It might have been more than two decades since a Pirates team hosted a postseason game, but you couldn't tell it by the fans.
They picked up right where they left off, cheering every Pirates hit Tuesday, applauding every out the Reds made. They booed calls that went the wrong way and taunted Cincinnati pitchers by chanting their names.
The faithful arrived early -- nearly all of them following outfielder Andrew McCutchen's call to wear black -- and stayed until the game was locked down, 6-2, at 11:21 p.m. A packed house of 40,487, including about 2,000 fans who bought standing-room only tickets, were joined by hundreds lining the Clemente Bridge.
Ron Klammer, 80, of Green Tree savored the game from a seat in the 300 level behind home plate.
"I've been a fan all these years, and this is just so much fun," Mr. Klammer said. "I used to attend all the playoff games at Three Rivers Stadium, and these fans are really into it. It's tremendous, the way they chanted [Reds pitcher Johnny] Cueto's name. I really think that caused him to give up that home run."
The excitement started early. Elizabeth Gimino of Highland Park and her boyfriend, John, who owns VIP Vending, have operated five souvenir stands around the ballpark parking lots since PNC Park opened in 2001.
This was the first year they made a profit.
"We were hoping and rooting for this game to be played here," Ms. Gimino said. "And as soon as the team [earned it], we restocked. We got more of everything."
The hottest items, she said, were the "Abso-Buc'n-lutely" T-shirts. "And, of course, anything Zoltan," she said, referencing the Pirates' rally signal.
"But today, yeah, everyone wants black," she said.
Yet Andy Pitrone, 38, of Erie and his wife, Jen, wore gray shirts.
"I've got my black 'Just Cutch It' shirt underneath," Mr. Pitrone said. "But I have to wear my Roberto Clemente Montreal minor-league jersey. It's a gray jersey, but it's my lucky jersey. I love it. It pays homage to the Great One. I have to wear it."
Blake Sechman, 25, was wearing a yellow shirt when he and two friends drove in from Penfield, Clearfield County.
"Yeah, I didn't get the memo," he laughed as he emerged from the Pirates Clubhouse Store with a newly purchased black postseason T-shirt.
"I was going to buy something to commemorate tonight anyway," he said. "And now I'll be part of the blackout."
Mena Louies, 28, of Allison Park arrived at the gate behind home plate at 2 p.m., waiting with his SRO tickets.
"I've got two more hours to go," said Mr. Louies, who was saving a spot for his buddy. "I'm surprised nobody else is in line, to be honest.
"Basically, we'll rush in and try to find a good spot. They have these stand-up tables down the third-base line. Ones you basically lean on. They have pretty good views from there. We'll either be there or up on the rotunda, depending on which is the better spot. We're in it to win it."
Andrew Olson, 17, and his friends -- Blake Schultz, 18, and Tyler Fitzgerald , 17 -- came with a game plan.
"We actually have season tickets and we bought playoff tickets and sold them," Mr. Fitzgerald said as he and his friends from Pine-Richland High School clutched the railing on the left-field rotunda. "Then we bought standing-room only tickets. So our original $25 tickets, we sold them for $120, and then bought these $20 tickets. We're making money to go to a playoff game."
Space was precious on the rotunda -- where they were lined two- and three-deep -- and everywhere else in the ballpark. An hour before the game, fans were hard-pressed -- literally -- to get through the mobs on the concourses between the concession and souvenir stands.
Yet as crowded as the house was, it was a remarkably pleasant evening. Alex Deselms, 21, and his girlfriend, Sam, wearing Reds jerseys, stood out in the crowd.
"I was kind of hoping to see this game played in Great American Ballpark, but it's cool to see a different park, too," said Mr. Deselms, who bought two tickets on the Internet and drove to Pittsburgh earlier in the day.
"This is my first time to Pittsburgh, and people seem OK," he said. "It's not like it's a Steelers game. Steelers fans travel pretty well."
Paul Gabriel, 45, of Allison Park and his friends noted the friendly atmosphere while tailgating in a parking lot across from PNC Park before the game.
"It's a different population," he said. "The guys who are down here for Steelers games are down here every week, they come down at 9 o'clock in the morning, they love the cold weather. Pirates fans are summer-weather fans, you know.
"Plus, it's a weekday game. It's late. You only have a couple hours. You have to go to work in the morning. So it's a little more laid-back, subdued. But it doesn't matter. They'll be pumped up for the game. It's one game for all the marbles. You gotta be psyched."
And they were.
Dan Majors: email@example.com or 412-263-1456. First Published October 2, 2013 4:45 AM