R.I.P. Ghost of Sid Bream
Grab a shovel. We’re burying the ghost of Sidney Eugene Bream and his weird mustache.
Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Pirates via Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
This season, we could not be jinxed.
For 20 years, the Pirates would set sail every spring, and by mid-summer, they'd all get scurvy and dysentery before the ship would sink straight down to Davy Jones' locker, leaving me standing on the shores of the Mon, lighting the bandwagon on fire and walking away blind with rage.
If there was a bad call, it went against us. If there was a lucky bounce, it was for them.
Fluke bounce off a tiny infield pebble, followed by another bounce off a dried ball of goose poo resulting in a real-life game of pinball that allows the other team to score three runs? Us.
Blown call resulting in the winning run in the bottom of the 134th inning? Them.
And on and on it went. We were walking around with a dark cloud of curses and hexes over our heads. And pigeons. Lots of pigeons.
Last year, Pirates draft pick Mark Appel saw the Cloud o’ Doom and said, “Oh, hell no.” Appel took his ball and went home, choosing to stay at Stanford for another year instead of suffering the fate of playing for the Pirates. I hated him for it. (But more on him later.)
I believed the curse. I did.
It took me about 17 years of futility, but I started to believe it. It went beyond poor management and the constant swapping of good working parts for cheap replacements in the ironic name of “rebuilding.” Something bigger was at work here, I told myself. It had to be.
So when my husband came to me a few weeks ago and said he had received the postseason ticket-order form and that he was getting ready to send our money in, I said, “Wait.”
WAIT JUST ONE SECOND, YOU BEAUTIFUL MEXICAN SON OF A —
I put my hand on his shoulder and said quite seriously — and if I'm making this up, may a pigeon snuggle with me every night for the rest of my days — “If you send that money in, we won't make the postseason. BUT! … ”
My eyes were wide and maniacal now.
“… If you DON'T send that money in, we’ll probably win the World Series!”
I arched my eyebrows and flashed a maniacal, toothy smile like Lady Elaine Fairchilde after botched botox. I had become more superstitious than Sidney Crosby at 8:07 on Aug. 7.
He looked at me like I had just asked him to adopt a gaggle of baby pigeons. (So fluffy, honey!)
And then he sent the money in.
I not only believed in the curse, but I also believed a savior would come to save us from it.
Every player called up, I branded them as such and threw a little blog party. Pedro? Savior. McCutchen? Savior. Marte? Savior! Burnett?! Mientkiewicz?! MCLOUTH?!!?!
Looking to Nate McLouth for any measure of salvation is clearly a sign of mental illness.
My point is, I was looking for our baseball savior — the one person bigger than the curse who was going to be the anchor that moored our damaged ship so that we could repair it and sail on to calmer waters. Now I’m mixing up biblical metaphors with pirate metaphors. Swab the deck ye maggots and turn thou from evil, forsooth. Threw some Shakespeare in there for fun.
Now, beyond that, I take the spirit of Roberto Clemente very seriously. (Amen.)
This would have been the 21st losing season. That simply couldn’t happen. It wouldn’t do. 21 — that number is too precious.
Because I have officially lost my mind over this team and this supposed curse, I have spent the entire season believing that Neil Walker was going to somehow save us. Because he wouldn’t have been born if Roberto hadn’t told Neil’s future father that fateful New Year’s Eve to stay behind as Roberto delivered relief supplies to Nicaragua. Roberto told Neil’s dad to go out and have fun.
Roberto is why Neil is here on this Earth right now.
So it seems fitting that Neil would be the one to move some previously unmovable mountain, right?
RIGHT?! *scary Lady Fairchilde smile*
Do you see how crazy this team has made me? ME! A minister’s daughter! Going on and on about curses and voodoo?
This is my father right now as he reads this post:
But I’m putting that Clemente/Walker prediction down here in case we make it to the World Series and it’s tied in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 and I’ve shriveled up and died from stress and Neil Walker comes up to bat and sends one into the water, my ghost can say, “CALLED IT.”
This post is lost. I’m emotionally lost. Mark Appel can suck it. Sorry, not sorry.
When the Pirates clinched their winning season earlier this month, I really didn’t celebrate. I exhaled and went to bed. Honestly.
During a meeting at Children’s Hospital the next week, I was asked what my state of mind was when the Pirates won that 82nd game, and I told the truth: “I didn't freak out. Because I felt like there was more to come.”I didn't shed tears. I didn't feel the need to write 10,000 words. There was more to come. Wait for it.
I'm so glad I did.
I waited and waited and got scared and cursed out Mark Melancon in such creative ways that Captain Jack Sparrow would have been all …
That stupid magic number became my constant companion. 12. 10. 9. 8. 6. 2.
Worst. Countdown. Ever.
Then last night, with just one miraculous tag at home plate — which last year would have sailed past the catcher and landed in Minnesota, allowing the Cubs to score 11 runs — the magic number was zero.
Suddenly, zero is the most beautiful number.
Martin holding his hand up triumphantly while Grilli lost it … and I lost it.
Photo Courtesy Pittsburgh Pirates via Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
That picture is the end of our horror story. It replaces this picture forever:
At long last, goodbye, Sid Bream. Farewell, gross mustache.
I honestly can’t recall ever crying over professional sports. I mean, I’ve gotten misty — but big, floppy, gross tears?
Not a Super Bowl. Not a Stanley Cup. Not when Mario came back from Hodgkin’s disease. Not even 1992.
Last night? I could not stop the tears for an hour at least. I mean, I wasn't scream-bawling or anything, but I was definitely …
And the actual Pirates? Well, they went nuts.
They had every right.
It wasn’t a division championship or a World Series win, but they did what so many kept saying wouldn’t happen anytime soon. They fought and battled for each run and out, and more importantly, they fought the psychological wars surely waged in their psyches after certain heartbreaking losses, not letting it drag them down. They fought slumps. They fought the late-season fade. They fought injuries. They fought Cutch getting plunked.
In the end, they kept fighting.
And that’s why they deserved to put on the Champagne goggles and sing “Don’t Stop Believin’” at the top of their lungs.
They won this battle after 20 armies before them tried and failed. And I gotta believe they still have some fight left in them for whatever comes next in the war.
Of course, in my mind, whatever comes next rests on Neil Walker’s shoulders because 21 (Roberto’s number) minus 18 (Neil’s number) plus 92 (the year of our doom) minus 72 (the year Roberto died) minus 2 (a number!) equals 21.
Did I just blow your mind?
Let's go Bucs!
P.S. Mark Appel, the smartypants Pirate jilter, recently signed for the Houston Astros, the worst team in Major League Baseball. Enjoy the heat, numbnuts!