Rally Central: Pirates fans show support

Crowd, Bucs members gather in downtown Pittsburgh on eve of Wild Card Game

Rally Central: Pirates fans show support

PITTSBURGH -- With the city buzzing about Buctober for the second consecutive year, fans gathered for a Pirates rally in Market Square the day before the National League Wild Card Game against the Giants (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN). Some fans came on their lunch break, and a few expressed their regret for not wearing some black and gold.

Others planned accordingly. With his slacks rolled up to expose his striped socks, Pittsburgh fan Jeff Walters donned a black jacket and pirate hat -- and no, not a baseball cap with a "P." Walters and his cousin, Chris Miller, were both dressed like full-blown swashbucklers and were among a crowd of a few hundred who gathered in downtown Pittsburgh to show their support.

  Date   Result Highlights
  Oct. 1   SF 8, PIT 0 video
"Who doesn't want to be a pirate? It's the best job in the world," said Miller, who along with Walters has been dressing up for games since August. They plan on having a whole crew of pirates with them in PNC Park's left-field rotunda Wednesday with a trip to the NL Division Series on the line.

While the rest of the fans in attendance may not have had the same outfit creativity, they cheered loudly, and many brought Pirates flags. The Pirate Parrot and the racing pierogies interacted throughout the crowd, while prominent Pirates figures took to the stage below a "Let's Go Bucs!" banner.

A few former players were introduced, and Steve Blass -- a Pirates pitcher from 1964-74 and a current broadcaster for the team -- took the microphone and addressed the crowd.

"This team is the perfect fit," Blass said, reflecting on the Bucs' 88-74 squad which had a chance at the NL Central title until losing Sunday in Cincinnati.

"It's a blue-collar Major League team, and this is a blue-collar city. They've been challenged, and they've responded. That's how this city is."

The fans, who varied in age, responded enthusiastically to Blass. One of those cheering was Chris Bolla, who's been a Pirates fan all of his life, since he was born in 1959.

Bolla's fandom reflects that of many lifelong Pittsburgh fans, who celebrated the team's success in the 1970s and the earlier '90s before seeing the team miss out on the playoffs for 21 years.

Bolla, who held a Pirates flag with "Raise the Jolly Roger" written on it throughout the rally, said the last two seasons have "taken away the pain."

"This is like Christmas in October," Bolla said. "It's Buctober Eve. This is fabulous, it's so cool."

Catcher Chris Stewart, members of the Pirates' coaching staff and front office were among the club figures introduced. And team president Frank Coonelly was the last person to address the crowd.

Coonelly pointed out that Giants catcher Buster Posey said he watched the Pirates beat the Reds in last season's NL Wild Card Game from his couch. Coonelly also reminded the fans that Posey said he was "looking forward to playing" in the environment. So, he left the crowd with a message:

"Let's send them back to the couch," Coonelly shouted.

Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.