-originally published on Crooked Lullabies, 5/12/13.
Nothing drives a baseball fan to the morning drink quite like a 1 o’clock start time. Nothing drives a Pirates fan to sheer lunacy quite like the local baseball club. Combine a 1 o’clock start time for a Pirates game in which a fan protest is due after the first half of the third inning, what results is a recipe for an immense disturbance.
Truthfully, some of the details regarding the so-called third inning walkout are sketchy, even those consistent with the timeline pre-inebriation. I can’t recall if Adam had somehow learned of the protest first, or myself.
All I know for certain is that the mangy Pirates were within the throes of a 15th straight losing season, and Adam grew a moustache for the event. “Pirates fans are getting out of their seats during the third inning to protest this depraved team. Totally dope! Grow a moustache.” When the day of demonstration had arrived, his upper lip was tasked with supporting the weight of something akin to a sideways Old Fezziwig mutton chop. As a Pirates fan himself, I suspected his moustache’s egregious bulk represented his burden of perennial crestfallenness.
Despite my admittedly meek facial hair, in comparison, I too was eager to exhibit my disapproval with Pirates management. In the week preceding I’d been practicing getting up and simply walking out of various high-impact situations: conferences at work, the subsequent sit-down with my boss after walking out of a conference at work, and a funeral. I didn’t want to risk being unpracticed in the ways of walking out, and spoil my one opportunity to chastise Team President Kevin McClatchy, General Manager David Littlefield and the Nutting ownership group. Hey Ho! I was going to be amongst the throng of fans abandoning their seats at PNC Park like it was nobody’s business. Pirates’ brass would be so aghast at the blizzard of disenchantment they’d respond in kind by tripling the payroll and bequeathing the city a winning baseball team.
I think that was the plan anyway. I was woozy from cheap beer by time the 11am 56-E bus picked us up in Greenfield, heading for PNC Park. Adam had suds in his a moustache.
Upon arriving on the North Side—rather than posing with Roberto Clemente’s statue or chasing the Canadian geese on the river walk—we continued the foolhardy exploits of typical twenty-somethings and sought more alcohol to funnel to ours brains’ pleasure centers. Finnegan’s Wake was the bar of choice, being only the distance between a right fielder and his cutoff man from the ball field. We perched ourselves outside on the humid cloudless day—a perfect day for a protest. We hunkered down again. Our merriment was fueled with each sip. Adam’s moustache grew due to the combination of direct sunlight and Pabst fertilizer.
A half an hour until first pitch a man appeared an adjacent corner advertising tee shirts he yanked from a cardboard box. He announced his wares like a peanut vendor. A fellow lugging a news camera on his shoulder trailed. The odd spectacle lured us. The numerous squares embossed into our asses from prolonged exposure to wrought iron patio seats no sooner vanished than the peddler stuffed our five bucks apiece in his pocket. The shirts were an intense snot-colored yellow like the business end of a firefly or a crossing guard’s loungewear. The message on the front was bold and black “I SUPPORT THE THIRD INNING WALK-OUT.” The shirts were almost gaudy enough to draw attention from Adam’s moustache.
“You’re gonna’ mow ‘em down today, Morton,” I yelled into the bullpen. The security guard chastised me for leaning over the brick wall beside the batter’s eye, and motivating the starting pitcher. Adam’s ‘stache flared in defiance causing the guard to gasp and back away. We shuffled through the crowds in the runaways, our no-nonsense neon shirts proclaiming our intentions. We eyed a few other patrons sporting the shirts; we sensed our moment was fast approaching. A couple more Busch pounders prepared us for the impending glory.
The first two innings rolled by without fanfare. When the third out was recorded in the top of the third I expected several thousand of the near capacity crowd to stand in unison and march from their seats, or blitz the Pirate Parrot and curb stomp his beak into second base. Instead, only a few others in our section rose: a boy holding his ding-dong in lieu of a good whiz and a guy who says to his wife, he says “So dat’s two ice creams, nachos supreme and a diet pop, huh?” These were not fans so enraged by 15 years of crummy baseball so much as families picnicking at a professional baseball game. Adam and I stumped away from our seats regardless. Adam’s moustache became engorged with rage at the utter lack of raw outward disgust with Pirate’s management.
The runways were eerily quiet. A tumble weed rolled by the Primanti Bros entrance. One idle soul with a television camera intercepted us while we wandered in the concessionary wasteland. “Can I ask you a question?” he asked. Besides the fact that he already had, I allowed him. “Why are you here?”
My surroundings faded and I suddenly sensed at though I was alone with St. Peter at the gate and he’d just asked me why I should be allowed to enter—an answer one prepares since their first sin. I certainly can’t recall my exact drunken response of juxtaposed metaphors but I’ll paraphrase: “Evolution is tasked with constantly seeking perfection. It will never succeed. It can never succeed. But sometimes evolution swats a middle-in fastball on the meaty part of the bat and produces a biological juggernaut like the mosquito, the hammerhead shark or the Yankees. The remainder of species is game unless they develop the means to compete. Mosquito repellant or a spear gun will not stall the mighty Yankees. A pitcher rolling sevens through nine innings or a lineup of common feeders having career nights in a fell swoop might overcome The Empire on any given Thursday night in the middle of August. But ultimately, teams that ain’t the damned Yankees are doomed over a full season. You can’t defeat the Yankees by throwing haymakers; you need to sneak up from behind firing a submachine gun and hope the bullets shred enough vital organs before they lunge. But the sneak attack must be deft, for if the Yanks hear whispering in the bushes the massacre will turn your face pale and your hair white. Opposing teams require not only shrewd strategists to design such a nimble attack but a commander-in-chief willing to sacrifice the means necessary. If Kevin McClatchy and Dave Littlefield were shepherds they’d rashly lead their flock into a werewolf caucus, and Bob Nutting would be too cheap to waste a single silver bullet in defense. Nutting understands that you can always breed more sheep as long as people pay to watch the slaughter. Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I’m sick of evolution tightening the noose and then kicking the blocks season after season after season. It’s high time we grab the repellant, the spear gun and silver bullets and draw up the ambush. Evolution be damned. When McClatchy, Littlefield and Nutting are themselves hung for their crimes, a new Pirates regime will outwit thee. Team like the Yankees will fall. The Pirates will reign again. And I’m sure all these people here would agree with me.”
At that moment I turned to face PNC Park, motioning to the killing floor. I was greeted with the collective uproar of a troupe of fellow protesters—a triumphant way to punctuate such incoherent discourse. Little had I known Adam had gathered wandering walkouts and directed them to wait behind my back in anticipation of my call to action. To these poor people, my neon snot-colored shirt surely must have appeared like a faraway lighthouse beacon when shipwreck seemed inevitable. Adam did well. When the crowd began pumping their fists in unison at the notion of drawing their swords against evolution, I caught a glimpse of Adam. He stood stoically, his arms crossed and his eyes beaming. I swear, the sunshine reflected off his moustache and cast a majestic blonde glow over us that felt to me like a protective orb instilling tranquility to the battle-ready soldiers it enveloped.
The revelry gradually damped as the rabble-rousers began to disperse. However, one fellow with lingering awe in his eyes approached me and asked “Are you the guy who started this?” I told him I wasn’t, but he was devoted to my cause anyway. Then he asked me what I planned to do next. I said I wanted to go back to my seat and watch the rest of the game.
Since the dramatic climax passed, the day’s remainder consisted of further debauchery leading to more gross missteps than Pirates’ base runners amid a twilight doubleheader. For the sake of posterity, the missteps include: spilling my beer on a boy scout’s Bob Walk bobblehead (I gave the boy mine), posing for snapshots with wild-eyed transients at a downtown bus stop, me standing up on the bus and tumbling on to a hapless lady rider when the bus negotiated a turn, and puking in the rancid bathroom of the local dive bar sometime around last call.
I SUPPORT THE THIRD INNING WALK-OUT.