Blass has done it the right way

For many sports fans in our area, the image is as fresh as it was on Oct. 17, 1971 — pitcher Steve Blass leaping into the arms of first baseman Bob Robertson.

It was a moment of pure joy and celebration that came in the seconds after the Pittsburgh Pirates had defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in the seventh game to clinch the World Series title.

That iconic moment was brought to mind Tuesday when Blass, now, 76, announced that this season would be his last as a member of the Pirates broadcasting team.

It will mark the end of a 60-year career spent with the organization. As a player, the right-hander signed with Pittsburgh’s Appalachian League affiliate in 1960 and made his major league debut in 1964. Blass had a record of 103-76 with an ERA of 3.63 in 282 appearances before his career faltered after a baffling loss of control, an unexplainable condition that became known as “Steve Blass Disease.”

The club never gave up on him during those years of 1973, 1974 and 1975, telling him that they would stick with him as long as he wanted to keep trying, Blass remembered during a press conference. That was one of the reasons Blass was able to remain “A Pirate for Life,” which is the appropriate title of the book he wrote in 2012.

As a player, Blass came from a different era. That title-clinching win in 1971 was a complete game — his second in that series, the first being a 5-1 win in the third game. Today’s baseball fans likely will never see such an accomplishment, as managers now turn to multiple relief pitchers in specific situations late in games.

As an analyst on the club’s radio and television broadcasts since the early 1980s, Blass has charmed fans with a laid-back delivery and the ability to share stories about people he has known and things he has experienced. It’s a loyalty that is shared by the team.

“Steve has represented the Pirates with humility, grace, pride and passion. Word cannot express how appreciative we at the Pirates organization are for his dedication, or how beloved he is and always will be,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said of Blass.

Even though he won’t be on the air after this season, Blass plans to remain with the club as an ambassador.

Blass has spent a lifetime doing things the right way, as demonstrated through his hard work on and off the field, his dedication to the sport and the Pirates and his ability to relate to people from all walks of life while developing that magical connection with viewers and listeners across the Tri-State Area that only the truly great broadcasters can have.

He’s earned our thanks for all he has done, and our wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable retirement.