82. Eighty-two! 82 is the atomic number of lead. 82 is the code for international direct dial phone calls to South Korea. 82 is the ISBN Group Identifier for books published in Norway. 82 is the number of regular season games for the NBA and NHL. 82 is also the number of games a Major League Baseball team must win to have a winning season. And that is why 82 is significant.
Last night, against the Texas Rangers, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their 82nd game of the season, the first time they have reached this number signifying a winning season since 1992! That's 20 years!! That's a major American sports record for losing. For ineptitude. For pathetic. For embarrassing. That's what Pirates' fans have been experiencing for 20 years: embarrassing, pathetic, inept losing. But now the streak is over. The Pirates are once again winners! Oh, what a glorious feeling!
The Bucs won their 81st game on September 3. Pirates' fans began to get excited, believing 82 was just around the corner. They then lost the next game. Then they lost again. And again. And yet again! And Buccos' fandom began to become disenchanted. The snake bit franchise might just fall completely apart yet again and not win another game this year. And there would be a collective sigh across all of Western Pennsylvania and everywhere else Pirates fans have spread out across this country, as they grumble here we go again.
Last night, the Pirates were in Arlington, Texas, to take on the Rangers, a team with the exact same record as the Bucs but without the horrendous string of losing. The Rangers started one of their star pitchers, a man named Yu Darvish, who came to the US from Japan almost 2 years ago and who has pitched amazingly well. The Pirates started their highly touted rookie pitcher, young Gerrit Cole, who has had quite a good year, overall, since the Pirates brought him up from the minors.
Both pitchers were doing well last night, and both had shutouts going until the top of the seventh. The Pirates' superstar, Andrew McCutcheon, struck out leading off, and Justin Morneau followed with a ground out. Marlon Byrd then hit a double, and the Pirates had something going. Pedro Alvarez then followed with a double of his own, scoring Byrd. It was the only run either team would score in the game, and the Pirates hung on to win!
I'm not sure I can describe the feeling of finally getting the monkey off our collective back. Again, this streak of losing has gone on for twenty years! Cole, the Pirates' young pitcher, was only four days old when the streak began! 20 years is almost half my life! Two decades. That's just so hard to comprehend. 1992 was Bill Cowher's first year as the Steelers' head coach, for goodness sake.
Well, in case you can't tell, I'm pretty stoked about this whole thing. Unfortunately, given that the Bucs are competing for a playoff spot, just finishing with a winning record isn't enough. Maybe it's because of how long it has taken the Pirates to have a winning season, and the fear of them returning to their losing ways again if they don't have success this year. Whatever. I hope they can hang on and be successful this year.
So if you don't have a team to root for, or your own team isn't going to make the playoffs, jump on the Bucs' bandwagon and let's ride into the playoffs. In the meantime, celebrate with the end of losing baseball in Pittsburgh. 82 wins sure feels great!
Have a great evening, everyone!