First Pitch: What Has the Losing Streak Meant to You?

The losing streak is over. Photo by: David Hague
The losing streak is over. Photo by: David Hague

I have to be honest, I’ve never really cared about the losing streak.

Watching bad baseball for 20 years? That wasn’t good. Watching horrible move after horrible move for 20 years? It made you turn to your XBox, which was the only place the Pirates had a realistic shot of winning.

But how many years in a row the Pirates had lost? I didn’t care. If the Pirates had won a few more games in 1997 or 1999, they wouldn’t have the streak. But that wouldn’t have meant that they weren’t a bad team all of those years. It just would have meant they had 3-4 extra wins one year, after falling short in all of the other 19 years.

The thing about the streak is that it never mattered when looking at future years and looking at how the team should be built. There were so many years where people only cared about the losing streak, and criticized any rebuilding efforts by discussing how long the losing streak would extend. The thing people should have cared about was how the Pirates could have gotten to this point.

But this is all a discussion of what you were pulling for. I never cared about seeing the losing streak ending unless it was quickly followed by the Pirates going to the playoffs. That said, there was another aspect to the streak: the social aspect.

No matter how you followed the Pirates, you couldn’t avoid the losing streak. Someone asked you who your favorite team was, and you’d cringe because you knew what their reaction would be when you said the Pirates. For me that even applied for a few years when people asked what team I wrote about. The streak was toxic. It invaded everything. You couldn’t even enjoy the Steelers winning a Super Bowl or the Penguins winning a Stanley Cup without hearing about it. Think about that. Another team in another sport in the same city wins a championship — the perfect situation to forget everything else and celebrate only that moment — and it was always met with jokes about how bad the Pirates have been. If another Pittsburgh team winning a title doesn’t grant you some escape from the streak, then there’s pretty much no escape.

The streak makes you feel old. There’s this video that details everything that happened between Sid Bream and the end of the 2012 season. Some of the highlights include Bryce Harper being born, then making the playoffs. The Florida Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks being created, then winning a World Series. The Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies also being formed and winning pennants. And speaking of things being born, if you’re old enough to remember 1992, then how old do you feel today hearing people talk about how they weren’t even born yet the last time the Pirates were winners?

Even if you don’t care about the concept of losing X amount of seasons in a row, all of the above combined makes you want to do this to the losing streak:


So what has the losing streak meant to you? One of the above? All of the above? Never really thought about it, but glad you no longer need to hear about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Tomorrow the Pirates go for win number 82, for their first winning season. After that, the real fun begins.

Links and Notes

**Pirates End the Losing Streak on Travis Snider’s Home Run

**Prospect Watch: Meadows With Two More Hits; Dickson Goes Five Shutout

**Pirates Recall Locke, Hughes, Lambo, Sanchez; Activate Grilli

**Minor League Schedule: Playoffs Begin Tonight For Indianapolis and West Virginia

  • I am 24 years old and a die hard from North Dakota. I can’t afford to go to a game and with our region I rarely get to watch my favorite team. So to say that I am happy that the streak has ended is an understatement. Its about the only thing that I have had to cheer about in my existence as a Pirates fan.

  • I think you feel the anguish more as a kid & young adult than you do as you get older. Having gone through similar losing teams in the 40’s and 50’s, I didn’t feel it like those Kiner, Murtaugfh days. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to feel badly but I ignored the losing. For what’s it worth.

  • I still remember laying on my friends living room floor for what seemed like hours in disbelief after Sid Bream was incorrectly called safe. I moved to the metro Atlanta area in 1996 and needless to say I have been in complete misery with all the braves success. I’m a diehard Pittsburgh fan and I’m so glad to see the streak end. Not because it signifies the end of the streak, but because the Pirates have finally done it the right way. We all know of the many different rebuilding phases we have had. The pyramids were built faster then our Pirates. It has been one pathetic attempt after another through the years to build a team from the ground up. The Philadelphia Phillies had a 31-year stretch
    (1918-1948) with only one winning season (1932) to show for their efforts. It seemed like past ownership/management made every effort to just end the streak for PR purposes and not to build a contender. The Pirates organization appears to be built for many successful seasons to come. A World Series Championship is always the ultimate goal, but you have to start at the base of the mountain. The base of the mountain is .501 and now the Pirates can finally start climbing to the top. When win #82 comes I will be burning my Pittsburgh shirt that says
    Pittsburgh Baseball
    Rebuilding Since 1992.

  • I was born in 1950, the 2nd year of a 9 year stretch where the Pirates averaged more than 95 losses per season in a 154 game schedule. Included in this stretch was the 42-112 disaster that was perpetrated in 1952.

    My mother was a huge Pirate fan, and listened to every game, even the West Coasters starting in 1957. I listened to the daytime games, and remember my mother’s excitement in 1958 as the Bucs, led by the nucleus of Groat, Maz, Virdon, Clemente, Friend, Law, and Face, cruised to a 2nd place finish in 1958 to demolish that losing streak.

    After a setback in 1959, during which Frank Thomas (35 HR in ’58), Ted Kluszewski, and Ron Kilne, among others, were dealt for the remaining pieces of the ’60 Bucs, the Pirates remained relevant to NL baseball for more than 30 years.

    I am optimistic that the current team is the first wave of another 30 years of relevance, after which the state of the Pirates is unlikely to matter to me.

    Go Bucs!

  • Blackmax, funny you bring that up. I was going to mention her watching the game next to me, but I figured most people would read a few lines and skip it.

    She watched the game next to me and did her best to subside my worries as it was happening. She was one of those girls who are super upbeat and had no idea how baseball is played.

  • It means a lot. I went to a lot of games with my Grandpa when I was young in the late 80s and early 90s. We were good, and it was exciting. But it became so embarrassing and depressing to watch the Bucs. Sure we had bright spots: Kendall, Freddie Sanchez, Brian Giles..but it was hard. I feel for the generation of kids who never got to feel the excitement I felt and I lament that I had to watch or try not to watch 20 losing seasons. Just look at the city and the crowd. It means a lot to me.

  • I’m glad that it’s over since it will shut up some of the hyper-critics who think that cynicism = intelligence. I hope that the overall transformation that is taking place will persuade the local pundit to take a more serious look at baseball now and then. It used to bug me that one of the columnists at PG used to make the joke that 1979 was the last time the Pirates won the world series, and by “last time” I don’t mean the most recent. I would hope that no one with a by line or a blog would be willing to assert that the Pirates are still utterly hopeless.

  • I remember when I was 5 years old in 1992 when I watched Game 7 of the NLCS. My mom told me that I fell asleep watching the game. When I woke up, mom told me the Pirates lost and I started balling my eyes out. I don’t know of many 5 year olds crying over baseball, but that was me. I have always remained an optimist with the Pirates. Praising them for good trades or draft picks. In took 6 years, but you can see Neal Huntington’s plan come to life in front of our eyes and a core of players to build around for the next few years. Never have I felt more proud to be a pirate fan, going through all of the lows and remaining faithful to my team.

  • Right now, at least 6 of every 10 articles in PP deal with the Amateur Draft, the International Draft, and/or the progress of prospects through the various stages of the minor leagues. The “cry poverty” Pirates refused to draft players that would cost too much, and as has been written by PP, none of the GM’s were interested or knowledgeable enough to develop a strong and cohesive feeder unit for the MLB Franchise. Therefore, you can say that the baseball fans in Pittsburgh were denied the opportunity for at least 15 years to watch the development of prospects from Day 1 thru arrival at PNC. And, the success of the Pirates has provided ownership/employment opportunities for entrepreneurs like Tim Williams who have developed a fine product for the fans of the Pirates. PP is a very special place, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to interact with like-minded fans.

  • I can’t tell you how happy I am to not have to make an updated version of that 20 Years video. Maybe I’ll get to make a far, far happier version this October.

  • There is no doubt that the losing streak has taken its toll on all of us Bucco fans in one way or another. The quest for that elusive .500 season was always the main objective coming out of spring training and everyone had their reasons why “this was the year!” It got to the point where we were all starting to truely believe our own insane reasoning of why this pirate team or that pirate team could reach .500. However after last season, i think our attention shifted. Yes we finished below .500 but something was different. . .this team was different. We began to realize that not only could we win games, we could win games against the leagues best. There was still the occasional mention about the “streak” but more buzz about us contending for a playoff spot, if not a division title. Yes, last night we guarenteed ourselves a .500 season but much like Clint Hurdle pointed out, it was just something to cross off the list. Theres a much larger goal ahead which has captured the attention of not only the Pittsburgh fan base, but a national audience. The Pittsburgh Pirates are no longer a sub-par ball club. .. we are a legit contender. Not only is the streak a thing of the past. . . so is medicore baseball in Pittsburgh. So what does the streak mean to me?. . . . nothing. . . its no longer a streak. LETS GO BUCS!

  • It was 1992, I was in 10th grade and my Dad had just informed me days earlier he had somehow managed to get his hands on World Series tickets. I had a basketball game that night and I played like total shit because I wanted to get done and go to my friends house to watch the game. His parents were out of town and we were going to have a party. At the party I drank way too much and decided to hook up with a girl rather than watch the entire game. I never missed a game, but Drabek looked dominate and I figured he had the game in the books. I remember being in a dark room acting like I was caring about what this girl was saying when I could hear my one friend who hated every Pittsburgh team (even though he grew up here) screaming “I told you, I told you.”. I knew it had to be bad or going bad quickly, so I got up and started for downstairs. I was at the opening on the steps and could see through the thick layer of smoke and over the mass of heads as Chico’s error was being replayed. I watched the remainder of the game from the steps thinking that this was somehow my fault for not watching the entire game. As dumb as it sounds, there is a piece of me which still blames myself for the 1992 NLCS and the 21 years of losing. A unrealistic mental weight will be off my shoulders after the next win, but with that being said, I will watch every second of every Pirate game this post season.

    • What happened to the girl?

    • Monkshot, I have never been to a WS game. I also had tickets for the 1992 World Series. When it got to the 8th and then 9th inning of Game 7, I was saying “Hey, I am going to the World Series.” As all of you know, I did not go to the 1992 WS.

  • You’re right, Tim. Had the 97 bucs won 82 instead of 79, today would still be just as good. It’s not just that we’ve won 82 and snapped the streak, it’s that the Pirates have turned the corner as a franchise.

    For me though, the most important thing is that BASEBALL IS FUN again. I have always loved baseball. But to have your team be awful made it really depressing to be a fan. I now not only enjoy watching Pirates games, but I will watch any game that’s on. I can analyze trades and rosters and schedules for the sake of PLAYOFFS instead of looking a draft picks.

    But yeah, the social aspect is big too. I’m tired of talking about the streak. The conversation can finally move forward.

  • To put this in perspective – the longest the Pirates ever went between World Series appearances was 33 years – 1927 to 1960……….until now. They have now gone 34 years between WS appearances.
    To me the losing streak was two things:
    1. The inequity of the rules which are tilted toward large market teams, and
    2. The inept front office of the Pirates for most of those 20 years.
    (Not necessarily in that order).

  • I can honestly say the losing streak was not on my mind when Hurdle left Vinnie in to pitch the 8th inning, I almost threw something at the big tube. As far as hearing about the losing streak, the only reason we are talking about it now is because of the media, if they would just shut up about it, I certainly would not bring it up. I would much rather talk about the game last night.
    I never had problems with any fans or people in general when they knew that the Pirates were my favorite team, you see, baseball trumps a losing streak, most people got defensive when they talked Pirates instead of talking baseball, that is why they got ridden by other people.

  • The streak greatly bothered me up to the moment I concluded Bob Nutting had more than a clue about how to run a franchise like Pittsburgh’s. The McClatchy group was cash-poor but, amazingly enough, condescending, incompetent and. bluntly put, stupid. Once competent people came aboard, a winning season was only a matter of time. The key goal now — to keep open the organization’s window of opportunity for five or more years.

  • It is most gratifying to finally put this thing to rest, especially at Miller Park. I grew up in the 70’s, when the team won six division championships and two World Series, so the endless losing was difficult indeed. Last year’s epic collapse Part two made me think a winning season was unattainable for the Bucs. Thankfully, the 2013 team has ended the losing streak, and perhaps much more!

  • CalipariFan506
    September 4, 2013 9:28 am

    Anybody else get any peace from it ending in Milwaukee against Aramis Ramirez? Probably the team and player that have made the second decade of the losing the toughest to deal with.

    • The streak is a literary device, and on that theme I agree with this sentiment. While the inequities of the baseball are real, the Brewers became the most prescient example of a small market team that overcame this disadvantage.

      Their dominance of Pirates made all the more infuriating because it occurred during a period where it became more widely known that the small market label was a crutch for inept ownership and front offices. With Aramis Ramirez serving (as Tim and Pat Lackey have written) as a constant reminder of this ineptitude. There is some added satisfaction, given the circumstances.

  • The beginnings of this streak can be traced to bad drafts by a GM who is dead who was hired by an owner who is equally dead and owned a team which played in a ballpark which was imploded over a decade ago. Let the dead remain buried. Forward, forward, forward.

  • Getting 81 wins would probably mean more if this was game 159 or 160. But the division race overshadows .500. It is nice to put it behind them though.

  • Obviously, I’m not satisfied with 81 or 82. Of course I want a WS. But watching last night I couldn’t escape the feeling that there were some demons being exercised. It may have meant nothing within the context of this season, but putting to bed a 20 yr losing streak was significant. I don’t care what anybody says.

  • CalipariFan506
    September 4, 2013 8:45 am

    I was 7 when the 1992 season ended. I remember trying to cheer my dad up. Reallythe only thing I could remember were the three division championships, the Steelers were having a good year, the Penguins had just won their second Stanley Cup and the Pirates were on a great run. He told me it would be a long time before the Pirates were good again and that I would understand in the next few years. Well, he was right, I got his point so while this is just a small step it does mean something.

  • I am old enough to remember THREE World Series, so it pained me to see this once proud franchise become the butt of jokes. I would joke to Phillie fans “Is it worse to have your hopes cruelly dashed in the playoffs or too never have any hope at all”.

    I was always good natured about it (no sense getting tooooooo upset), but inside, it irked me. In fact, some of my Phillie Phriends have emailed me, telling me that they’re rooting for us!!! That is AWESOME!

    Although I am glad to be rid of TWENTY, I am MORE glad that we are ‘blowing by it’. We have a very good team here!


    • Well, that means that you, leadoff, and I are the gray panthers of Pirates Prospects. And, these kids cannot even imagine how bad it can get until you look at the Pirates of the 50’s leading up to the pennant and WS victory over the Yankees in 1960. Remember folks, in those days they only played 154 games and from 1951 thru 1957 they had loss numbers of 90, 112, 104, 101, 94, 88, and 92. They started to put it together in ’58 and ’59, and won 95 in 1960 to win the pennant by 7 games over the Milwaukee Braves. No Pirate fans ever knew despair as bad as it was in the 50’s.

      • emjayinTN : a kid of 15 I got Roberto Clemente’s autograph in 1958,so that ought to give you a hint on my age ! Anyhow,when the Curve entered the Eastern League in 1999,I made up my mind come hell or hi water I was going to stick it out with the Pirates. After watching the draft picks and ” prospects “come through AA,I knew it was going to take some perseverance. But by 2010,you could sense the Minor League system was beginning to change,and here we are !

  • To be honest, the streak never meant anything to me. It’s funny, I have friends that say, “You must really be excited about the Pirates finally being good this year.” Or “It must drive you nuts that all of these “fans” are coming to the games now.”

    And I respond, that really winning doesn’t make me love the Pirates anymore or less. I think it’s cool and great for the organization that they are winning, but the winning or losing doesn’t get me into hysterics or deep depression, I just love watching the Pirates play baseball (and a win in an enjoyable outcome, but not a necessity). Sometimes, that’s hard for some of my fellow Pittsburghers to understand, because such a large majority of sports fans really only pay attention when the teams are winning (as we’ll see this year when the Steelers are terrible.)

    I’m sure a lot of long-time fans jumped ship over the last 20 years, but really what this so-called “streak” did was give fuel to sports columnists and talk show hosts and brought out more and more of the types of “fans” who like to make their voices heard when teams are bad (which, again, we’ll see this year with the Steelers and was not too long ago with the Penguins.) People that make themselves fell bigger or more important, because they can bash sports teams.

    That being said, what I AM waiting for is all of these columnists, talk show hosts and Pirates bashers to come out and say “Wow, I was wrong. Bob Nutting IS a great owner. He DID spend money when the team became good like he said he would. Neal Huntington IS a great GM. Frank Coonelly IS a great President. The “Five-Year-Plan” DID work.” Still waiting though, probably will be a lonnnnnnnnng time to wait (I know, it won’t happen, but it would be nice for Nutting and Huntington’s harshest critics to come out and admit they were wrong.)

  • I turned 14 years old a month after “the breaming”. This was right at the beginning of my boy hood fandom. I wasn’t quite old enough to lose sleep over it, but my father tells me I wept for an hour. To say we are intense homers is an understatement… But even that couldn’t keep my eyes on the scores after June every year until Clint Hurdle got here. I started seeing the good drafts, etc- everything you detailed yesterday and the day before, and I’ve been a believer since ’11 firmly after peeking over the fence since ’08-’09. I didn’t think the streak meant anything to me either, until this morning. I feel physically relieved. Like a weight is lifted. Truly. I can’t explain it but my intense homer-ness has never fully gone away, even with age, some wisdom, and limited maturity. Go bucs!

  • The streak was rough, but being a Pirate fan and routing for the players is what my love for the Bucs is all about. It’s not their fault that management played their cards wrong for 20 years. Being skeptical of NH’s moves in the beginning is natural due to the previous years. Now look at them! BN will give credit where credit is due, if that is NH or someother front office assistant, these guys need to be rewarded.

  • As a fan, the streak was a bad taste in your mouth that no amount of liquor, toothpaste or Listerine could get rid of. For me the twenty years of losing meant my last playoff memory was of Sid “F’n” Bream scoring. 20 years of…So do you think this is the year? We watched owners line their pockets with cash. We watched owners sell players because of cost. We watched owners take the cheapest players in the draft instead of the best available player. We watched inept GM after inept GM sign other teams castoffs. We watched every horror show episode that occurred in the last 20 years. I’m going to celebrate the end of “THE STREAK” tonight with friends but I’m not naive enough to realize that there are bigger goals for this team. This management team has given us sustainable success. This team has earned everything they have gotten so far but the playoffs are next. Those are the team goals and the fan goals now that “THE STREAK” is dead.

  • When I was 6 years old, my Dad brought me to my first baseball game and I watched us lose to the Phillies early in the 1993 season. I have never seen winning baseball in Pittsburgh, but I have been through the entire losing streak (and even David Littlefield). Can’t tell you how much I loved that game vs the Brewers. Once we win tomorrow and get 82 I will lift my eyes to the playoffs. It will be great to have another team in town with 6 championships!

  • The losing streak was so long that last time they had a winning season I was 28 (1992). Next year I turn 50. Over the years there have been far too many 35 year olds in AAA released from other organizations because of poor drafts and too many John Van Benschotens who were doing little more than pitching batting practice.

  • Tim, couldn’t have said it better myself. I was also one of those people. Every year I was pulling for a World Series, a playoff berth. Of course, I was realistic and knew it was doubtful, but isn’t that every fans dream for any sport? Whether its 70 wins in a season or 85 wins in a season, the goal is to shoot for a WS. I have friends that are fans of other teams and would laugh that the pirates didnt get over .500. My response: did your team win the WS? Then both of our teams failed. I believe I was more frustrated about other people talking about it rather than the team actually not getting to .500. They do look good this year though, it’s an exciting time. Lets keep it rolling. Go bucs!

  • I never thought I would see the losing end… I am completely speechless!! It really has been a hell of a ride the past 3+ years especially… knowing that they were that close yet not quite there yet. If they do win I intend on cracking open a commemorative 1979 Iron City Can and using it like it was the sweetest champagne!!!!!