Pirates' Push For The Postseason Translating To Increases Across All Metrics
The Pirates are nearing their first postseason appearance since '92, and "growing enthusiasm" for the team is "most evident at the box office," according to a sports section cover story by Carmen Gentile of USA TODAY. Once one of "the worst draws in baseball, the Pirates have sold out a record 20 games this year and have the second-highest attendance" since PNC Park opened in '01. Team officials said that attendance over the last few months "has averaged 32,576 fans a game." In previous years, when the Pirates "were well out of the playoff race, 10,000 or less often showed up for a September game." Fans at home "are tuned in, too." Local TV viewership has "jumped 22% vs. last year, making this season the highest rated of all time." The Pirates currently rank third among MLB teams in local viewership. The club has "developed a substantial following on Facebook as well, and not just in the city itself." Fans of the Pirates' team page "have jumped 75% to 454,000 the past two years." Facebook data shows that while "most live in the Pittsburgh area, 19 of the top 50 cities for Pirates fans (roughly 38%) are outside Pennsylvania." MLB.com data shows that team merchandise sales "are up 53% from last year," the fourth-largest increase among MLB teams this year. The growing support for the Pirates "isn't going unnoticed in the clubhouse." Pirates 2B Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native, said that the "renewed interest is a big boost for a club hoping to add their own chapter to a storied franchise that dominated the sporting landscape here for decades until the Steelers rose to prominence" (USA TODAY, 9/20).
FOR HE'S A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW: In Pittsburgh, David Templeton in a front-page piece reports fans are buying Jolly Roger flags "by the thousands, with Pirates retail sales now equaling those of the Steelers, even with the NFL season underway." Pittsburgh-area retail store Yinzers Owner Jim Coen said that he has "sold out of the flag several times, with 500 flags flying out the door weekly." Coen: "It's getting to the point where it's like the Terrible Towel." A major flag supplier indicated that 5,000 Jolly Roger flags "were sold last week and 'all went to Pittsburgh.'" Coen: "This time of year traditionally we're trying to give Pirates stuff away. Now I'm trying to get as much as I can get, Jolly Roger-wise." Local retailer Pittsburgh Fan manager Michael Romano said that the store is "selling 100 flags daily, making it its No. 1 selling item." Pirates Senior Dir of Communications Brian Warecki said that the Pirates "own the phrase as a trademark." However, the team "holds no rights to the historical skull and crossbones image" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/20).