When I was a boy growing up in Moundsville, West Virginia nearly every summer night there was a family routine that took place. Sitting outside on the porch, a familiar voice would share with us the plays and proceedings of our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. And if it wasn't on the porch, it was in a camper somewhere in the woods on one of our summer excursions. No matter where we were, Bob Prince would tell us about the latest "Hoover," "Chicken on the Hill with Will," or lightning throw of "Bobby" Clemente from right field. Bob Prince was a member of our family, and for all I knew, KDKA was the only radio station on the box.
Nightly we would listen. We listened in 1971 when Bob Gibson pitched a no-hitter against us AND when we clinched the pennant. In 1979, we listened when the "family" came together and brought us another championship. In 1991 and 1992 we listened to the revival of our beloved Buccos. Most of those nights my Dad and I listened to Bob Prince and later Lanny Fraterre detail every ball and strike.
As many of you know, I have said for weeks I was planning on being wherever the Pirates were when they ended their 20 year losing streak. In this 21st year, I vowed I would frequent flyer my way to wherever they were when win "82" took place. I was tempted to skip out on cabinet meeting last week and head to Milwaukee. I resisted temptation and stayed home. I was a step out the door on the way to St. Louis this weekend but a family obligation kept me in the area. The Pirates lost the last game in Milwaukee and got swept in St. Louis. Next up: Texas.
Frequent Flyer miles -- Texas -- game "82" --oh, it sounded so good! There was only one hitch. My mom and dad are moving permanently to Florida this fall, and Dad and I had planned a trip to Bradenton to secure the place where they will reside in this next chapter of their lives. SO, Dad and I boarded a plane yesterday, and instead of Arlington, we headed to Bradenton.
Mom and Dad winter in a campground outside of Bradenton. They came here approximately fifteen winters ago to beat the snow. Truth be told, Dad thought he had a chance to make the team (you see, this is the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates).
Yesterday we opened up their camper, turned on the electricity and the water and settled in with only one problem. There is no cable -- no Direct TV -- no MLB network.
But, thanks to Steve Jobs and modern technology, I have an iPad and this amazing MLB app. With the press of a button and a brief period of "buffering," Tim Neverett and Bob Walk were sitting beside us sharing all the play by plays of the game. And, at 10:47 EDT, Tim Neverett called Mark Melancon's pitch and Gaby Sanchez's catch of the final out that ended 20 plus years of frustration.
I told Sally weeks ago I would probably cry when the Bucs won "82." But the tear that came to my eyes tonight were not about "82." The tear was about a connection that started back in the sixties when Dad first tuned into 1020 KDKA, and we sat together listening to Pirates. It has been a lifelong connection, and I have been a lifelong fan. But the connection tonight is not with the Pirates. It is with the man who taught me how to keep score, how to be passionate about being a fan, and how to keep rooting for a team even when they break your heart.
I was not present to see my beloved Pirates win game "82" in Arlington, Texas. But I was present in the best place I could imagine -- Bradenton, Florida, sitting in a camper, listening to the game just like I always have, with the person I wanted to be with all along when "82" took place -- my Dad.
It just doesn't get any better than this.
Let's GO Bucs!