The Pirates Are Finally In Second: A Retrospective Of 18 Losing Seasons

By: 07.06.11

1996 – The New York Yankees climbed out from decades of darkness to regain their status as the greatest franchise in baseball history by winning the World Series. The Pirates, on the other hand, were 73-89 and last in the NL Central. Bonds, though, got a shot of power, you could say. He hit 42 homeruns and 129 RBIs while hitting .308. Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics and the U.S. dominated with 101 medals, which had nothing to do with Russia being broken up. The music world also shed a tear when Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley divorced.

1997 – The Florida Marlins, a franchise for just four years, won a World Series after owner Wayne Huizenga assembled a crack squad of elite players. What I mean is he bought a title. The Pirates, though, finished second in the NL Central! Too bad they had a losing record. Bonds slipped a little, as he only hit 40 homeruns and 101 RBIs. In movies, Leo DiCaprio was “King of the world!” as Titanic and that chubby British chick demolished box office records. Other prominent films included Air Bud and Beautician and the Beast. And the Spice Girls joined the Beatles as the only two British groups with two albums on the U.S. charts at the same time. The late 90s were a dark time for music.

1998 – Momentum be damned, the Pirates once again finished last in the NL Central with a 69-93 record. Derek Jeter and the Yankees won another World Series as their fans loudly proclaimed to have never left them. Bonds’ power dipped again with just 37 homeruns and his stolen base count dropped to its lowest since 1988. But he was older and he gained a little weight. No biggy. Nobody really cared about Bonds, though, because Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa stole the spotlight and saved baseball with their historic homerun race. Playstation and Nintendo 64 laid the groundwork for years of video game rivalry, while American kids reached their highest obesity level ever to date. Completely unrelated, I’m sure.

1999 – Oh look, the Yankees won again. I had forgotten how annoying the late 90s were. But it was another promising year for the Pirates, who finished third in the NL Central, just 5 games below .500. Could big things be in their immediate future? Spoiler alert: No. Bonds, however, had a rougher season. The slugger battled injuries and finished with just 34 homeruns in 102 games. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan reunited both sides of the NWO as the WCW’s ratings crumbled and the WWF once again rose to prominence. Britney Spears had the biggest hit of the year with “Baby One More Time” while the No. 2 spot belonged to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5”. Elsewhere, Sarah McLachlan released “Angel”, ensuring a future of aggravating ASPCA commercials.

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