Last night, baseball fans witnessed a modern miracle as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Houston Astros 5-1 to move 4 games over .500. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-3 to drop to just 3 games over .500, which means that the Pirates are now in second place in their division for the first time since 1992.
Of course, way back in 1992 – when most of your girlfriends weren’t even born yet – there were only two divisions in the National League, so it’s not as impressive that the Pirates are just 1.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. But hey, who am I to ruin the fun? Even if it’s just for today, this is a huge milestone for the Pirates, as the franchise has become the biggest loser in modern professional sports with 18 consecutive losing seasons since they lost to the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 NLCS.
Today could mark the start of a 20-game losing streak for the Pirates, for all we know, so just for now, let’s live like we were dying, to quote a song I once heard at a gas station. Maybe the Pirates will even keep winning with their young, talented stable of players, featuring guys like Andrew McCutchen and… his teammates. Maybe they’ll even go all the way and end Steel Town’s baseball misery. Hell, not many people ever thought we’d even be where we are today.
That’s why I thought we could take a look back at all of the amazing things that have happened throughout the past 18 years just to give us an idea of how monumental this day is.
(For the ultimate reading experience, please listen to The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!”)
1992 – After finishing the regular season with a 96-66 record as NL East Champions, the Pirates advanced to the NLCS for the third-consecutive year, only to lose for the third-consecutive year. This time, the Bucs lost to the Braves in an exciting 7-game series. After game 7, 28-year old Barry Bonds vowed to work his hardest to become the best player in baseball and win many World Series titles, just not with the Pirates. He signed with the San Francisco Giants and was 6-foot-2 and weighed 185-pounds.
1993 – The Pirates finished 75-87, good enough for 5th in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Toronto Blue Jays won their second-consecutive World Series, as the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies shamed America’s pastime in consecutive years. Over in San Fran, Barry Bonds hit 46 homeruns while batting .336. He also stole 29 bases en route to his third NL MVP award. In music, Billy Ray Cyrus and the Spin Doctors sold more records than Pearl Jam’s “Ten”. In fashion, Z. Cavarrici pants were the sh*t.
1994 – Major League Baseball was unhinged as America’s pastime on August 11, 1994, when the players went on strike and ended the season early. At the time of the strike, the Pirates had a 53-61 record and were 13 games behind the NL Central leaders (in the first season of realignment), the Cincinnati Reds. Said manager Jim Leyland while smoking two Marlboro Reds at once, “Damn, we totally could have won.” With 34 games canceled, Bonds still produced 37 homeruns and 81 RBIs. In the film industry, Tom Hanks captured our hearts as Forrest Gump, while millions of angst-ridden teens cried as jocks asked them, “Hey, what was the last thing that went through Kurt Cobain’s mind?”
1995 – The Atlanta Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series, proving to Pirates fans that rebuilding wasn’t something that every team has to go through. Red Sox slugger Mo Vaughn was named the AL MVP and somewhere a young Steve Phillips practiced writing checks. Barry Bonds hit just 33 homeruns and 104 RBIs while batting .294. A down year, perhaps. In TV news, a young comedian named Will Ferrell made his Saturday Night Live debut, Disney announced the purchase of ESPN, and the OJ Simpson trial dominated daytime ratings. President Bill Clinton also gave Mexico $20 billion to avoid an economic collapse. Hey Mexico, can we talk about that loan now?