What will be Kevin McClatchy’s legacy with the Pirates?
Will it be the mere fact that the team still has “Pittsburgh” in its moniker? Will it be cozy, graceful PNC Park? Or the showcase 2006 All-Star Game?
Or will it be a decade-plus of losing seasons? Will it be the Aramis Ramirez trade, which was forced by the team’s messed-up finances? Or “Operation Shutdown,” the bottled-water-ban fiasco and Dave Littlefield?
In the end, I guess, it will be a combination of all that. And I think history will show Pirates fans could have ended up with a lot worse.
A lot of folks always viewed McClatchy as a carpetbagger, eager to sandbag the team. Remember all those rumors, which persisted for years, that he secretly hoped to relocate the Pirates to Sacramento? He was raised in California, schooled in New York and got his first baseball job in Florida. Yet, he bought two houses here, and wound up living in Pittsburgh longer than he did in any one city.
“It definitely feels like home,” McClatchy told me in the spring of 2006, a few weeks before the start of his final season as principal owner. “I feel strongly about this region. I want it to be successful.”
McClatchy never gave any reason to doubt he felt the same way about the Pirates. He would brood after losses and high-five total strangers after victories. His cell phone number ends in “96,” a tribute to the year he bought the team.
Like Barney Dreyfuss, McClatchy always had the desire to put a winning team on the field. But McClatchy lacked gifted lieutenants in his front office and the deep pockets to lure top-notch talent or cover for mistakes.
“The thing that kills me is when I read that I don’t care whether we win or lose,” McClatchy said. “I do take it to heart — more so, I would say, than a majority of folks in my industry who are in my position.