MILWAUKEE - Toast them with a bottle of Iron City. Wear that 1970s-era Pittsburgh painter's cap with pride. Celebrate the end of "The Streak."
Just don't expect the Pirates to join in the fun. There's an NL Central title to win.
The Pirates ended their 20-year run of losing baseball Tuesday night, reaching the 81-win mark with a 4-3 victory at Miller Park.
"I've won 81 games before, and this team is going to win more than 81 games. A lot more," newly acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd said before Wednesday night's game at Milwaukee.
Win No. 82 will have to wait.
The Pirates lost 9-3 in game interrupted for a couple minutes in the fifth after Brewers starter Wily Peralta (9-14) plunked left-handed cleanup hitter Justin Morneau in the forearm following Andrew McCutchen's 19th homer of the year.
Morneau slowly walked to first and gestured to Peralta. The benches emptied and relievers scurried in from bullpens as far as short right and left, but the umpires quickly took control and the teams never got close to making any physical contact.
Still, the determined Pirates showed some spunk. "It's about changing the culture, and they've done that the past two years," Byrd said. "This was inevitable that this team was going to get to this point." Easy for him to say. He recently joined the club, obtained from the Mets in a deal to bolster the lineup for the playoff push.
Second baseman Neil Walker, on the other hand, is a little more passionate. He grew up in Pittsburgh and still lives in the Steel City.
Walker was bombarded with messages on his Twitter account Tuesday night. "To be part of this group that has righted the ship, per se, in the win column is pretty significant. I don't think anybody is going to admit that too much in here just because baseball players are so superstitious," Walker said. "But the fact that I've lived and breathed Pirates baseball since I can remember, being a baseball fan since I was 5 or 6 years old, it holds a little more significance to me."
Left-handed starter Francisco Liriano (15-7) gave up seven runs, seven hits and two wild pitches in three innings Wednesday. Trailing 7-3, the Pirates loaded the bases in the seventh to bring up the tying run with two outs, but reliever Donovan Hand got John Buck to fly out to right-center to end the inning.
Closer Jason Grilli, in his first appearance since July 22 after coming off the DL for a right forearm strain, allowed a hit and struck out two in the eighth.
The Pirates took a one-game lead over the Cardinals into a three-game series in St. Louis. Cincinnati was 3 3 1/2 games back after a 16-inning loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh is aiming to finish first and avoid a best-of-one matchup between wild cards.
No matter what, at least the Pirates don't have to answer any more questions about the drought.
In western Pennsylvania, "The Streak" made one segment of fans miserable. Others viewed the franchise like lovable losers, the "Bad News Bears" of sorts of the majors.
The Pirates went 20 years, 11 months and 26 days since they last had 81 wins in a season. More perspective on the two-decade run of misery since 1992: -The Pirates were 1,374-1,796 during the streak for a .437 winning percentage. -The Penguins and Steelers had seven losing seasons combined during that period. -The franchise went through three ownership groups and seven managers, including current skipper Clint Hurdle.
Hurdle said he was humbled by all the messages that he had received. "And they're not from my buddies. They're actually from people that we've come to know in the North Hills (suburbs) and the city of Pittsburgh that have reached out," he said. "The emails and texts are quite meaningful." After the win, Hurdle said he was especially happy for the family of Roberto Clemente, the late Hall of Famer who wore No. 21.
"They told me earlier in the season that we can't have 21 losing seasons, that we've got to find a way to not have Roberto's number tied to that," Hurdle said. "I told them we'd find a way to take care of that. It's been taken care of."
The Pirates seemed loose before Wednesday's game, but there were no cases of champagne waiting on ice. No trophy in another room waiting to be presented in a pregame ceremony.
Outfielder Travis Snider, whose pinch-hit homer in the ninth led to Tuesday's win, talked fantasy football. Others watched the ever-present baseball highlights on the big-screen TVs.
Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates' MVP candidate, put it best. He posted a simple message on his Twitter account shortly after the Pirates got win No. 81. "Keep going ..."
MINOCQUA - You know summer in the Northwoods will soon be here when seasonal businesses start opening up again.
Wildwood Wildlife Park opened up Saturday in Minocqua.
Hundreds of people rushed to the gate today to see all different types of animals, some local and some exotic.
"We are so busy today but it's a beautiful day to come out to Wildwood," said the park's director Judy Domaszek. "This is one of our baby aoudads, it's an African sheep, and as you can see in the background there are many people busy playing with the baby goats, and the sheep and the pigs and the tortoises, and they're just enjoying their day."
On Saturday the park had a giraffe feeding.
Workers also have been renovating and expanding the park.
The park has many new animals on the way, including some baby animals that were born there.
"The mouflon sheep are new, we've got some new reptiles, we have some new babies that we're going to have down in the nursery in a little while," Domaszek said. "We actually had a baby badger born here at the zoo. And we have a baby kangaroo. Those guys are all coming down when it's safe to come down."
Wildwood is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Then after Memorial Day the park stays open till 5:30 p.m. for the summer.
NORTHWOODS - Prescription drugs play an important role in our health.
They help us recover if we're sick, cope if we have a chronic condition and help manage pain.
But those drugs can expire or just stay in the back of our medicine cabinets for months or years.
And if those drugs get into the wrong hands—such as toddlers or abusers—that's a problem.
That's why many local police and sheriff's departments participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back program.
It's run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Saturday was National Take-Back Day.
"We're keeping the controlled substances in the hands they're supposed to be in, especially with the pill epidemic now, it's important that these stay out of the hands of people that are abusing them," said Minocqua Police Officer Matthew Tate.
Several area police departments hosted drop-offs Saturday.
You can drop off prescription or over-the-counter pills, ointments, patches, non-aerosol sprays, vials and pet medications. You cannot bring in inhalers or aerosol cans, and you cannot drop off illegal drugs or needles.
All the drugs are brought to the state Department of Justice where they will be incinerated.
That's better than just flushing them or throwing them out in the trash.
"It's very important that it's not getting into our ground water is the main thing," Tate said. "We just don't want people dumping them in toilets or in their garbage."
If you have prescription drugs you want to get rid of safely, don't worry if you missed Saturday's opportunity. Many area police stations have drug drop-off bins in their lobbies, so you can drop them off any time of the year.
MINOCQUA - Lakeland and Antigo generally square off as rivals in Great Northern Conference competition. But on Friday, nearly a week removed from the prom shootings in Antigo, Lakeland wanted to show that it was on Antigo's side.
"It's hard to react to something like this, because you want to be concerned, and you want to help, but it's hard to know how to help," said Maggie Laurence, a Lakeland sophomore and Student Council member.
Disclaimer: All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed and should be independently verified. Rockfleet Broadcasting / Northland Television, Inc. and By Request Web Designs shall not be held responsible for any typographical errors, misinformation, or misprints.