No way the two can be separated. Why, they go together like Brooklyn . . . Dodgers. New York . . . Giants. No way you can have one without the other. Sure.
Now, almost 30 years since the baseball lords found a way to do the split, coast to coast, the similarly unthinkable seems to be bearing down on the horizon. Washington Pirates? New Jersey Pirates? Denver Pirates?
At last report, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth vowed he would spare us, that any attempt to move the beleaguered Buccos would be met with a Ueberrothian veto. Still . . .
Pittsburghers, in the main, obviously couldn't care less. The attendance figures at Three Rivers Stadium speak for themselves. But those of us who for a lifetime have riveted a piece of our daily attention on one of the game's most charismatic franchises care, a lot.
KDKA came into our lives early with radio play-by-play, and we are in thrall. Hooked. In one man's case . . .
So fervidly that we (singular) have, with a little help from friends, and bosses, made it into the ballpark for every World Series game played in Pittsburgh from 1960 on, and never attend (nor care much for) a Series game anywhere else. That's the first two and last two games of the '60 Series, still the overall sporting thrill of a lifetime climaxed by transcendent Game 7, the 10-9 victory over the Yankees. Smitty! Maz! Plus the turnaround middle three of the '71 seven-game conquest of the Orioles, and the middle three of the '79 ditto over Baltimore.
So determinedly that we wheedle our way into being The Washington Post's presence for the last weekend of baseball at Forbes Field. June 28, 1970 -- a doubleheader sweep of Leo Durocher's Cubs that put the Pirates on the road to winning the division, and a fan sweep after the game of virtually everything removable from the premises that Bob Prince hadn't managed to auction off before things got out of hand.
One living in central Ohio, a couple hundred miles from Pittsburgh, in the '50s had to lean hard in the direction of the radio to catch KDKA's game, but the reception was just sufficient to keep up with Dale Long's still unmatched eight-game home run streak and to make out much of the progress of Harvey Haddix's 12 perfect innings before 13th-inning defeat pressed in on a cloud of static. Pulling in 1020 for night games is even tougher in the national capital area; curse you, WBZ-1030, Boston!
Tougher by far than tuning in the Pirates from eastern Ohio, growing up a mere 40 miles from Forbes Field.
In what other direction could one lean after being weaned there on Rosey Rowswell, the Bucs' cornball broadcaster of the '30s and '40s, and following on with his successor, Bob Prince? Rowswell and his home run cry of "Get upstairs there, Aunt Minnie, and raise the window!" Prince and his Green Weenie campaign and his, "We had 'em all the way!"
How could an impressionable youth not finagle his Depression-poor folks into a train ride, or two, per summer to catch the heroes in person?
How lucky could you get, getting a look at the Waner brothers in action just before they faded away? -- it would be years before you heard the stories about Paul (Big Poison) having his best days at bat when he was practically blind drunk coming to the ballpark, but you'd seen firsthand on stage the teetotaling Lloyd (Little Poison) as a temperance lecturer between westerns at the dime double-feature movie in your home town.
How lucky could you get, seeing Arky Vaughan, Elbie Fletcher and Frankie Gustine play infield . . . Rip Sewell and his wonderful blooper pitch . . . Hall of Famer Honus Wagner, then a 72-year-old coach, stand by to play in case a threatened players strike came off in 1946? . . . Ralph Kiner come along and, come his times at bat, you'd turn up your attention level, if not the radio volume, hungry for him to pop another into Greenberg Gardens and pad his home run total. Antedating the 1960s stock headline "Howard Homers but Nats Lose," 'twas often as not, "Kiner Connects but Bucs Bow" . . . the sorry Bucs of Branch Rickey's rebuilding program of the 1950s, bottoming out at 42-112 in '52, but you knew it was just a phase . . . That nadir came 25 years since the Murderers Row Yankees swept the Pirates in the 1927 World Series and, it seemed, murdered the Pirates as a pennant threat for years to come; 14 years since Gabby Hartnett's "homer in the gloamin" for the Cubs kept Pie Traynor's crew from making the '38 Series. But now, just eight years away, was glory, glory, 1960.
Then Clemente, Stargell, Blass, Parker -- Murtaugh's and Virdon's and Tanner's men of the '70s, the Pirate decade in the NL East, five division pennants, two world championships. Hey, maybe Three Rivers in place of Forbes Field isn't so bad after all! Then the 1972 Pittsburgh-Cincinnati playoff, with the Reds winning that Ohio River series, 3-2, coming from behind in the ninth inning in Game 5 on Johnny Bench's homer and, finally, Bob Moose's wild pitch. But you'd been there for Clemente's last game -- just three months later, he would die in a plane crash. And you'd stored an indelible memory of Moose, left alone on the locker room floor with his postgame thoughts, staring at the ceiling, that would haunt you when he died in an auto wreck in October 1976 -- just two months before Murtaugh would be gone, too.
But ah, those triumphs of '71, the year of Clemente, and '79, the year of Pops Stargell. In '71, Bruce Kison's 6 1/3 innings of one-hit, three-hit-batsmen relief turning the whole Series against the Orioles; Prince fixing up the kid right-hander with a helicopter ride directly from Game 7 to his wedding.
And now, Bob Prince gone, too.
Maybe they can't break the Pittsburgh lease before 2010, but you have to wonder how any team can be forced to stay and lose millions. Still, the experience, the remembrance, they remain. Forever.