When Phil Swartzlander set his trip to Pittsburgh for the Pirates' series against the Brewers, he also planned to buy a new Pirates hat for this weekend's games.
The hat he has donned all season to watch games from his home in Denver will stick around as long as the Pirates keep winning.
"The hat I'm wearing, I can't get a new one," Mr. Swartzlander, 60, said.
Mr. Swartzlander and his wife Bridget, 61, grew up in Pennsylvania rooting for the Pirates, and they had traveled from Colorado to stand among cautiously optimistic fans at the PNC Park ticket window this morning. With the Pirates on top of the baseball world going into tonight's game, Mr. Swartzlander set aside his superstitions for a moment and reminisced about celebrating in Pittsburgh's streets after the Pirates beat the Orioles to win it all in 1979.
"We did some partying," he said with a laugh.
"Can you imagine the streets if they won [the World Series]?" Ms. Swartzlander said in awe.
Jim Deutsch of Munhall also picked up tickets to take his family, including his 15-year-old and 10-year-old daughters, to Sunday's afternoon game. His girls haven't seen the Pirates play with this many wins over .500 in their lifetime, but their dad said he's been a faithful fan.
"I always have high hopes," Mr. Deutsch, 49, said. "I've been saying for 15 years, they are going to finish over .500. ... I'd like to be the guy that can say I've been behind 'em."
He's stuck with his team through enough lost $5 bets with colleagues to be that guy. But Mr. Deutsch, a high school student when the Pirates last played for the title, said he feels like those "magical years" of playoff games are back. On the strength of this week's six-game winning streak, the team is tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the National League Central Division, which also means they're tied for the best record in the Major Leagues.
"Everything this year, it's falling into place," he said.
Cindy Spiker, 48, and her family have also stuck with the team "win or lose," she said.
She and her daughters talked hopefully about the team's winning record throughout the 16-hour drive from their Daytona Beach, Fla., home to visit family in Pittsburgh. They scored tickets in a box seat section for tonight's game, but as the Pirates keep winning, Ms. Spiker said any seat in PNC Park is the place to be.
Even if a new hat won't replace Mr. Swartzlander's lucky cap this weekend, he and his wife walked from PNC Park with Pirates gear to outfit their grandchildren, their tickets and their growing sense of hope.
"I hope that everyone gets behind 'em," Ms. Swartzlander said.
Megan Doyle; firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1953. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published June 28, 2013 8:30 PM