That darned 2001 baseball season. No matter how well the Pirates play, the team just can't break the attendance record set in the opening summer at PNC Park.
Will you settle for finishing second?
"We have officially surpassed last year's ticket sales of 2.091 million, which means we will have the second-highest attendance in the 127-year history of the franchise," team spokesman Brian Warecki said. "While it is not possible at this point to surpass the 2001 record attendance of 2.436 million, with the continued strong support from our fans, we have an opportunity to approach 2.25 [million] to 2.3 million this season with our sights on topping the record in 2014."
It's always "next year" with these guys.
Last year, the team looked to have a chance at approaching the all-time high at the turnstiles, set when PNC Park was bright, shiny and new and everyone wanted to see the ballpark that was the buzz of the sporting world. A late-season swoon, however, saw 2012 attendance top out at 2,091,918.
Nowadays, all the fans seem to care about is seeing competitive baseball. Gimmicks and giveaways -- and fireworks! -- only go so far.
Fortunately, the team on the field has responded. The Pirates' 41-20 record at home is the second-best in all of baseball, just a few games behind Atlanta.
The play on the field has translated into fans in the stands. Last month, the Pirates set an attendance record for a four-date series when 129,623 paid to see them play the Cardinals (July 29-Aug. 1). The previous PNC Park record for a four-date series was 129,473, set during the 2008 season against the New York Mets (Aug. 15-18).
"We also drew 115,699 for the three-date series with the Mets from July 12 to 14, which ranks second in PNC Park history for a three-date series," Mr. Warecki said. "Also, the 113,891 for the three games versus Colorado (Aug. 2-4) ranks third all-time."
The record for a three-date series is 118,324, set against the Boston Red Sox in 2011 (June 24-26).
Even if 2013 isn't a pennant year for the Pirates, it still qualifies as a banner year, marking only the fifth time the franchise crossed the fabled threshold of 2 million paying fans. The other occasions were the division-winning seasons of 1990 and '91 in Three Rivers Stadium, the 2001 season, and last season.
The team has had 12 sell-outs this season. The record is 19, set in 2001. The Pirates had 17 sell-outs in each of the past two seasons.
"The fans have passionately embraced this team and, as a result, the demand for tickets is extremely high," Mr. Warecki said. "We do have tickets available for all of the remaining home games, but some games are nearing standing-room only. We recommend fans buy their tickets in advance now rather than risk being shut out on the day of the game."
Mr. Warecki said the best way for fans to get good seats for remaining games is to purchase partial season-ticket packages, which are still available. Purchasers also will receive priority for purchasing postseason tickets.
Dan Majors: email@example.com. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published August 15, 2013 8:30 PM