Undercover: 'Dry Land: Winning after 20 Years at Sea with the Pittsburgh Pirates'

Charlie Wilmoth is a jovial and insightful companion who suffers with the rest of Bucco Nation as the failures multiply.

Full disclosure: I am a baseball fan by marriage. My interest in the game had dwindled to near-extinction by the time my wife and I started dating. All that kept the flame alive was a handful of “We Are Family”-era memories from my childhood. Even those had taken on the blurry quality of a desert mirage.

More disclosure: My wife isn’t from Pittsburgh, so her rooting allegiance wasn’t for the black and gold. A funny thing happened, however, while I watched American League match-ups on Sunday nights: I started yearning for the Buccos. Maybe it was purely nostalgic, or maybe watching the White Sox and Yankees felt like an act of betrayal. The Pirates were on their way to a record 20 losing seasons — but still.

Though many fans drifted away from the team in that sad, frustrating period, some managed to cling to what looked to be a sinking ship. Charlie Wilmoth was one of those diehards.

Wilmoth, who has been running the blog BucsDugout.com since 2005, was one of the few who continued to beat the drum. His recent book, “Dry Land: Winning after 20 Years at Sea with the Pittsburgh Pirates,” is written from the fans’ perspective.

“My team was in the midst of a 15-year losing streak, and it showed no signs of stopping. There was more out there — my career, time with my family, finding a girlfriend. Hell, on paper, any number of more mundane things, like learning to cook or vacuuming my apartment, would have been better uses of my time than watching the Pirates. And yet I kept going.”

Wilmoth is a perceptive writer with a fair, balanced approach to discussing the team. While passionate, he is not given to overheated ranting or radio-call-in-show browbeating. Some fans have marked Wilmoth as an apologist for the team’s ownership. In my view, he does something even more astonishing than coming to the defense of Neil Huntington’s head-scratching trades: Wilmoth analyzes two decades of losing without giving himself or the reader an aneurysm. He is a jovial and insightful companion who suffers with the rest of Bucco Nation as the failures multiply.

Wilmoth fortuitously started writing “Dry Land …” [CreateSpace, $16] in 2012, interviewing fans, commentators and players. The baseball gods must have looked down and decided the book should have a happy ending — because as we all know, 2013 ended the so-called curse and returned the Pirates to their former winning ways.

Author and editor Lee Gutkind is the driving force behind the Creative Nonfiction movement in writing. The local wunderkind and baseball-loving Andrew Blauner have collected personal essays on the topic of America’s pastime to assemble “For the Love of Baseball — A Celebration of the Game That Connects Us All” [Skyhorse Publishing, $19.95]. The release includes contributions from novelists including Kevin Baker and Susan Perabo as well as such experts on the subject as George Plimpton, Frank Deford and Roger Angell, The New Yorker’s poet of the pennant race.


Upcoming readings:

East End Book Exchange, Aug. 28/ As part of the dynamic duo behind Braddock Avenue Books, Jeffrey Condran has worked on behalf of writers such as Mason Radkoff and Salvatore Pane. Condran takes center stage for the publication of his first novel, “Prague Summer.” The taut work of fiction concerns an American bookseller and his wife living in Prague; their lives are thrown into confusion when an old friend resurfaces.
[4754 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield; 412/224-2847, eastendbookexchange.com]

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Aug. 6/ University of Pittsburgh creative writing instructors Jeff Oaks and Jenny Johnson break from the dark halls of the Cathedral of Learning to enjoy an afternoon on the sunny North Side. Catch the pair reading from their poetry works at the Alphabet City Tent.
[318 Sampsonia Way, North Side; cityofasylumpittsburgh.org]


Categories: Things To Do