BALTIMORE — Why did it take so long for the Pirates to play an interleague series here?
Interleague play began in 1997, and the Orioles played a three-game set in Pittsburgh in 2005. But until this weekend, the Pirates had not been to Charm City for a “real” game — there was a one-game exhibition in spring 2003 — since Game 7 of the 1979 World Series.
That’s way too long.
The fans obviously felt the same way. Plenty of Pirates fans made the five-hour drive from Western Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Pittsburghers-in-exile came in from the Washington D.C. suburbs. Everywhere I turned in the shops, restaurants and attractions in the Inner Harbor, I saw folks wearing black and gold.
As I type this, I’m watching a teen-aged girl sitting in the section below the press box trying to figure out how to put a Pirates babushka– a disco-era relic, judging by its “handsome pirate” logo — on her head. The atmosphere in the first two games was electric. When Adam LaRoche smacked a two-run, go-ahead homer in the ninth inning last night, the cheers were so loud, I thought we were on the North Shore.
These two franchises share a relatively recent history of World Series confrontations. They boast beautiful ballparks nestled in vibrant, interesting hometowns. They both have passionate fans willing to make a little trek and earn a few Marriott points to watch baseball.
All the ingredients are in place, so why not play this interleague series every year? Or at least two out of every three? It makes a lot more sense for the Pirates than interleague games against the Tigers, Royals, Twins, Blue Jays, Rays … blah blah blah. If MLB wants to make interleague play a true success, it has to work for every team. If MLB won’t give us a chance to boo Cleveland every June, then bring on Baltimore!