"More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read"

- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Baseball in the Burgh

Watching Dallas Braden’s no-no on Mother’s Day was something for the ages. It got me to thinking about the history of baseball and how much the Pittsburgh Pirates are a part of that history. The Bucco’s participated in the first World Series in 1903, losing to the Boston American League club 5-3 in a best of nine match-up (fucking hate Boston…with their tea parties, and their cream doughnuts, and their Catholics). Professional Pittsburgh baseball has been going on since 1876, believe it or not. All teams then were considered “independents,” and no one was actually officiated with any sort of professtional league; nonetheless, they were paying players and running day-to-day operations.

There was actually a small band of teams in the Pittsburgh area; the best players in that cluster of teams would eventually become the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Allegheny City, which was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907, is what we now know as the North Side. It seems that most of the area’s best ball players were from Allegheny City. And yes, we were called the “Alleghenys” just like the ball clubs from New York, Boston, and Chicago were call the “New Yorks,” the “Bostons,” and the “Chicagos.”

In 1890, the Pittsburgh Burghers came to light with a dramatic season that crippled the Alleghenys. Many of the Alleghenys’s stars left and joined the Burghers. That led to what is still considered the worst season in franchise history, going 23-113, and at times unable to field nine players in the bottom halves of away games. The owner through all of this: Dennis McKnight (yes, McKnight Rd.). He gave up and gave the team back to the league due to monetary differentials (a.k.a. he lost money like me at a card table in A.C.). Amazingly (and I can’t stress the sarcasm enough), McKnight was able to back the Burghers as a minority owner; however, even as a bastardized owner, he was able to repurchase the Pittsburgh National League franchise and re-charter it under a different corporate name, thus rendering the services of previous “jump-ship” players once again legal (smart lawyer jazz as I’m told).

McKnight had a knack for finding talent though it seems, and he signed a man named Lou Bierbauer (awesome fucking name). Bierbauer played for the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics, and Philly (in their usual incompetence) forgot to add ole Lou to their reserve list. You know those game cards you fill out for beer league softball—they used to actually be important….read The Beer and Whiskey League, by David Nemec, to get a better grasp of pro ball in that era. In 1891, the Athletics, now in Oakland, CA, filed an official grievance with the league, claiming that our move was “piratical”—thus the name stuck. We didn’t officially dawn the nickname on our jerseys though until 1912.

After the 1899 season, the Pirates made what is arguably the best player transaction in franchise history when they picked up nearly all of the star players from the Louisville Colonels. Louisville owner Barney Dreyfuss (sound familiar?) had been told that the Colonels were slated for elimination when the National League contracted from 12 to 8 teams. He secretly purchased a half-interest in the Pirates, then after the season sent nearly all of the Colonels' stars up the Ohio (or Ohia, depending on whether or not you grew up in said region) River to Pittsburgh. Since the transaction occurred before the Colonels officially folded, it was structured as a trade; the Pirates sent four relatively unknown players to Louisville. Despite their nickname, the Pirates at least waited until after the season to pull off this blockbuster trade. This is unlike what happened in 1899 to the Cleveland Spiders, and, to a lesser extent, the Baltimore Orioles, who were also part of two-team ownerships. Dreyfuss later bought full control of the team and kept it until his death in 1932 (thank you Wikipedia).

The next century is history…great history.

Five titles and a lot of grief later, here we are. It’s hard to be a fan when the great players you remember are famous for being on other teams. I hate haggling with people who consistently root for them (sorry Grandma), but it is what Nixon (you love him Gram) would call “a damned shame!” We tell our fans that we are producing young talent (and we do!), but then we ship them off early June. You make money…give some back! Many like to dismiss owners—I understand their financial deviance, but operating as such is a crime.

Why does there need to be a salary cap in baseball?...because America owes it to cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cleveland. People like George Steinbrenner are a cancer to professional sports. If Bill Gates bought the Dolphins, what do you think would happen? Jerry Jones is another mogul. Build a bubble that holds 100,000 people and then demand the world show you favor…fuck off Jerry, you deserted simpleton. Professional American sports are for people from Pittsburgh. WE are the essence of what drives this country’s moral value. SO GIVE US GOOD BASEBALL!!! If you’re going to groom these Double A’ers then fine, but keep them! It is imperative that baseball stops making cities like Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh pay for the ongoing corruption. Give me a contender every year…something to talk about at least…something to tell others about. Give back the dream that McKnight first dreamt.

$8 for a beer=fuck you...


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