For the first time since 1999, the Pirates stood above the .500 mark on July 4th, giving their fans reason to hold their heads high this Independence Day holiday.
Long-suffering Pittsburgh baseball fans have had little to celebrate over the last 18 straight losing seasons. It's more than most cities could bear.
However, the Pirates have enjoyed a notable faithfulness among their fan base. Bucs' fans should be commended for their Tammy Wynette-like loyalty: standing by their men through last-place divisional finishes, multiple managers and season after season of disappointment.
According to baseball reference.com, the last time the Pirates made an appearance in the National League Championship Series, 1992, the team tallied a little more than 1.8 million fans through the season; their average attendance was 22,585 per game.
Last season, as the Bucs lost 105 games and finished dead last in the Central Division for the fourth straight year, attendance was nearly 20,000 per game. That's more than the Pirates averaged during their last World Series championship season in 1979.
So what has made Pirate fans continue to support their team through thick and thin and even thinner?
Maybe it's the reasonable ticket prices. You can sit in a dugout box seat for $35. At Yankee Stadium, $30 gets you a grandstand seat. Like the Blair County Ballpark, PNC Park provides an affordable ticket, fun family atmosphere, good food and good baseball.
Maybe it's (at least in part) the proximity to Altoona, and the regional fan base that followed many of the big leaguers on their way up. Local baseball fans must love going to Pittsburgh and seeing former Curve players like Andrew McCutchen making it big in the big leagues.
Maybe it's the team's history; fans appreciate the good ol' days, and the great players of decades gone by like Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski and so many others.
Or maybe it's simply that Pirate fans are the best kind of sports fans who root, root, root for the home team even when it's a shame that they don't win.
Pirate fans are passionate and knowledgeable; and they are also realistic. These fans know that with the team's limited payroll, the deck is stacked against them. Still, they hold out hope that Pittsburgh can find a way to grow their own superstars from the farm to the big leagues, without the luxury of spending millions of dollars in the free agent market.
Pirates fans hope the Bucs will put together a "little team that can" challenge for a championship. And what a story it would be; a true underdog saga to succeed in comparison to the bankrolls of teams like the Yankees and Braves. Pirates fans deserve the chance to cheer on their team well into the playoffs. They have earned it.
Here's hoping there are lots more on-field fireworks through the rest of the season.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.