Remember that embarrassing Pirates-Yankees series from June? I was "lucky" enough to attend the game in which Roger Clemens made his season debut, and regardless of the circumstances, I was very impressed with the fans. To give you an idea why, they were on their feet every inning after two outs and two strikes. They gave a standing ovation to Clemens even though he pitched a rather mediocre 6 innings giving up 5 hits, 3 runs, and 2 walks.
Flash forward to yesterday, as I was lucky enough to attend the Pirates playing against another steroid legend, possibly for the last time, when the Giants came to town for a doubleheader. The crowd was sparse at the beginning for the 5:05 start, but slowly and surely people began to file in after getting off work and provided a respectable turnout, in terms of Pirate games anyway.
Barry remarkably decided to make the trip and was starting in the first game. In his first at-bat there was a distinct advantage of cheers over the boos, an advantage that subsided as the crowd increased throughout the game. However, every one of his at-bats featured at least 50% of the crowd honoring him with a standing O. In between games the Barry montage was shown, essentially a 1 minute long clip showing his first home run in Atlanta, a few more highlights of him as a Pirate, and home run 756. Immediately after the video, a standing ovation was given again, and Barry emerged from the dugout to thank the crowd. The love fest was finally over.
There was also a baseball game going on concurrently with the kowtowing to Bonds. Not a lot of people at the game seemed to notice this though. It was the top of the ninth, and Paul Maholm had thus far allowed 3 hits, 1 run, and had thrown 80 pitches through 8 innings. 80 pitches! That's usually Zach Duke's first 2 innings. He ended up throwing 11 more in the 9th, completing arguably the best pitched game by a Pirate this year.
During the final at-bat we stood up and cheered. It seemed appropriate, considering how well Maholm pitched. Apparently, the rest of the crowd didn't think so. Maybe they didn't notice what was going on, maybe they couldn't see past Barry's large head, but as Maholm stared down his final batter enroute to one of the only few bright spots this season, just about 15% of those in attendance were standing up cheering. Of course after he induced a ground ball, like he had done all night, the rest of the crowd gave a rather uninspired cheer, but it was too late.
I respect the fact the Maholm is no Bonds. The home run king was here and, even though I don't feel the same way, I understand the arguments for honoring him. It was as if the fans wanted to prove that they know and respect baseball. By the end of the first game, though, it was evident that most were clueless.
I'm not expecting Pirates fans to be as intense as Yankees fans. The quality of the team and sheer number of people provided by the city of New York allow for a great atmosphere and a lot of very passionate fans. I just never realized the gap was this large. How can you blame the fans though? When the focus of the PR and marketing departments is always on promotions and pierogi races, when the team is so bad most fans stay at home, who would expect the team or fans to recognize Maholm's superb game?
I don't mean to bitch out everyone who went to this game. Obviously, if you shelled out money to see this team after all the losing you deserve some credit. There just are not that many positive things that happen during the depression that is the Pirates' season. When it does happen, we need to recognize it.
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