Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Decades-Long Absence Finally Ends for Bucs Fan 93-Year-Old Basks in PNC Park Glory Thanks to Family

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Decades-Long Absence Finally Ends for Bucs Fan 93-Year-Old Basks in PNC Park Glory Thanks to Family

Article excerpt

Esther McNeal has been a Pirates fanatic for most of her 93 years as a Pittsburgher. But she has only ever been in the stands for one game, and that was more than a half-century ago, when her beloved Bucs played at Forbes Field in Oakland.

The busy mother of four never had enough time for a trip to the city to indulge her passion.

Instead, "we watched all the games on television," said Mrs. McNeal, of Harrison City, Westmoreland County, "or listened to them on the radio if we didn't have a TV."

That sad fact didn't sit too well with her granddaughter Cindy Shtur, who despite a move to San Diego 15 years ago also is a hard- core Pirates fan.

"My grandmother knows more about baseball than most people," she said, "including all their names and their statistics."

So Sunday, after months of planning, Ms. Shtur made good on a promise she made to herself years ago to get her grandma off the couch and into PNC Park for a game.

Following lunch at the ballpark's swanky Lexus Club, Mrs. McNeal and her family got to watch the Pirates take on the Washington Nationals from cushy seats behind home plate. They also got to briefly hang out in the Pirates' dugout before walking onto the field before the first pitch, where the still spry, 4-foot-7-inch nonagenarian decked out in a bright-yellow Pirates T-shirt and "Raise the Jolly Roger" button was honored as one of the team's Fans of the Day.

The best part? Everything other than the tickets came as a complete surprise to Mrs. McNeal, who was so thrilled by the prospect of seeing the Pirates in person that she got her hair done and slept all night on her back to keep it looking just so.

"It's just so exciting," she said of getting to walk on the field and sit in the team's bench area, where she chatted (and offered pitching advice) with manager Clint Hurdle. …

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