Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

October 4, 2013

Had they not traded Kiner, who knows?

There are, in the words of our great friend J. Suter Kegg, “a lot of people walking around here with ‘P’ on their caps.”

Suter would have enjoyed the last two Octobers, although having been the founder and president of a nationally-recognized Yankees haters club in the 1950s (true story — he mailed out buttons to Yankee haters all over the country), he likely wouldn’t have been happy with the way October ended for the Orioles last year.

Suter, though, would have been gratified that the Orioles finally reached the postseason again last year, just as he would have been for the Pirates this year. And, obviously, having covered both teams over the course of his career, he would have rooted for them both.

Fact of the matter is a vast majority of the fans who live here have Pittsburgh Pirates pedigrees, whether they root for the Pirates or not. After all, for over a half-century the Pirates were the closest major league club within driving distance of Cumberland.

My mother, my aunts and my uncle grew up spending their summers in Pittsburgh with their grandparents, so, obviously, everybody in our family was a Pirates fan. That is, until June 4, 1953 when the Pirates acquired Toby Atwell, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, George Freese, Bob Addis and Gene Hermanski in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Joe Garagiola, Howie Pollet, Catfish Metkovichto and ... Ralph Kiner, my mother’s favorite player. Needless to say, this news was not warmly received by my mother, and by letter she informed Pirates general manager Branch Rickey that by trading Kiner he had, in effect, traded her as well. But she wasn’t going to the Cubs.

On April 15, 1954 she went to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore to see Bullet Bob Turley stymie the Chicago White Sox, 3-1, in the first game the Orioles ever played in Baltimore. Thus, because Branch Rickey had traded Ralph Kiner, my mother went from bleeding black and gold to bleeding black and orange — except for two years of canceled season tickets because of a similar matter.

Having grown up an Orioles fan, I recall that as a 12-year-old, with the Birds soaring through the American League to their third straight 100-win season and pennant, I made myself believe it would be pretty cool if the Pirates, too, would make it to the World Series. After all, I reasoned, as only an innocent 12-year-old moron can reason, my grandmother was a big Pirates fan and it would make her happy. Plus, Mount Savage High’s Bob Robertson was the star first baseman for the Pirates.

On Oct. 17, 1971 at around 5:30 in the afternoon, I was no longer speaking to my grandmother, who my mother forced me to sit beside at the dinner table that day. Nor did I ever want to see Bob Robertson again in my life. Naturally, everywhere I turned that winter I saw him, as I should have, for he had become a bona fide World Series hero.

Things weren’t much better in 1979. In fact, they were worse because at age 20 I had learned how to run my mouth and make bets with my friends who were Pirates fans, who, despite the Bucs trailing the series 3-1 heading back to Baltimore, agreed to bet me if I would just shut up. Let’s just say it wasn’t long after Omar Moreno caught the ball for the final out of Game 7, that I slinked out of town under more cover than when the Colts left Baltimore. In fact, I saw Brian Femi the other night for the first time in about 20 years, and the first thing he said to me was, “Don’t you still owe me five bucks?”

From 1971 on, my Orioles friends and I have not been Pirates fans. We’re still not, for despite what my friends Mike Sawyers and Daggett say, it is impossible to have two favorite teams in the same sport. In fact, it will be interesting to see this month if Sawyers finds this out the hard way as I did in 1971.

Having said that, through all the years of losing by both the Orioles and the Pirates, having now become a friend of Bob Robertson’s, and through the aging process, I have found, that while the Orioles will always be my favorite team, I cannot possibly not pull for the Pirates to do well this postseason. Call it what you will — maturity (nah!), revisiting my family’s roots (possibly), or having wonderful friends who are Pirates fans (definitely). Or, perhaps this mellowing has come about from my pure affection for the game, because the first time I saw Andrew McCutchen play baseball my eyes fell in love.

All I know is it’s just nice to see baseball fans other than Yankee fans wearing happy faces around here in October. And it’s been even nicer the past two years that most of those happy faces have belonged to those who live and die for and who love the two home teams.

And yes, even my mother, on a Ralph Kiner grant, is rooting for those Bucs.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

1
Text Only
Mike Burke - Sports
  • Terps need to move and move quickly

    The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.
    Until we see you in court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

    I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having
    watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier
    in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

    April 11, 2014

  • At times we all should allow for a little flex

    Other than when I was a student in the Allegany County Public Schools System, I’ve always believed the most thankless job there is — or at least one of the most thankless jobs there is — belongs to the person who ultimately hits the switch on whether or not to call off school because of the weather. You’re slammed if you do, you’re slammed if you don’t. No matter what you decide it’s no win, but, like managing a baseball team or running a bar, everybody knows they could do it.

    January 11, 2014

  • A treasured member of the family of baseball

    When a former professional football player from our past dies, he is most often remembered as being one tough son of a gun, or a wonderful runner or pass catcher, or as a brilliant quarterback.

    January 10, 2014

  • Bob Giffin believed in the goodness of us all

    The first time the Giffin family exploded onto my radar was at a Fort Hill basketball game years ago in the old Fort Hill gym. Believe it was a City game, which meant the place was packed, the walls were sweating and the smell of popcorn permeated the atmosphere. And through it all marched the family Giffin in perfect formation, tallest in the front, shortest in the back, led by father Lew, mother Donna, oldest son Bob, second son Tom, third son Donnie and fourth son Johnnie.

    December 28, 2013

  • Redskins do that voodoo that they do so well

    This time last year the Washington Redskins were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak on their way to the NFC East title. Mike Shanahan was being hailed as the perfect football presence the franchise had sorely needed for so long. Quarterback Robert Griffin III in the sprint option was being hailed as the single greatest invention since the wheel, and beleaguered Daniel Snyder, the little owner who couldn’t, was being hailed for not even trying as he allowed his two-time Super Bowl winning coach and lord of all things football to pull the strings on all things football.

    December 13, 2013

  • Fort Hill’s approach is all-inclusive

    After Fort Hill opened everybody’s eyes last season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year (*1), it was a pretty sure bet that the Sentinels, given all of their returning resources, would be making a run for the state championship this year (*2).

    December 6, 2013

  • What resource will the O’s allocate next?

    In November 1993, Dan Duquette, then the general manager of the Montreal Expos, traded second baseman Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez. According to a story in last Sunday’s New York Times, upon completing the deal, Duquette, now general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, told Neal Huntington, then a member of the Expos front office and now the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, “This trade is going to be hated in Montreal.”

    December 4, 2013

  • No month of Sundays this Friday

    With Fort Hill comfortably in control Friday night in its eventual 46-7 1A West Region semifinal victory over Manchester Valley, and with score updates from the other semifinal pouring in from nearby Washington County, Greenway Avenue Stadium was abuzz, for the unthinkable was about to take place — Fort Hill was going to play Hancock.

    November 16, 2013

  • Mike Burke Ty Johnson works hard, and makes it look easy

    Any summer day you might go to Greenway Avenue Stadium to get a little exercise you are likely to see any number of high school athletes there working out — football players, soccer players, basketball players, any kind of player you might want to think of.

    November 9, 2013 1 Photo