Watching the Pirates from halfway around the world

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As 9-year-olds in 1960, Joe Semmes and I were the best of friends.

Having arrived in Washington, D.C., earlier that year as the son of a diplomat from Pakistan, I did not know anything about baseball. In October of that year, Joe told me he was rooting for the New York Yankees in the World Series. I asked him what was the World Series. It was then that I told him I was going to root for the underdog, the Pittsburgh Pirates. That was the start of my passionate support for the Bucs and, naturally, Bill Mazeroski became my favorite player.

In subsequent years, playing in Little League in Washington, I always selected the No. 9 jersey and played second base. I did not even support the home team Washington Senators when Bill Mazeroski, Dick Groat, Smokey Burgess, Roberto Clemente, Bill Virdon, Bob Skinner and the rest of the Pirates came to town to play an exhibition game at old Griffith Stadium.

I continued to support and follow the Bucs after returning to Pakistan in 1965. By that time, I had accumulated a significant collection of baseball cards, too, but sadly all were destroyed in 1980 while in storage.

Returning to the United States for college at the University of Pennsylvania, my active following of the Bucs continued, much to the surprise of my fellow students, who were intrigued at how someone from Pakistan came to support a team from a town he had never visited. Many a heated debate ensued with my fellow student Mets fans during those college days.

The joy of seeing Willie Stargell and company win World Series in the '70s was reminiscent of 1960. While my banking career took me to Paris, London and Cairo, I continued to follow the ups and downs of the Bucs as a staunch fan reveling in the moments of glory and hoping for another championship whenever Barry Bonds blasted home runs to win the game or when Bert Blyleven pitched a shutout.

Today, back in Pakistan as a central banker, I must be the biggest supporter of the Bucs from a country halfway around the world. I came close to watching a live game when I visited Pittsburgh for the first time in April to talk as a guest speaker for World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, but I didn't have time.

My passionate support from afar continues. I own a new Clemente jersey and Pirates caps for myself, my wife and my two young boys, hoping that this year the Bucs will return to post-season play and give their fans everywhere more memorable victories.

Fifty-three years later, my good friend Joe still remembers losing his bet against the Pirates in that 1960 World Series. He emailed me the other day a picture of old Forbes Field with Mazeroski hitting that famous home run. It still resonates with this old fan in Pakistan.


Yaseen Anwar is governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan.


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