Pittsburgh Pirates’ Rivalry

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Rivalry

All sports teams have rivalries, it’s part of the fun and the excitement.  The Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies had what is considered to be one of the most intense rivalries in the National League.  Both teams are nearly as old as the game itself and their close geographic proximity keeps the feud alive despite their modern day separation in the National League structure.

The Pirates joined the National League in 1887, four years behind the Phillies.  The two teams lived and played right next door to each other, even when the National League adopted a divisional organization, until 1994.  During this time the two teams were rarely good at the same time; but between the two of them they accounted for 15 of the 25 divisional championships between 1969 and 1993.  In 1992 the Pirates and Phillies faced off 18 times.  The next year the National League added the Florida Marlins and the Pirates and Phillies only met 13 times.  1994 marked the virtual end of the Pirates—Phillies rivalry when the National League realigned into three divisions.  The Pirates gave up their spot in the East to the Atlanta Braves and moved into the Central division.

The Pirates chose to make the move partly because it moved them into the same division as their NFL counterpart, the Steelers, and partly because their marketing department, so they claimed, saw no difference between the East and Central divisions and believed they had just as many rivalries in the Central.  The Phillies lamented the loss of the 104 year, in-state rivalry, but weren’t completely abandoned because they could then focus on their rivalry with the New York Mets.  This was the beginning of a decline for the Pirates anyway.  After losing to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series the Pirates lost Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek and proceeded into an all-sport record streak of 19 losing seasons.  Players and fans believe a reignited rivalry with the Phillies is exactly what the team needs to find their fire again.


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