Although we have never seen a winning season, we have both been lifelong Pirates fans. Along the way, we have picked up numerous collectibles and souvenirs, most of which hold special memories associated with Pittsburgh Pirates baseball. Even though the product on the field hasn’t been too enjoyable for young baseball fans in Pittsburgh, we still love the Buccos because of the little things, proving that baseball is more than just a game. Here is some of our favorite Pirates memorabilia:
- Autographed ball from this year’s Piratefest. It seemed that the players and management were much more accessible at Piratefest this past December. Also, we had the luxury of entering the MVP Zone for season ticket holders, which allowed us to get a few more autographs. This ball features the autographs of Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Joel Hanrahan, Clint Barmes, Chris Resop, Clint Hurdle, and Neal Huntington.
TOP LEFT: Walker; TOP RIGHT: Resop, Tabata, Barmes; BOTTOM RIGHT: Hurdle, Huntington; BOTTOM LEFT: Hanrahan
- Tickets from the Home Run Derby and All-Star FanFest. Both the Derby and FanFest were amazing experiences during the week of the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. FanFest was similar to Piratefest, but enhanced by 100%. Not only did it take up the entire Convention Center, but the amount of activities related to every single MLB team was surreal. It was certainly a great way to kick-off All-Star week. The Home Run Derby was probably the second-best baseball event that PNC Park has had to offer since opening in 2001, only behind the All-Star Game itself. It was astonishing to see superstars like Ryan Howard and David Ortiz crush balls into the Allegheny with ease. Both events were incredible experiences that will not be forgotten.
- Tickets from two unforgettable games: Opening Day 2010 vs. LA and a 2003 showdown with the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox game was a “Turn Back the Clock Night” commemerating the 1903 World Series, and even though it was June, it was a chilly evening in the Steel City. There was no scoreboard, no hot dog shoot, and no pierogi race, which made it a true old-school baseball atmosphere. The Pirates handed the Red Sox a loss, and it was a great game in the early years of PNC Park. The ticket is also one of the most unique tickets I have ever used for a sporting event. Opening Day 2010 was also a spectacular game. Opening Day is always one of the greatest days of the year, and this one was particularly special. The man on the ticket, Garrett Jones, hit two homers in the defeat of the Dodgers, in front of a standing room crowd on a marvelous day at PNC. Hopefully Opening Day 2012 against the Phillies will have a similar feel.
- An old batting practice cap with five signatures. The autographs on this hat are Adam LaRoche, Manny Sanguillen, J.R. House, Brad Eldred, and Sean Casey. Although it doesn’t feature the most high-profile names, the hat certainly is a reminder of Pirates history. There’s World Series champion Manny Sanguillen, who is often shown in replays jumping around with Steve Blass after the final out of the ’71 Series against the O’s. There’s Adam LaRoche, who wasn’t all the bad, but the majority of fans hated because he couldn’t hit in April. There’s the very forgettable J.R. House, who decided to paste his Hancock in the very middle of my hat as large as he possibly could. There’s “Big Country” Brad Eldred, who was a hyped prospect that never found his way in the majors. And finally there’s Pittsburgh native Sean Casey, who will be forever known as a Red and not a Pirate. This hat is certainly a keeper in my collection.
- A foul ball from my first ever Pirates game. Although I was only three years old, this is my first memory that I can remember. It was a warm night in May at Three Rivers Stadium, and the Buccos were playing the Astros. We were sitting behind the third base dugout, and a foul ball came our way. A young man in the row in front us ended up with the ball, but he kindly gave it to me. I held on to that ball for days, and that game made me a Pirate fan for life. Also notice that the ball features black ink and was specifically a National League ball. This was a few years before the MLB went to a current standard ball with blue ink.
- Bill Mazeroski bobblehead. This was also a very long time ago, as this bobblehead was a stadium giveaway at Three Rivers. I believe that it was given away in 2000, and it is now a rare collectible. The same bobblehead is on eBay for decent money, but it’s not one I will soon part with. Out of the tons of bobbleheads in my collection, this is one of my favorites.
- Bill Mazeroski autographed picture of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series. Another Maz item, this features the best moment in Pirates history. We were fortunate enough to meet Mr. Mazeroski at a private party when the Yankees came back to Pittsburgh in 2008. It was the first time the Bronx Bombers came back to the ‘Burgh since that ’60 Series. It was a great series, and a privilege to meet Maz.
- Jose Castillo autographed jersey. Although Castillo isn’t the best second baseman in recent memory, this is by far one of the coolest items in my collection. This jersey was won on a Scratch ‘n Win night at PNC Park in August of 2006. Usually the prize is free slice of pie at Eat ‘n Park or something of the nature, but that night I was lucky enough to be one of nine winners of autographed jerseys.
- The infamous Tom Gorzelanny bobblehead. This is back from a few years ago, when there were 4+ bobblehead nights a year needed to draw in crowds. At first glance, this may look like a normal bobblehead. But look closely at Tom’s glove hand. Is he flipping Bucco fans off?
- Jose Tabata batting glove. In 2010 me and a few friends got the chance to watch the Pirates take BP and infield before a game from the dugout. Tabata noticed that I was especially interested in watching the Bucs warm up, and came over. Without saying a word, he handed me his two batting gloves, and smiled. I thanked him, but quickly corrected myself and said “gracias”. Jose let out a big laugh as he went back through the tunnel.
- Brian Giles signed card. Giles was a personal favorite of mine with the early 2000s Bucs. I had also had a favorite Giles card, and when I heard that he would be making an appearance at a Giant Eagle, went down to have him sign it.
- Jack Wilson foul ball. I didn’t catch it on a fly, but I was able to snag it after about 7 guys in the section over tipped it, and it landed right on the steps. Being on the end of the aisle, I leaned over, and had my first ever Pirates foul ball. The date was June 6th, 2008.
- Sports page of the Post-Gazette April 2nd, 2011. The day after Opening Day. After the amazing win over the Cubs, I was sure the Pirates would go .500, so I saved the front page of the Post-Gazette, along with the sports section. Neil Walker graces the cover of both. Although the Bucs didn’t have a winning season, there’s no doubt that 2011 was the most memorable Pirates season in our lifetimes. Having the newpaper from Opening Day is a cool way to remember 2011.
As you can see, we both have our fair share of Pirates momentos. Keep in mind that these are just some of our favorites, and we’ve included only a fraction of our collections. It is amazing the amount of souvenirs you can collect based upon something you love. Each small part of our memorabilia, whether it be a game program or a batting practice ball, holds so many memories. On the surface, it may look like a random, beat-up baseball, but beneath the stitches lies a story that only a baseball fan could tell. Young or old, each and every baseball fan has some sort of story about their experiences associated with America’s pastime. Baseball is so much more than just a game, and we look forward to continuing our collections for the rest of our lives. Maybe, just maybe, we will one one day pass on the stories of winning baseball in Pittsburgh, with the items and artifacts to prove it.