Baseball can break your heart. There is only one time I cried over a sports even. There have been many time I can say I cried inside though. Baseball can be like that.
I was 11 years old. It was October 11th, 1972. The game didn’t start until 4:30pm- so I was out of school to watch the game. My Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds- the 5th and deciding game of the 1972 NLCS. The winner goes on to the World Series.
The Pirates had won the World Series in 1971- and I still believe that the 1972 Pirates are the best Pirate team I’ve seen since I started watching baseball in 1967. Sometimes though the best team doesn’t always win.
After getting home from school that day I rode my bicycle across town to my grandparents house to watch the game. It was a close one- going into the bottom of the 9th the Pirates were up 3-2. 3 outs away from a return trip to the World Series. I just knew they were going to finish the Reds off- go the the series and win again. As a baseball fan I was coming to expect good things from the Pirates.
The Pirates up 3-2 brought in their closer the reliable Dave Giusti. The first hitter he faced- the great Johnny Bench hit a home run to right field tying the game. Tony Perez singled- George Foster came in as a pinch-runner for Perez. Denis Menke singled. Runners on first and second no outs. That is it for Giusti- Bob Moose comes in and gets the first two hitters he faces out- Cesar Geronimo flew out to right field- Foster tagged up and went to third. Darrel Chaney pops up to shortstop. Moose is working his way out of the jam that Giusti had left him. Hal McRae is the next hitter-pinch hitting for pitcher Clay Carroll. Moose bounces a pitch to the right of catcher Manny Sanguillen – George Foster scores easily- the game and the series is over.
I didn’t linger- I got up went out and got on my bike and drove home. It was a good two miles to my home and I was fighting back tears the entire time. When I got into the house my mom said something about how it was a shame that the Pirates lost etc. I just looked at her not saying a word. I went up to my room and started crying. A few minutes later my mom came up to my room- she knew something was wrong. She said the right things-‘there is always next season’- but I was heartbroken. I think I said something about- ‘this was their year, they were the best team.’ Of course she was right there is always a next year. The next year came in 1979 when the Pirates finished the decade off with another World Series winner. Looking back on it- I know I appreciated the 1979 World Series Championship more than the 1971. As a fan I had suffered. At 11 as a fan I had been spoiled by the fact that the Pirates had been pretty good- to great during my brief time as a fan. I didn’t realize that winning a World Series wasn’t supposed to be easy. It’s now been 42 seasons since the last Pirates World Championship. I would love to see one more before I go to the big ballpark in the sky- but I may have to become immortal for that to happen- the Pirates being so bad.
I don’t take sporting events as seriously nowadays. Example- ten years ago when my Steelers lost to Green Bay in the Super Bowl- of course I wasn’t happy about the result but within an hour I was sleeping. In the next installment of Baseball Can Break Your Heart- I will write about the game which forever changed how I view sports- for better or worse.
Note- Less than 3 months later the Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash while delivering supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua. Bob Moose the pitcher who uncorked the wild pitch would be killed in a car accident in 1976 on his 29th birthday.