Tag Archives: playoffs

Fathers, friends, Pirates

photo (48)Tomorrow night, the Pittsburgh Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Baseball Division Series. A Pirates win captures the series for them and moves them into the League Championship series for the first time since 1992.
When the Pirates take the field to begin the game, my high school friend Lois will be there with her father.
Lois and I attended Grove City High School in Western Pennsylvania. We had many classes together, including band where she played clarinet and I played the baritone horn. Upon graduation, Lois went to Penn State. I went to Westminster. She has landed in the field of library science. I followed a call into ministry. We lost touch fairly quickly after that.
Our class celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and Lois found me on Facebook. Through that medium, we have discovered that we both still bleed black and gold. The Pirates. The Steelers. They were our teams in high school. They are our teams now.
We each shared our support for the Pittsburgh teams with our fathers. Each of our fathers worked for the public school system.
My dad was the Assistant Superintendent of schools until his death in 1974. And a very good musician. He started his career as a public school instrumental music teacher.
Mr. Thompson, Lois’ father, was our band director. And a very good musician. 

Mr. Thompson and my father were good friends. As in any work situation, friendships form. There was a whole group of folks who were friends with my dad. But my dad was especially close to all the instrumental musicians in the system, Mr. Thompson among them. My father played for them when they needed help. Mr. Thompson played in the town band when my dad directed it.

My father and I went to Pirates games – along with my mother, brother, aunt, and grandfather. We made it a family affair. I know now that something similar happened in the Thompson household.

After the Pirates won on Friday, Lois sent me a message saying that she has tickets for Game 4 in Pittsburgh and that she will take her dad along. He is 87.

While that pricks my heart a little thinking of all the games my dad and I never saw, it also brings back a whole host of great memories. And I am really thrilled for Lois and Mr. Thompson. His first name is Grant but I can’t call him anything else but Mr. Thompson even after all these years.

Pretty cool. I count on Lois and Mr. Thompson to bring the Pirates home.

See you along the Trail.

A word about the photo. Yes. My father and I attended Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. We lived on Neville Island at the time. Dad took a vacation day and took me out of my first grade class. We were there for the Kubek hop, for Hal Smith’s three-run home run that put the Pirates ahead in the 8th inning and for Bill Mazeroski’s game-winning home run in the 9th inning. We saw history. And the most important word in that sentence then, and now, is “we.”

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I saw Clemente play

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first playoff win since 1992 (6-2 over Cincinnati), comments of pride and joy have filled my Facebook feed. I already know that some of my friends supported the Bucs. Tonight I discovered many new fans. Long-term fans, or hidden fans, or fans of baseball captured for a moment by a team ending a 20-year streak of losing seasons and making the playoffs at the same time.

One friend posted a video clip of Roberto Clemente, the Pirates’ great right fielder from 1955 until his untimely death in 1972. A great human being, Clemente died on a humanitarian mission to aid the people of Nicaragua.

Another friend posed a question in response: “You saw Clemente play?”

To which I respond, “I did.”

At Forbes Field and at Three Rivers Stadium, I had the privilege to see Clemente play with skill and grace and passion that few brought to the game.

I saw Clemente. And it was wonderful!

See you along the Trail.

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Buctober

Pirates LogoAfter 20 years of frustration, the Pittsburgh Pirates finally played meaningful baseball games in September. The Pirates remained in the race for a playoff spot.

We also won meaningful baseball games in September. And tonight, we finally won enough that we clinched a spot in the playoffs. It remains unclear what that spot will be. Most likely it will be one of the wildcard spots. Hopefully the home spot. The wildcard teams play one game with the winner advancing and the loser ending their season. That makes the home team advantage all the more important.

The next five games will decide that. For now, we are  in. And that is good.

There will be meaningful baseball in October. Or as the Pittsburgh Pirates Twitter account has apparently dubbed the days ahead: Buctober!

See you along the Trail.

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