fans a taste of the party to come when he hit a solo shot in the ninth to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
The game itself was one for the memories, but the celebration afterwards is what fans will remember forever. The pain and heartache of two decades disappeared with one magical night.
For fans young and old, Monday was a night to remember.
“For the City of Pittsburgh, for the team itself, for each and every person who works hard day in-day out, it’s a great time to be a Bucco fan,” said fan Chas Kellem, of the North Side.