It's no secret to those who know me well that Willie Stargell is my favorite Pittsburgh Pirate. He's been gone 10 years now, but he lives on in several of my stories. As Shakespeare writes:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Of course, he lives on in sports history, as well. When I was very small, Pittsburgh was a powerhouse of a sports town. We were a family, then. Franco Harris, Willie Stargell, my mom, dad, sister, brother and me. I love the picture of "Pops" - old #8 - snapped in mid-air after the Pirates won game 7 of the 1979 World Series, and while it hasn't been quite that long since they've had a winning season - it's been darn close. The last time was 1991 - Andy Van Slyke and Yes, Barry Bonds at the helm. I went to a game that summer - I was 16 - and someone asked me on my way out of the bathroom if I was Madonna. It was a good day.
Now, after years and years of apathy - of baseball in Pittsburgh being 'All about the food', the Pirates seem to be alive again. One and a half games out of first place, no less. With a number of players on the injured list, they've called up several young guys from the minor league. One in particular, Alex Presley, who, when standing in profile, looks just like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Today he hit a grounder into center field and made it to third. This kid ran like the devil himself was chasing him. It was fantastic! They ended up defeating Houston 5-3. It's exciting to me because baseball is a sport I can get behind - I understand the rules, unlike golf or hockey. I don't really like all the spitting that goes on, but I do like bubble gum. And Andrew McCutcheon. I sense he's a lover of literature.
I don't know what has shifted for the Pirates this year. Maybe it's the new Manager, Clint Hurdle. He chews that gum like a champion, and his gut reminds me of my grandfather. Maybe he lines them all up against the shed and hurls the ball at them while their hands are tied behind their backs. "Don't be afraid of the ball, you little girls!" Whatever he's doing, he should only keep doing it. Watching these guys inspires me. As if with a bit of hard work and hustle - those of us sweating it out on the farm team might just make it to the big leagues.
Happy Fourth of July!