|Pirates fans group pushing in-game walkout Saturday|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 29 June 2007 13:31|
With only the third capacity crowd of the season expected for a Bob Walk bobblehead doll giveaway Saturday night, some longtime rooters led by businessman Andy Chomos of Wexford, Pa., want those attending the game against Washington to walk out in protest of ownership's perceived lack of direction.
Fans are being urged to wear green - to represent ownership's lack of financial commitment to fielding a winning team - and leave their seats after the third inning.
The Chomos-led group called Fans for Change wants protesting fans to either exit the ballpark or stay away at least one inning, with the empty seats they create representing the supposed empty promises the Pirates have made to them.
The Pirates once were one of the majors' most successful franchises, winning three World Series from 1960-79 while regularly contending during that time. But they haven't had an above-.500 season since winning the last of three consecutive NL East titles under former manager Jim Leyland in 1992, also Barry Bonds' final year with the team.
If the Pirates finish below .500 this season, they will go into next season with a chance of equaling the Phillies' major-league record of 16 consecutive losing seasons set 60 years ago.
This is the 12th consecutive losing season since newspaper heir Kevin McClatchy's group bought the franchise in 1996, possibly preventing it from relocating. McClatchy's majority stake has since been acquired by newspaper owner G. Ogden Nutting's family of Wheeling, W.Va., with son Bob Nutting serving as principal owner.
During those losing seasons under McClatchy and the Nuttings, Chomos said Pirates fans have been deceived with the notion that 6-year-old PNC Park - one of the finest in the majors and the site of last year's All-Star Game - would solve the club's economic problems and allow the club to compete with richer clubs such as the Cubs and Cardinals.
At the same time, Chomos said fans have been ``dumbed down'' to believe they should be satisfied with moderate success on the field and numerous giveaways.
``Bobbleheads, beach blankets, trinkets, we all have enough stuff in our homes,'' Chomos said.
He also wants ownership to reveal its plans for the future so season ticket holders can decide whether to renew their seats. The Pirates' payroll of around $40 million is the fourth lowest in the majors and has been among the lowest since McClatchy first bought the team.
Chomos and his backers plan to rally support for their walkout with a 5 p.m. rally Saturday outside of PNC Park. The protest may be having an effect - when it was announced before Friday's game that it was yet another fireworks night promotion, some fans in PNC Park booed.
``I appreciate the passion of all of our fans and their frustration with the team's performance,'' Bob Nutting said Friday in a team-issued statement. ``Frankly, we all share in this frustration. Everyone throughout the organization understands the expectation and needs to perform.''
The effort is the most organized in years to stir up unhappy Pirates supporters, but it may be difficult to judge how successful it is because fans are not being told to leave the ballpark.
The Pirates are aware of the protest plans, but have said little about it other than Nutting's statement. Their announcers did not discuss it during a nine-game road trip that ended Thursday, and TV rights holder FSN Pittsburgh does not plan to show the walkout during its game telecast Saturday.
In his statement, Nutting said the Pirates' focus remains on 2007, even though they have been well below .500 nearly all season.
``I have not lost faith in the team or our core group of young players,'' Nutting said. ``There is still a lot of baseball to be played. Our focus as an organization remains on winning games.''