Goodman Shaffer: It’s been fun rooting for the Pirates this season

Who would have imagined a fall when there are thousands of empty seats at Beaver Stadium, but you can’t get a ticket to a Pirates game? A September when the Steelers start 0-4, the Yankees are done, while the Buccos are warming up for postseason play?

It’s fun to root for the underdog, and that has made this baseball season a blast; watching the Pirates go from longest-losing (or non-winning) team in sports to the top of the divisional standings, battling for a playoff position and finally popping the cork on the champagne to celebrate the end of a twenty-year drought.

The enjoyment of this Pirate season has gone beyond the Power of Z , or the likability of players like former Curve standout Andrew McCutchen and Steel City hometown hero Neil Walker; it’s the night- after-night of different players stepping up with big plays at just the right moments.

It’s watching the true camaraderie of this special team of players and coaches who celebrate their successes with the exuberance of Little Leaguers, and seem to support one another with unfailing loyalty.

They may have learned that devotion from their own fans.

Even Pirates opponents have to appreciate this season’s payoff for the legion of long-suffering fans, finally basking in the glow of their home team’s success.

It’s seeing grownups who remember the Pirates of years gone by, those fans who have started every season with that hope that “this will be the year,” bringing their children to the ballpark with bright-eyed optimism. For those black-and-gold-loving youngsters, their Pirates are nothing but winners.

It’s fun to hear the broadcast crew with joy in their voices, positive stories to tell, and great performances to describe.

It’s fun to stay up late and watch the games until the final out, hear people talking on the street about Pittsburgh baseball, wearing their Pirate paraphernalia; seeing the fireworks, and hearing the winning phrase over and over and over: “Raise the Jolly Roger!”

Yes, it’s been a jolly baseball season for the Bucs, with hopes of keeping the magic alive through tonight’s wild card game and into the divisional series.

It’s rewarding to see a team so grateful to their faithful, and so embraced by the city and the state they represent.

These Pirates make you believe that money isn’t everything, and that there is still honor, fairness, hard work and just rewards in the game of baseball.

Even if you don’t have the biggest payroll in the majors, you can put together a contender through hard work, good decisions, quality leadership and great chemistry.

These Pirates have brought new life to a city and region of baseball fans, and new hope for a sport that’s suffered far too many embarrassments of late.

So perhaps nothing would be better for the game of baseball than a Pittsburgh Pirates’ World Series championship, the final chapter in the ultimate Cinderella story. But win or lose, these Bucs have earned a special place in Pittsburgh history and in our hearts.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.