When thinking about posts I wanted to have written for Game 5 today, I thought about doing a "historical perspective" post like I did before the Pirates/Reds game last Tuesday, but -- and this is partially because the Pirates missed out on the playoffs for the entire "One Wildcard" era -- the Pirates' have only played one decisive Game 5 in their history, and that's the Bob Moose Game.
Instead of looking back, let's take a moment to look around and look forward. One of the reasons that these elimination games make me so nervous is that the entire season gets defined by them, both for better and for worse. Most likely, you can give me at least one detail from each of the last six Game 5/7s the Pirates have played (in chronological order: Mazeroski, Clemente's big homer, the Bob Moose Game, Stargell's big homer, dominated by Smoltz, and that game), even if you weren't alive for half of them. No one's going to forget "Cueeeeeeeeeto! Cueeeeeeeeeeto!" any time soon, either.
What happens with these big moments is that you start to group them; the two Orioles' World Series bookend the '70s and the Bob Moose moment still stings fans that remember it so much because of the way that the Pirates and Reds played almost every single year in the playoffs in the '70s. Same goes for that game in 1992; obviously it would've been painful either way, but having it come against the same Braves team that knocked the Pirates out of the playoffs the year before made it even worse.
It's really been impossible to get outside of the moment in this series for me, as a Pirate fan. When AJ Burnett was imploding in Game 1 while Clint Hurdle fiddled, there was a logical part of my brain saying, "Well, this is probably fine with Cole and Liriano starting the next two," and there was another part yelling, "WIN EVERY GAME AS YOU PLAY IT!" Games 3 and 4 have been crazy, all-consuming playoff nailbiters. And still, every once in a while, I look at the players on the field making a difference in these games, and I think to myself, "This is the first Pirates/Cardinals playoff series, but I bet it's not the last." Both teams are largely driven by young cores, both teams have good, deep farm systems, and it's not hard to imagine this matchup playing out again one more or more times in the immediate future.
Of course, that all matters as much today as the Pirates' history in elimination games does. Eventually we'll think of this game as somehow part of a larger picture, but that's for later. Today, all that really matters is that as amazing as this season has been for the Pirates, it's in danger of ending. The past is irrelevant and the future is uncertain. This game tonight is what matters; it's what every exciting win and agonizing loss in 2013 depends on. When we, as Pirate fans, think of 2013, I can guarantee you that regardless of the outcome, this night is one of the games we're going to think about.
I rarely consider Game #5, 1972 as "The Bob Moose Game'. Rather, I nearly always remember the opposite field HR blast that Johnny Bench hit off of Dave Guisti to lead off that 9th inning. Once that happened the rest of that half inning deteriorated so quickly that by the time Moose unleashed the wild pitch I considered the contest to be over.
For me, that was the worst sports loss I have experienced and I'm 61. Something about having our hands wringing the necks of those hated Redlegs and then it all disappearing in almost an instant. It was personally devasting. And then Clemente's death less than 3 months later just added to the despair. No matter how tonight goes, I see all of these games vs StL as gravy. Just playing such meaningful games in October in such a competitive manner is enough for me after all of these too many years of wandering around in the wilderness cellar of MLB. That's not to say I won't be pulling extra hard tonight for Hurdle and his '13 men. Beat 'em Bucs!
I can relate to you on this one - I'm just a few years behind you. I remember watching that 72 game with my Mom and Dad, and physically getting sick after Bench's home run. I had a bad feeling for what was coming and starting walking up the stairs to my bedroom, but lingered just long enough to see the wild pitch. Now after saying all that, I have to say that the '92 loss was even harder. Just one pitch! But 2013 is a new team, a team that can do what the 72 and 92 teams failed to do. Let's go Bucs.
@mwr505 Agree 100%. It seems like we've been playing with house money for a while and just watching them compete in the post season is great. That said, Go Bucs! Beat the Cards!