A frightening injury to a rival player reveals the character of Pittsburgh sports fans….
Last night my Cardinals began a crucial series with Pittsburgh at PNC Stadium. It was another Humdinger of a game with the valiant St Louisians prevailing 3-0 (despite the Bucs stranding over 15 runners). ….. An incident happened in the bottom of the 7th inning that overshadowed the tremendous game and said a lot about both teams, about Baseball, and about the sell-out crowd in Pittsburgh.
Two Cardinal outfielders pursuing a long fly ball collided in Left-Center. Centerfielder Peter Bourjos caught the ball but in the collision his knee hit the head of rookie phenom Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty was stretched out motionless as Bourjos signaled frantically for the medical staff.
A sold-out PNC Stadium crowd of Pirate-partisans and a national TV audience joined the players / staff of both teams in “fearing the worst” for a prolonged ten minutes. Piscotty was obviously unconscious as Cardinal (and Pirate) medical personnel and Manager Mike Matheny huddled around him.
The ESPN TV announcing crew was eerily quiet, not knowing any more than was obvious in the long distance camera view. Other camera angles caught Piscotty’s teammates in their stunned emotional concern…. AND Pirate players / staff showing equal concern.
A flatbed cart was brought out as Piscotty was placed on a spineboard and onto the flatbed. As the cart carried him off, he raised a hand to indicate to the crowd / audience that he (1) was conscious and (2) had feeling in his upper body. The partisan crowd and Pirate team cheered the visiting “enemy” player.
MRIs would later reveal there was no “severe” injury…. no head/neck/spine damage. No word yet when he might return to the Cardinals already injury-depleted line-up.
Baseball is not generally considered “a dangerous sport” as compared certainly to Football where every game seems to be “russian roulette” in terms of “somebody WILL get hurt”…. Romo, Brees, Rothleisberger, et al.
Batters hit by pitches and pitchers hit by line drives are the two primary ever-present dangers. But, collisions between players and opponents obviously do happen.
What struck me last night was the immediate reaction of Pirate personnel AND the PNC crowd. The Pirate / Cardinal divisional rivalry has been nip/tuck intense the past several years as the Bucs have emerged from decades of mediocrity to join the Cardinals as one of the 6-7 “best teams in MLB”. But the rivalry certainly lacks the 50+ year history of Cardinals / Cubs or Yankees / Red Sox or Dodgers / Giants.
As Piscotty was motionless on the outfield grass he was not “a Cardinal”. He was “a baseball player” who was obviously seriously injured.
I was NOT surprised by the concern of the Pirates’ team. Baseball is “a Brotherhood”, not to say that other sports are not. There is a camaraderie among competitors that does NOT require ginning up “hatred” in order to compete at the highest level.
There was a nasty beanball brouhaha between the Cards and Cubs a week or so ago, so it does get intense; but moments like last night immediately transcend that. At least it did last night. If there were a few jackasses in PNC (which is likely in any crowd of 35,000 humans), they were muted.
Would a Wrigley Field crowd have reacted like Pirate fans did? I’d like to think they would. I am confident that a Busch Stadium crowd would have shown similar respect to an opposing player. They have a precedent for such politeness. It’s a “Midwestern thing”. I am admittedly prejudiced towards “Cardinals Baseball” in general.
As last night’s drama unfolded I imagined a similar incident at either an NCSU or UNC sports venue during a “game” between the longtime rivals. An incident in which a visiting player suffers an injury of unknown severity…..
Allowing that the hardest of the hard-core partisans among you will immediately jump to defend the outstanding character of “your fans” and, at the same time, decry the sorry no-good nature of the hated rivals who, of course, are “all abuncha ______” as EVERYONE well knows. ???
I suspect there would be a regrettable smattering of jackassity evident within either home crowd. As oft-stated on this website:
Toenail fungus and jackass fans are, alas, among Life’s decidedly non-partisan realities.
A more personal question is: How would YOU react as a Home Team fan to a rival player’s severe injury? At the end of the day, your behavior is all you are accountable for.