When I was growing up the Pirates were a staple in our house. I was a fan of the team but man my dad was passionate and everyone knew it. He had hats, jackets, ties, shirts, and would do the leg work of promoting the team in the frigid Erie winters by rallying people to attend the (then new) Pirates caravan.
In 1989 my brother was in his 5th year working for the Buccos while I was a pre-teen in baseball glory with all-access to a professional baseball team. I would spend my summers hanging out at the ballpark and, while the team was just as bad as the 20 year losing streak which just ended, spent every day starry eyed. I knew all of the players, got to take batting and fielding practice with them and hang out behind home plate in the room with the radar gun. It was baseball geekdom before high salaries and steroids took over.
Opening day 1989 the Pirates were home against the Mets and ready to build on an electric 1988 season which showed hope that the losing was over. Pirates were down going into the 9th and staged a comeback to win over their rivals. Before Jose Lind would cross the plate to tie up the game, the roaming camera guy planted himself right next to my dad. What happened next would be bigger for us than the team winning.
Right place at the right time and dad was now a part of history. We just didn’t know it yet.
In the coming weeks ESPN used the clip for Baseball Tonight, Pirates put it in commercials and local news outlets kept it in rotation. No one knew who the guy was but I did and so did most people in Erie. The man who would coach me in Little League and argue with umpires like Jimmy Leyland blowing this lid, had gone national.
Over the years we talked about the clip but it wasn’t until he passed in 2006 that I wondered what ever happened to it. I contacted MLB, ESPN without luck. I asked my brother and he was just as baffled. I knew someday I would find it but never expected to this way.
Yesterday while Teaspoon was watching YouTube videos with Chromecast he asked me for something I watched as a kid. Looking at his Pirates shirt I searched “1990 Pittsburgh Pirates” and the first return was for the music video and the story behind it. As the clip ended and I was done reliving my youth, I saw dad. The sound of his voice brought me to tears instantly as I was caught off guard. I must have watched that 5 more times in its pixilated glory on my screen and could recall every detail as if it happened last night.
I called my brother to tell him about my find which left him stunned. We brainstormed about where that clip could possibly live and that’s when it hit me, highlight films. In my basement recently I found I have every Pirates VHS tape they released from 1987-1992 and in the very rare 1989 “The Fire Still Burns” there he was.
When Teaspoon saw me tear up he asked me who that was on TV. When I told him he said “whoa, that’s pop pops!”. As far as I know this the only video of my dad the way I remember him and now my kids can experience that.
Oh, if you slow down the video you will see a very young Spoon in his grade school sweatshirt