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Identity & Community

Present and Former Pirates Unite for Playoff Rally in Market Square

“I’ve done a little bit of research: the old, old pirates back in the old days, whenever they made somebody walk the plank, it was on a Wednesday night – so welcome to Pittsburgh you San Francisco Giants!”

The crowd that had flooded Market Square at noontime Tuesday erupted into cheers as Steve Blass, former Pirates pitcher, made his threat and then walked off the stage.

Such was the tone of the rally, which was declared “Pittsburgh Pirates Pride Day,” as the city prepared for the wild-card game against the San Francisco Giants Wednesday.

Blass was only one of the former Pirates players in attendance – Bob Friend from the 1960 World Series Championship, Dave Giusti from 1971 World Series Championship, Grant “Buck” Jackson from the 1979 World Series Championship and Manny Sanguillen, who played in both the 1971 and 1979 World Series Championships, were all met with cheers.

“We’ve heard about the word ‘resilient’ about this team all season long,” Blass said. “Very well said, but keep this in mind: to be resilient, you have to be good…this team was challenged and because they responded, that’s why they are so, so good.”

Blass knows what it’s like to face the Giants in a playoff game – he started the deciding game in the 1971 National League Champion Series, but was knocked out after just two innings.

“Just on a personal note before I say good-bye,” Blass said. “In 1971, the Giants ripped my face off – this 2014 team owes me a payback.”

The Pirates rallied to win that game 9 to 5 and moved on to win the World Series.

Frank Coonelly, President of the Pirates, had a message for Giant’s right fielder Hunter Pence and catcher Buster Posey.

“They said last year, they sat on their couch, and they watched the blackout game in Pittsburgh – they think it’s going to be fun to come in here,” Coonelly said, his voice escalating. “So let’s show them, they didn’t see anything, let’s show them what the Pittsburgh Pirates can do – let’s put them back on their couch!”

At that point, Coonelly was shouting with veins popping on his red face.  After he calmed down, he called the turnout for the rally “tremendous.”

“These players love playing before their fans, it’s incredible, the energy this crowd gives them,” Coonelly said. “I hope they understand what energy they give them and that our 51 and 30 home record is because of them.”

The fans also broke the attendance record this year with 23 sell-out games.

And the fans came out in full force for the rally – waving their flags and towels while wearing black and yellow.  But two men went even further – they dressed up as actual pirates.

“First Mate” Jeff Walters and “Captain” Chris Miller said they dress up in their pirates outfits every game to support the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“They can’t stop winning, man, and they’re so exciting to watch – there’s a different every time, it’s fantastic, absolutely fantastic” Miller said. “You don’t know who’s going to come up with something just incredibly awesome, but you know it’s going to happen.”

The Pirates will take the field against the Giants for the blackout game Wednesday at 8:07 p.m.  The winner will then face the Washington Nationals.