Long, bumpy journey to the top for two in St. Louis

Busch Stadium employee, Pirates fan cherish Game 2 for different reasons



ST. LOUIS -- You might say Mary Colombatto's years working for the St. Louis Cardinals have been a bit up and down.

That's literal. Not metaphorical.

Colombatto has been the team's elevator operator since 2000, and an usher for four years before that, and will retire at the end of this season at 74.

Or, as she optimistically puts it from her chair at the controls: "I'm going to finish out when the World Series is over."

Judging by the dozen of handwritten signs and baseball puns hanging in her game-day hangout, she will be missed.

"Hope you score a home run in your retirement!" reads one. "There will be a lot less stops in your future" reads another.

Or how about: "Hope your retirement is a 'hit' out of the park."

Clever enough for a former second-grade teacher, who said she is retiring for health reasons.

"Is this is it for you, Mary?" asked one passenger going up before Game 2 of Friday's 1:07 p.m. start.

"Yes it is," she replied, in the sweetest of tones. "Thank you."

Everyone, it seems, knows Mary.

And Mary knows everyone.

"I really do. I know all their faces but I don't know all their names," she admitted.

It stopped no one from thanking her by name as she rode up and down transporting everyone from food service attendants to reporters and fans decked in Cardinal red clutching their ticket.

It has been, she said, quite a ride. And she will miss it dearly.

"Oh yes," she said. "I'm really going to."

Pirates fan in a sea of red

Since Pirates fan Perry Boone moved to the St. Louis area in 1989, he has seen a lot of losses.

"Definitely when Pujols was around," Boone said, a reference to former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who terrorized the Pirates and every other National League Central team.

But that never kept Boone, 43, away from Busch Stadium -- the old or the new one. Through 20 years of the Pirates' losing seasons, Boone always tried to make one game every series the Pirates played in St. Louis.

He always wore his Pirates apparel, sticking out in a sea of red.

"I've always been proud of being a Pirates fan," Boone said. "Even during the losing seasons. I'll always remember [Willie] Stargell and [Dave] Parker. And I've been told I was in attendance for some of [Roberto] Clemente's game, but I was too young to remember. Just to be a part of the Pittsburgh roots and traditions has been terrific."

Boone never lived in Western Pennsylvania. He was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., near Philadelphia. But his parents were from Penn Hills and raised him a Pirates fan.

As a teenager, Boone moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and though he was farther from Pittsburgh, he created more ties to the Pirates. He took to prom a woman who later became Pirates reliever Tony Watson's aunt, and Watson's grandfather was a coach at the high school.

Today, he works as an energy engineer for Lockheed Martin, the aerospace and defense outfit. In St. Louis, he is surrounded by Cardinals fans and is even married to one. And while they tease him from time to time, it's not nearly as bad as they treat Cubs and Reds fans.

He and his brother, Tim, took in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium -- Perry wore a gray "Pittsburgh" road jersey and Tim wore a black shirt. While they were joined early by dozens of fans near the Pirates bullpen as the team warmed up, eventually they were swarmed by thousands of red-clad fans.

Boone thought last year, not this one, would be the season the Pirates finally broke their streak of losing seasons. And after the start to this year, he wasn't optimistic about their chances this season.

"It has been a tough 20 years, but really it's just a dream that this is happening," Boone said. "After a 1-5 start, I never dreamed that they would get this far. But here they are."

pirates

Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published October 5, 2013 4:00 AM


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