Divine intervention writes its sports script
You always hear of the magic and miracles associated with sports.
But how often do we truly believe it?
We’ve all witnessed heartbreak and suffering with our favorite sports teams losing big games or just flat-out stinking all together. Sometimes, though, things come together in a positive way.
Just like it did for my family and I five years ago.
Saturday, Aug. 7, 2010, changed my perspective of the sports world. That night I forgot about the Pirates then-17-year losing streak and all the shortcomings of the West Virginia football program.
It took an extra inning baseball game to sell me with the initiative that sports dreams do come true, thanks to a miracle and a sprinkle of magic.
That sequence started the day before. My brother and I had been looking forward to attending the Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, Pirate game all season long. It was Andrew McCutchen bobblehead night, the only bobblehead giveaway at PNC Park all year. We had plans to meet up with my best friend Andrew in Pittsburgh to share a nice night at the ballpark.
Instead we shared in what would be the last night with my ailing grandfather. Papaw Paul Peaslee had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that summer and his timetable of life was greatly shortened. He died that Saturday morning at the age of 84.
As sad and troublesome as it is to lose a loved one you must first celebrate the life and be happy that the suffering is over.
A native of Kingwood, W.Va., Papaw Peaslee was a hard-working man all his life. He was a farmer who raised cattle for a living and he was darn good at it. As a city boy, I rarely took interest in this lifestyle but still entrusted in the skills he taught me and the work ethic my father taught me through the hands of his father.
We did share the love of sports and especially Pirates baseball. He would take my dad to many games throughout the years at Forbes Field in the 1960s. I always heard the stories of how he would reach through wire fences to catch foul balls. My father and Papaw witnessed the first night World Series game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1971. They also shared in the first Opening Day at PNC Park in 2001.
When I would visit him that summer we would talk about the Pirates’ struggles and how frustrating it was to see them lose nearly every night of the 2010 season.
However, through the thick and thin we always remained the most diehard of fans. Although he never got to see a winning season at PNC Park I think he had a little something to do with that Saturday’s dramatic win in Pittsburgh.
Down by two in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Colorado Rockies, the Pirates began a little rally with Andrew McCutchen lacing a double off the center field wall. Next, Jose Tabata drew a walk. A pair of batters later, Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate.
He drilled a pitch off Huston Street into the right field stands. A walk-off home run for an 8-7 Pirates win.
Something inside me knew something special was about to happen. My family shared the same sentiments as tears flew down our faces and announcers Greg Brown and Steve Blass went crazy on the broadcast.
“That was for Papaw!” we all said, gathered together watching the game. It’s what Papaw would’ve been doing and it’s what he would’ve wanted his grieving family to do.
It was true, Alvarez did that for Papaw. Although we were not at the game I still think that game and that moment will go down as one of, if not the most memorable sports moment in my life. After the game, then-manager John Russell even said, “The heavens must have looked down and said enough is enough.”
We all think Papaw had something to do with it.
Then, five years to the day, Alvarez came through again. Last Friday was Aug. 7, 2015. Another 10-inning game at PNC Park. This time, the Pirates, thick in a pennant race, were taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers. The teams traded leads twice in the contest and headed to extra innings tied at 4.
With no outs and the bases loaded, Alvarez delivered a single down the right field line that scored Jung Ho Kang. A 5-4 Pirates win, on the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, thanks to Pedro Alvarez.
My family was not gathered together on this night, as we were five years ago. We were in separate living rooms and offices throughout the Tri-State Area, but we all had the same thoughts.
“That was for Papaw, again,” I texted my brother and father. We shared the memories with my grandmother, Papaw’s widow, on Saturday morning. She had watched parts of the game on Friday night but couldn’t stay up to see the end.
When we mentioned that it was Alvarez who came through in the clutch, Grandma Peaslee knew it was the same guy who provided an uplifting moment on the day her husband of more than 60 years died.
Sports are indeed filled with miracles and magic, sometimes even a little mystery. The game of life is often dictated by a higher power. After moments like these, I know first-hand of the divine intervention that can be brought about on a baseball field when we least expect it.
Win or lose, ’til death do us part, I believe in the things we cannot see.
(Peaslee, a Weirton resident, is a sports writer for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @thempeas)