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Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 win: A science-fictional notion

From the Synchronicity Department comes a neat little tidbit from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality Inc. (You know, the book they totally warped to make the awesomely weird Freejack.)

While the American sports world is currently looking back 50 years to the famous World Series game seven which had scrappy underdogs the Pittsburgh Pirates upending the monstrous New York Yankees, baseball nuts were further geeked by the revelation of a pristine copy of the game courtesy Bing Crosby’s vault.

(For the record, BuckBokai believes the greatest MLB game ever played was game seven of the 1991 World Series, hopefully to receive much press next year in its 20th anniversary.)

Aside from recording one of the greatest upsets in World Series history, the Pirates’ win also notably ended a 35-year run of futility, seemingly a big deal but compare the Pittsburgh dry spell to other such “celebrated” streaks recorded in MLB history.

Smiling since 1960

Chicago Cubs: 102 years (1908-present)

Chicago White Sox: 88 years (1917-2005)

Boston Red Sox: 86 years (1918-2004)

Brooklyn Dodgers: 65 years (1890-1955)

Cleveland: 62 years (1948-present)

New York/San Francisco Giants: 53 years (1957-present)

Washington Senators II/Texas Rangers: 49 years (1961-present and beyond, it seems today)

Houston Astros: 48 years (1962-present)

San Diego Padres: 41 years (1969-present)

Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers: 41 years (1969-present)

How improbable was a Pirates win in the ‘Series – any World Series, much less against Mickey Mantle’s Bronx Bombers – thought to be? Through the prism of Sheckley’s prose, first serialized in 1958 and being read by BuckBokai at present, we get:

“‘Well, let’s see. 1958. They put a ship on the moon somewhere around 1960, and landed on Mars ten years later. Then we had that quickie war with Russia over the asteroids – strictly a deep-space affair. Or was it with China?

“ ‘…Then Kralski took over the work [on afterlife technology] at Vilna, and shoved it ahead some. That was in 1987, the year the Pirates won their first World Series. Around 2000 there was Von Leddner. Outlined the general theory of the hereafter, but didn’t have any proofs…”

How unthinkable was a Pirates’ World Series flag to Sheckley? His character has trouble recalling the year of the moon landing and whether 150 years ago his society was at war with Eurasia or Eastasia – but a 62-year run snapping? He’s got that fact pinned down 123 years later. One wonders how much of a baseball fan Sheckley was, however, apparently having forgotten Pirates titles in 1909 and 1925. Unless he was projecting a dynastic run, i.e. meaning to express “…the Pirates run their first World Series [on their dominant run].”

Incidentally, too, Immortality Inc. is set in New York City. And Sheckley was a Brooklynite.

Of course, as BuckBokai knows from the All-Time Great Future Baseball Teams list, the use of freaky clubs winning the World Series (like the Pirates Sheckley’s 50s, the Red Sox right through the 90s, and the Cubs probably forever) or expansion to far-flung locales (Florida in the Back-to-the-Future 1980s, London and Tokyo in further-looking science-fiction of the 90s) is nice shorthand for “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

It’s the greatest sports trope in science-fiction: Right up there with the now-dead notion of Hollywood using an African-American president to denote the 30th century. Nothing in sports says “The future is here and now” like some perpetual beatdog rising up on the playing field, it seems.

Anyone besides BuckBokai cheering for Rangers-Giants…? Probably Von Leddner, wherever he is…


  1. Rangers vs. Giants World Series: The future is here | Buck Bokai - [...] the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates to which BuckBokai devoted an earlier entry, the Giants and Rangers are seeking to break…

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