The Pittsburgh Pirates: The Red-Headed Stepchild of Pittsburgh Sports

Derek ReedCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2009

This could quite possibly be the most fascinating time in Pittsburgh sports history.

The Steelers have just won their second Super Bowl in four years and the Penguins flirted with the Stanley Cup last season featuring the dynamic duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

The Pitt Panthers men's basketball team drifted in and out of the No. 1 ranking while the university's football team saw a 9-3 resurgence and a trip to the Sun Bowl.

The one thing missing from this picture is Pittsburgh's oldest and most tradition-soaked team—the Pirates.

Baseball has a rich history in Pittsburgh from Honus Wagner to the great Negro League teams of Homestead.

The birth of the Pirates predates the first World Series by 16 years and the creation of the Pittsburgh Steelers by nearly a half-century. By the time the first World War erupted the Pirates claimed three championships.

The Pirates went on to win titles again in 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979. However, it was their great teams of the '60s and '70s that coincided with their eventual downfall in the hearts of sports fans.

In 1967 the Pittsburgh Penguins were established and the NHL doubled in size overnight.

Two years later, the Steelers hired head coach Chuck Noll who went on to win four Super Bowls in six years.

Collegiately, the Pitt football team won the 1976 national championship behind Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett.

Though the Pirates added two trophies to their collection in the '70s, the team followed the lead of the other teams in Pittsburgh and fizzled in the '80s.

Even when football was down, the damage was done. The Steelers replaced all other teams in town. But the Pirates weren't dead quite yet.

Pittsburgh fired back in the early '90s with arguably the greatest overall performance in the collection of the city's teams.

The Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, Bill Cowher took the Steelers to the Super Bowl, and the Pirates won three straight division titles.

Unfortunately, three straight postseason losses followed.

The final dagger in the heart was delivered by Sid Bream and the Atlanta Braves in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS.

In the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied 2-2, the Braves hit a grounder past then-Pirate Barry Bonds.

Rounding third base, Sid Bream slid into home to give Atlanta their second straight NL pennant.

Since that time, the Pirates have posted 16 straight losing seasons, a major league record. With no end in sight, there are endless inquiries by well-meaning fans wondering when things will turn around.

Names like Jerome Bettis, Hines Ward, Jaromir Jagr, and Mario Lemieux have replaced popular Pirates names like Andy Van Slyke, Jason Bay, and Xavier Nady.

These days the major attractions to Pirates baseball are great promotional nights, rappers wearing the team's hat in music videos, and the joy of attending a game at the most beautiful ballpark in North America to watch a world class baseball team...take on the Pirates.

For the true diehard fans, be glad you're here before the team starts winning and being a Pirates fan becomes "cool" again.