The Slide: Leyland, Bonds, and the Star-Crossed Pittsburgh Pirates

The Slide

Review by g emil reutter

It is spring and baseball is spinning toward the dog days of summer and the crisp air of champions made in the autumn air. There are the storied collapses of teams, say the ’64 Phillies or the famous Mitch Williams pitch in ’93 and of course the curse of the Bambino in Boston and the infamous error by Bill Buckner in ’86. Each franchise has some of these moments, some better known than the others. In Pittsburgh it is simply known as The Slide.

Richard and Stephen Peterson bring us a historic account of the Pittsburgh Pirates after they dominated the late ‘70’s with superstars and “We are Family”. The team collapsed after a dominating presence in baseball just as the steel industry collapsed in Pittsburgh and hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. The team played as if trapped in the flues of a rusted out open hearth. The Peterson’s coordinate the despair of a collapsing economy with the collapse of a baseball team losing their economic base. Change of course comes not only in the economy of Pittsburgh but for the Pirates. Fans lust for the champions of the ‘70s stay away from the ballpark until the renaissance of the team catches up with the city. So it is that Bonds, Bonilla, VanSlyke, Drabek and Bream under the command of manager Jim Leyland bring hope back to the ball park in the early ‘90s although the fan base is reluctant after years of losing teams to embrace them. Yet, they cannot jump the hump, cannot get to the biggest show in baseball, the World Series.

As with other storied franchises, The Slide, burns eternal in Pittsburgh. With one out to go in the playoffs, one out away from the World Series, the Pirates blew it. Ex Pirate Bream ran to home plate as an Atlanta Brave, slid in for the winning run stealing the right of passage, the hopes and dreams of a city on the rebound as the Pirates once again went home and Atlanta to the series. The Slide not only represented yet another loss in the playoffs but a slide of great magnitude that lasted for 20 years as the Pirates dwelled in the muck of the basement of Major League Baseball.  In 2011 the slide stopped as the Pirates returned to championship form.

The Peterson’s presentation is simply outstanding as the book reads like a play by play announcer and contains all the drama that is baseball and of course all the drama that are the players. They are hard on Barry Bonds, not so much on Bobby Bonilla. The friction in the clubhouse during those ‘90s playoff years and the failure of Pittsburgh ownership to come off the money for Bonds and Bonilla resonate through the turmoil of the clubhouse until unity comes when they believe they are heading to the World Series only to lose it to The Slide.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Slide-Leyland-Star-Crossed-Pittsburgh-Pirates/dp/0822964449

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g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter

 

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