Class, just because there are no games on TV, as hard as that is to believe, that does not mean you can run off to the library and read Richard III. You can always watch ESPN U, the chess channel, or the Game Show Network to look for questions on sports. Quick now, 1959! Yes, you.
“What was the first year Jack Nicklaus won a major, and what was the U.S. Amateur?”
Our subject today is titled, “Can you believe?” The answers are Pittsburgh and Washington in the National League.
The Pirates are 54 and 41 and a close second to the National League Central leading Reds. Last year, they wound up 72-90 and haven’t won the pennant since 1979, when they also captured the World Series. Roberto Clemente led them to the same crowns in 1971, but before that, except for 1960 and Bill Mazeroski, they were Pirates who couldn’t have stolen a bar of soap on the Love Boat. No NL rings in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and 50’s.
Andrew McCutcheon is the prince of Pitt. Who needs Ben Roethlisberger? Mr. Mac has a chance to win the Triple Crown! He’s batting a robust .373 (all stats as of July 24). Neil Walker’s average is .294, and look who the team leader in wins on the mound is: A.J. Burnett. As a Yankee the last two years, it’s a good thing he didn’t play on Broadway. He’d have closed in two weeks or two innings—21-26 overall Ws and Ls, and a smelly earned run average above five twice. This season: 11-3 record, 3.59 ERA.
I grew up in the 1950s, while Pittsburgh was holding up its National League colleagues—cellar residents among the eight teams five times between 1950 and ’55. Before that the Pirates last won a World Series in 1925 when they beat Washington and one of history’s all-time greatest pitchers: Walter Johnson, 407 wins for the Big Train.
Those Senators did win the Series in 1924 and the American League flag in ’33, but no such glory since. The Capital Collapses, who couldn’t have beaten the real Senators in softball, were last in the AL nine times between 1949 and 1970. Yes, cold during the Cold War. Damn the Russians? Damn Yankees! In 1971, the nation’s lawmakers had lost those free seats they got for Washington games. The Big Train’s team was gone.
It returned to the station in 2005 and was a respectable 80-81 in 2011. Now, the Nationals are a nasty 56-39 and in front in the NL East. Second-year phenom Stephen Strasburg is 10-4 with a 2.85 ERA, and he leads the league in strikeouts. Jordan Zimmermann’s ERA is 2.31, and Gio Gonzalez, an Oakland Athletic in ’11, is 12-5.
So, welcome back Nats and Bucs. You folks are always telling me I shouldn’t root so much for the Yankees and Lakers. You want those titles passed around. Well, Pittsburgh and Washington appear to be at or near the front of the line. Move over Cardinals and Phillies. The Giants were party crashers in ’10. Maybe the October Classic will reunite the cast of 1925, and we’ll all catch a glimpse of the Roaring 20s.
And next year, we’ll be talking about the Comeback Cubbies. Or, maybe not.