Fans out in force to rally in Downtown Pittsburgh for beloved Bucs
Scores of people screaming “Let’s Go Bucs” were audible above the traffic Tuesday on Grant Street as Pirates fans rallied at the Allegheny County Courthouse for the wild-card showdown Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs.
Fans — decked out in black and gold and waving Pirate pennants and pom-poms — mobbed a courtyard where politicians joined team officials and former players to whip up the crowd.
“We’re going on to the World Series!” yelled Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, drawing loud cheers.
Pirates President Frank Coonelly was there with General Manager Neal Huntington and former players Kent Tekulve, Grant Jackson and Steve Blass. Pirate announcer Greg Brown was emcee and Mayor Bill Peduto donned a Jung Ho Kang jersey.
“I remember when I was a kid what great pride we had in our Pirates, and now they’re back,” Peduto said.
Kang, who came from the Korean Baseball League to the Pirates this year and became an immediate fan favorite with his sizzling bat, suffered a season-ending leg injury in September during a game against the Cubs. Coonelly said Kang would be on the field Wednesday during lineup announcements.
Jan Shipp, 76, of Garfield arrived early in a 1970s-era black pillbox Pirate cap, a team jacket, black scarf with a large gold “P” and a tote bag with the team logo.
“Hey, I didn’t have anything else to do. It’s a beautiful day so I have to root on the Pirates,” Shipp said.
A reformed Detroit Tiger fan — Hall of Famer Al Kaline was her favorite Tiger growing up — Shipp said she’s been following the Pirates on the radio since legendary announcer Bob Prince called games from Forbes Field in Oakland.
“I just like sports,” she said.
Joe Vogel Jr., 45, of Downtown, known as “Baseball Joe” to Pirate players and fans, stood at the front of the crowd flipping a baseball up and catching it in a glove. Vogel, who cannot speak or hear because of strokes and communicates with a digital keyboard, is a fixture at Pirate games and blows a whistle to cheer on the team.
“Mostly bandwagon fans here,” Vogel typed while surveying the crowd. “(I) never watched another sport.”
Ed Love, 53, of Beechview brought his 2-year-old granddaughter, Quinn Antkowiak, who was wearing a black and gold jumper. Love said he’s been following the Pirates since elementary school.
“My grandfather took me to my first game in ’69,” he said. “Saw a triple play against the (Houston Astros).”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.