06.29.06

Gene Collier Struggles With The Historical Impact Of The Pirates’ Futility

Posted in Baseball at 12:35 pm by

Pirates fans, I’m really trying to find a silver lining. Y’know, a Rick Pitino-style quip like “Derek Bell isn’t walking down that gangplank.” Alas, I don’t have the same kind of pen pals as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier.

You have to go back through two centuries to unearth a 13-game Pittsburgh losing streak, a matter best left to academics, preferably actual historians, and that’s why yesterday’s e-mail from Purdue University professor Frank Lambert was so very welcome.

The subject line read, EXPERT SINKS PIRATES MYTHS, STEREOTYPES WITH REAL HISTORY.

Perfect.

What better accompaniment, after all, to such an historical loss as the 4-3 pie in the face from the White Sox last night than a serious, studied discussion of the all-time No. 1 Pirates myth: The House Untruth Built, the untruth being that a new baseball-only stadium would leave this franchise up to its crossbones in gushing revenue streams, the very public prescription for not only competitive baseball, but probably a return to the kind of National League plundering the city had grown accustomed to in the 1970s.

More currently, there is Myth No. 48, namely that left-handed pitcher Oliver Perez was the second coming of Sandy Koufax or Steve Carlton. Shame on us all for that little associative spasm. Now, as Perez sits in exile in the Pirates’ bullpen awaiting the next Greyhound to Indianapolis, we’re pretty sure we’d have settled for the next Larry McWilliams.

For the real sunken myths, and the import of buried treasure the Pirates never seem to find anymore, here’s professor Lambert.

“When historians try to put the Pirates into historical context, it only raises more questions about who was a real Pirate,” Lambert wrote.

Exactly, like Jeromy Burnitz. Is that a real Pirate? Bounced a 3-0 pitch from Freddy Garcia into an inning-ending double play in the third with Freddy Sanchez on third. Garcia had just walked Jason Bay, but Burnitz was apparently in no mood to let Garcia help this offense.

“You might say a Pirate is in the eye of the beholder,” professor Lambert went on. “The definition of a Pirate is a robber at sea without sanction from a nation. But under that definition, the Barbary Pirates, perhaps the most famous of all, are not Pirates. They were privateers, many from Europe, encouraged by Britain to raid American shipping because the new country was a competitor.”

Uh-oh.

“Disney is making piracy safe with these movies,” Lambert went on, oblivious to our topic. “These are romantic figures in a magical, mythical story. The Pirates in fiction, as well as the Pirates from 200 years ago, are a lot safer than the Pirates we face today.”

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