Curve, fan near 1,000th home game
She’s always there, through drizzling rain and snow flurries, watching a good team or a bad one, in brutal cold and blistering sun.
Nothing keeps Susan Mielnik from Altoona Curve home games, and tonight the Hollidaysburg resident will achieve a major milestone for a minor league fan.
The Curve will play their 1,000th regular-season home game this evening at Peoples Natural Gas Field, and Mielnik has been there for every single one of them.
Is she crazy?
“I’ve been asked that a lot,” Mielnik said with a laugh. “No, I just like baseball.”
The Curve will honor Mielnik’s remarkable streak at some point during tonight’s game against Erie. General manager Rob Egan wouldn’t say exactly what the honor will be but acknowledged how special and rare it is in the minor leagues.
“It’s incredible and just a testament to how dedicated she is and how much she loves the game and loves being out here,” Egan said.
Just like Wopsy has the White Lady, the Curve have their white-haired lady. For those who don’t know who Mielnik is, her curly white hair makes her easily recognizable for fans who look up to the second level.
Mielnik’s seat is in section 311, but many games she can be found just below there sitting in section 210 with her scorebook.
“I guess I’m just obsessive,” she said. “I do that with most everything I do. If I do something, I do it the whole way.”
Mielnik’s streak actually will reach 1,017 games tonight since she’s also been to all 14 home playoff games, two Pirates exhibitions and the 2006 Eastern League All-Star Game.
Her favorite memories include a grand-slam robbing catch by Adam Hyzdu to win a key game against Akron in 2000, Brad Eldred’s home run barrage in 2004-05, the EL All-Star Game and appearances by Andy Pettitte and Stephen Strasburg in 2010.
Mielnik worked in the Hollidaysburg Area School District for 35 years, the final 30 as an elementary school librarian, before retiring in 1999. That coincided with the Curve’s arrival, and she and her husband, Ken, have been regulars at the ballpark ever since.
“We used to go to the Pirates all the time – 16 times a summer – and when this came here, we sat out there and watched the stadium being built and picked out where we wanted to sit,” Mielnik said.
Ken Mielnik also attends just about every Curve home game, but five years ago he had a health scare that nearly ended Susan’s streak.
“My husband had heart surgery in Pittsburgh, and I got home the day they had the [preseason FanFest] at The Casino,” Susan said. “I thought I was going to miss a game then.”
A health scare of her own three years ago also nearly ended the streak.
“I got kidney stones one night, and [the team was] away,” she said. “I was in the hospital and wouldn’t have been here. I just lucked out.”
Having the support of her husband helps her keep the streak going – “He urges me on,” Susan said – and in the past few years, the streak itself has been a driving force to keep her coming out for every game.
“There have been many a time whenever the weather looks really horrible, but I’ve got to go,” Susan said. “I go because of the streak, but the streak didn’t start that way.
“I just got into it so many years, and I just decided I’ve got to keep going. And I will keep going now, too. I’m not going to quit.”
Mielnik doesn’t think the streak will reach another 1,000 – “I’ll be too old, and I won’t be able to make it,” she said – but what she already has accomplished is one of the most unique components of Curve history.
Egan said Mielnik was told she will be honored tonight, but the specifics will be a surprise.
“It’s very special,” Mielnik said. “I think it’s a real honor that they thought enough to do that for me.”