For Sean Irwin of Regent Square, it was one last chance to roll out the charcoal grill, sip some pre-noon beer and pitch a few games of cornhole in the parking lot at PNC Park.
Mr. Irwin's was one of a smattering of tailgate parties preceding the final game of a Pirates' season of highs and lows. A modest crowd that was thick with Atlanta Braves fans streamed into the ballpark for the 12:35 p.m. game as the hometown team extended its notorious streak of losing seasons to 20.
Still, there was plenty of optimism wafting through the barbecue smoke.
Fans react as Pirates' season draws to close
The Pirates' 2012 season ended with a 4-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Even in the face of a 20th consecutive year of losing records, some fans remain optimistic. (Video by Jon Schmitz; 10-3-2012)
"Regardless of the outcome it's been a pretty awesome season," said Mr. Irwin, wearing a Pirates' A.J. Burnett jersey in tribute to the team's best pitcher. "It's disappointing that we're not going to have a winning season, but they've taken a lot of strides toward having a winning team."
Elsewhere in the lot, Shawn Kerestus of Penn Hills was taking a vacation day that was planned in headier days before the Pirates collectively walked the plank.
"I actually bought these tickets when they were winning, well above .500. The team kind of went downhill, but I said what the hell, I'll come out one last time," he said.
Brandon Rieck and Josh Fernandes, both Atlanta fans, drove six hours from Kitchener, Ontario, to see the final regular-season game of Braves third baseman Chipper Jones' storied career. "I booked these (tickets) the day he announced his retirement," Mr. Rieck said. Mr. Jones entered the game as a pinch hitter and rapped a hard single to right.
Mr. Rieck noted that the Pirates' two decades of losing began with Sid Bream's slide across home plate that gave the Braves a ninth-inning win in the deciding game of the 1992 National League Championship Series.
Inside the ballpark, Randy Lee Schrecongost of Dayton, Armstrong County, joked that the Pirates' fortunes turned sour after he washed his favorite ball cap. "I am the one everyone in Pittsburgh is looking for. Don't give 'em my address. Just tell 'em I'm the guy to blame," he said.
Stadium usher Al Jaklic of Ross, working Section 132, praised the fans for sticking with the team when things got tough.
Closing the ballpark for the year "is kind of sad," he said. "But it was a very enjoyable season."neigh_city - pirates