Trey Carruthers lay in a hospital room Monday, recovering from an appendectomy - but that was no reason to miss the Pirates' Starling Marte blast a ninth-inning home run, pulling ahead of the Chicago Cubs for an away win.
"I was in a good amount of pain, but I had the game on in the background," Carruthers of Altoona said.
Over the past three weeks, fans have watched nervously as the Pirates secured a winning season, then a playoff berth, with the first postseason game set this week. It's something Carruthers, 24, hasn't seen since he was little more than a toddler.
The long-suffering Pirates fan has become a baseball trope, with 20 straight losing seasons - the longest such streak in professional sports - dimming hopes year after year. But with this year's success, the team is poised to rope in a new generation of fans and restore faith from those who remember the glory days.
"My son has gotten me into it the last couple years," said Bob Aranos, a Pittsburgh-based electrician, as he watched the team Wednesday on a row of TVs at Zach's Sports & Spirits. "He's 10. ... he's never seen the Pirates win."
Aranos recalled past trips to PNC Park: You went just to drink beer, he said, with little interest in what was happening on the field. Now the stadium is packed with passionate fans, their Jolly Roger flags waving with each run. And that passion likely will reach a fevered pitch Tuesday, when the Pirates host the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card game at 8 p.m.