Big Lead Sports Bar


Lee's Tunnell Vision: The Pirates Caravan Recap

I was going to talk about the Pitt basketball game, but truthfully, it wasn’t that interesting. I was going to talk about the Duquesne game, but I started writing this column and mostly just kept the game in the background. Both teams were just better than their competition last night. I have a couple of other stories that I was going to hit on, but I’ll push them back for another week. Instead, I’m going to talk about my Monday. My six-year old son, ZW, and I made the trek to Erie to visit the Pirate Caravan’s stop at Dick's next to Millcreek Mall. (That mall in Erie made by the mafia in the shape of a pistol).

We got there just as they opened the autograph line at 11 and we were greeted, somewhat surprisingly, to a line throughout most of the store. In fact, it took us an hour to get to the front. ZW is a huge baseball fan and the normally energetic kid was slowly becoming more and more shy the closer we got to the big-leaguers. This was a big deal for him.

Zach Duke was first at the table and very nice to meet. We mentioned that ZW’s first Bucco game was last year’s Father’s Day start by Zach against the White Sox. We didn’t mention that it was a typical ’07 Duke start with a five-run inning, a lot of pitches, a lot of hits and not a lot of swings and misses.

Nyjer Morgan was next. I tripped him out when I told him that I knew his half-brother, a buddy of mine I work with, and a former Pitt basketball player. ZW asked if Nyjer wanted to race on that crazy indoor track in the shoe section of Dicks, but he was having none of it. Nyjer was a big hockey player growing up and played four years of junior hockey in Canada, including major junior in the Western Hockey League with the Regina Pats. Something to keep in the back of our minds should the Pens injuries continue.

Jeff Andrews, the Bucs new pitching coach, was doing an interview so we just grabbed his card. Hopefully he was talking about how to fix/leave alone autograph #1.

Jack Wilson was next, one of ZW’s favorite players. He was an engaging guy, and that makes him very easy to root for. The guy plays hard every inning, every at-bat. In fact, I wish everyone hustled like he does. He’s put up seven solid seasons together in the black and gold and finished last year batting .296 with a career-high 12 dingers. And how he’s yet to win a Gold Glove is beyond me. He’s one of the good guys.

As we neared the end of the table, I was surprised to see Bill Cowher signing autographs, considering it was the Pirate Caravan and all. I was surprised to find out it was actually Carrick’s own John Wehner. You know, this John Wehner. His announcing started out sort of rough to start the year, didn’t it? But week after week, I really thought he improved and by the end of the year, was doing a really solid job.

Greg Brown was there too, but apparently too "big-time" to sign autographs. A little ‘did you know’ about Greg: he was an announcer for the Buffalo Bills during the amazing second half come back against the Oilers in the ’93 AFC Championship Game. I caught the game on ESPN Classic at some point and was surprised to hear Greg’s voice.

Here’s some video of the event from the local Erie sportscast. ZW is the boy in the blue jacket and Bucco hat 17 seconds in after Nyjer moves his head out of the way.

All-in-all, the wait was worth it. As much as I was excited to meet some of the guys, I was more excited that my son had a chance to.
Anybody else remember going to Picture Day as a kid? That one afternoon when they let you walk across the warning track at Three Rivers, getting autographs from all the players. They were all there. They were all nice and interacted with you.

You could meet Willie Stargell. How cool was that? Heck, you spent your entire summer emulating Pops, playing wiffle ball with your pinkie finger over the knob of the bat and round housing it before the pitch like you were going to hit it Carnegie.

There was Bucco Manager Chuck Tanner. Ok, I’m a little uncomfortable, 25-years later, with where Chuck’s hand is.

And who could forget Omar “the Outmaker” Moreno?

By the way, Omar still loves the black and gold:


Former Pittsburgh Pirate, Panamanian Omar Moreno, gave loads of little kids something to smile about last Friday. Moreno owns a nonprofit Foundation that teaches young children how to play baseball. Moreno’s Foundation works closely with the Panamanian Embassy to spread the love and improve lives.

And then we had Tony Pena. Remember when it was your turn to catch and you stuck your one leg out just like Tony?

Then there's everyone's favorite closer, Kent Tekulve, The Rubber Band Man!

Dale Berra!

Dale Berra! How’d he sneak in there? What, were Steve Nicosia and Doug Frobel busy getting their picture taken with someone else? I can’t believe my dad took that picture. I found out that Dale Berra and his .236 career batting average, played in 853 games, which happens to be more games than any son of a Hall-of-Famer, topping Dick Sisler. So he’s got that going for him.

You could get your picture taken with your favorite player, like mine, Johnny Ray.

Man, I desperately want the Pirates to be good again. For their sake, for my sake, for my son’s sake, for our sake, for the city’s sake. I don’t want my son to be an Indian fan, I want him to be a Bucco fan. This 15-years of losing is just painful. PAINFUL! I’m tired of it. Where have you gone, Bill Mazeroski? Do you remember the good old days? When the Pirates mattered? When you didn’t have to be embarrassed to cheer the Bucs?

I remember. Thanks Dad. And for the sake of this generation and the next, I hope there are better days ahead for our beloved team, and sooner rather than later.

Are you listening Mr. Nutting?

Check or Hold? Lee Tunnell, out.


Rege said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rege said...

Great Column. In my personal opinion- the state of the pirates might be one of the saddest stories right now in all sports.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully done. This column sums up precisely why the Pirates need to right their ship immediately.

The Duke from Dukes Court said...

I love the name ZW.


Is it just me or does Dale Berra look high in that picture?

Koz said...

I went to Allegheny College and we used to drive from Meadvile to go to that mall all the time. Thanks for the picture of the layout - great memories!

Unknown said...

Zane, good stuff... but it makes me sad as Hell to remember the Buccos of yester-year...

Too bad there were no photos of my favorite dead 80's baseball player, Rod Scurry.

zach valentine said...

i love how dale berra seems to be doing a clinic on playing stupid human tricks with officer friendly...and how to avoid a dui