Loyal fans embracing playoff-bound Pirates



PITTSBURGH - It’s been a long road for diehard Pirates fans who have stayed with the team through all of the losing seasons. Now, the entire city of Pittsburgh is embracing the playoff-bound Pirates.

Postseason merchandise flew off the shelves at the team's store inside PNC Park on Tuesday, hours after the Pirates clinched their first playoff berth since 1992. The 2-1 victory over the Cubs was sweet validation for a fan base that hasn't seen a winning season since George H.W. Bush was president.

“It was great. It was a great finish to an amazing ballgame. It’s been a great season and a great ride,” Pirates fan Paul Eberlein said.

Eberlein, of Carnegie, said he’s had season tickets for years, and that he’s been a fan through the good times and the bad.

“I was with them when they were bad. It was almost embarrassing for them to put on the uniform and go out there and play. But this is fantastic,” Eberlein said.

At a time of year when the city's attention usually turns to the Steelers, the Pirates are the ones generating headlines. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin even sent a congratulatory message to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, urging Hurdle and the Pirates to ride their momentum all the way to the World Series.

Pittsburgh hasn't won it all since 1979. After such a long drought, fans say they're just trying to enjoy the ride.

Randy Page, of Whitehall, said he remembers sitting in sections by himself during the losing seasons. He sent WPXI-TV a picture of himself wearing a yellow rain poncho. He was the only person in the entire section.

“Since it was raining, I was in a poncho and just sitting out in the outfield trying to keep my scorecard dry,” Page said. “It’s like, ‘We’re here for you,’ and I’m so glad other people are joining in this season.”

Page said he’s been a loyal Pirates fan for so long, the cake at his age 4 birthday party in 1979 was a Pirates hat.

“The journey has always been moving toward this moment – the postseason. It’s been 21 years and it’s about time. It’s been a long time coming,” Page said.

Now that the postseason is upon us, fans will be searching for the extremely coveted playoff ticket.

“You’re out of luck. I know they’re gone,” Eberlein said about searching for tickets to a possible home playoff game.

Robert Porter told Channel 11’s Vince Sims that he went to PNC Park on Tuesday hoping to get lucky.

“I went to the window and there was absolutely nothing available for the wild card or NLDS,” Porter said.

The Pirates put a limited number of tickets on sale to the general public last week. They sold out in minutes, the team said.