Commentary

Beat 'em, Bucs: With enthusiasm!

Actor Michael Keaton brings his passion to the Pirates' pennant race

Updated: October 10, 2013, 8:03 PM ET
By Michael Keaton | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: You know him as the star of films such as "Night Shift," "Mr. Mom," "Johnny Dangerously," "The Dream Team," "Clean and Sober," "Beetlejuice," "Multiplicity," "Clear History," "Batman" and "Batman Returns," among others; and he is starring in the upcoming films "Robocop" and "Birdman," to be released in 2014. In his life off the screen, Michael Keaton is a long-standing fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the Steelers and Penguins. As the Pirates wrap up their first winning season in 20 years and race toward the playoffs, Keaton is chronicling his excitement in a series of dispatches for ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @MichaelKeaton.

Thursday, Oct. 10, 6:29 p.m. ET

Text from my kid, Sean: "Tough one yesterday. Sorry Dad."

Five months, three weeks to game time. March 31, 2014, vs. the Cubs. ________ takes the mound for Pittsburgh.

Beat 'em Bucs.

-- MKDouglas

Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7:05 p.m. ET

Nailed it. Off the set. In the trailer for pregame. Backs against the wall. Just how we like it.

An hour to game time. The 'Cole Train' goes for the Pirates. Beat 'em Bucs!

-- MKDouglas

Wednesday, Oct. 9, 4:30 p.m. ET

I'm hanging from eight cables hung from the ceiling of a soundstage in Montreal. My line is, "You built up a bank account and a reputation and now it's all gone."

But I say, "You built up a Marte and a reputation and now it's all Cole."

Now, I consider myself a pro and a man who when his back's against the wall and the pressure's on, has a focus that is ironclad. Well, the sooner I get this speech down, the sooner I get out of this rig, off the stage and back to my trailer where I've managed to get my TV hooked up. But, right now, this speech is long, I've got blood rushing to my head and I've got various lineups and batting orders running though my mind.

I need to bear down. Sit tight.

Monday, Oct. 7, 3:10 p.m. ET

I've never been moved or influenced by who or what is popular over who or what is good, talented, courageous, decent, etc. It's quality, not quantity. That Cardinal-Pirate game last night was about as well-played a playoff baseball game as you'll see, and it has now officially made Pittsburgh a "popular" baseball team.

But for me, what was more impressive was something that occurred just before the game officially started.

[+] EnlargeKevin McClatchy
Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty ImagesKevin McClatchy at PNC Park in 2006, a year before he sold the Pirates.

Some background. This is a city that prides itself on its well-deserved toughness, its no-nonsense attitude, its family-and-friends-oriented loyalty. I find cities that were historically very dependent on their immigrants (which is to say, almost every American city) to be that way. Pittsburgh has also been a city, like others, that can be very provincial. It can be hesitant to be open to progressive thinking. This is changing.

Under the McClatchy ownership, the Pirates were dismal and headed south. This is not news; everyone knows it. But the fans were beyond patient, and Kevin McClatchy kept his promise and managed to position the Pirates to stay in the city.

But possibly more significant is the fact that in a city known for its working-class toughness and in a business thick with machismo, McClatchy had the guts to come out as gay and finally be who he was. I know -- others, including athletes themselves, have done it. But to the best of my knowledge, not in Pittsburgh. McClatchy's lifestyle was pretty much an open secret in town. I have asked many of my friends and family more than once if they ever recalled criticism, teasing, ridicule or anyone making fun of him. To the person, they said no. I'm sure it happened somewhere, at some time, but I NEVER heard it and neither had they.

On Sunday night, 40,000 stood as Kevin McClatchy threw out the first pitch. That's class. That's a city on the move.

Now it's time for Pittsburgh to stand up and take a bow. If this is what it takes to be "popular," that's OK. But to me, that's what it takes to be good. The day this country can do the same for racial equality will be a great day, indeed.

Morton is going for the Pirates, right now. Beat 'em Bucs.

--MKDouglas

Sunday, Oct. 6, 1:15 p.m. ET

I like my A.J. Burnett ornery. With an attitude. One tough outing will not make him back down. That's what we'll see in his next start. An attitude. A chip.

I was a tad ornery myself the other day when I woke up to more than 2 feet of snow in Montana and no power for 15 hours. No power. No power means no TV. No TV means no baseball.

After spending most of Friday shaking snow off trees, trying to save them, and digging my four-wheeler and my truck out -- TWICE -- I got back in the house just as the power came back on. Checked out ESPN. Bucs win! OK. The day just got a whole lot better. After a 9-1 loss, THAT'S an answer!

I walk along this bridge, along with about 40,000 others. Bucs throw Frankie Liriano today.

Beat 'em Bucs!

-- MKeaton Douglas

Monday, Sept. 30, 12:30 p.m. ET

If pressed. If asked to take a minute and really think about the one word that describes manager Clint Hurdle and makes Pirates fans from Moon Run to Polish Hill relate to and appreciate him, my word would be "authentic." If you say, "OK, now give me three words," they would be "the real deal."

[+] EnlargeClint Hurdle
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPittsburgh and Clint Hurdle: a match made for the playoffs.

I just sense it about him. In the dugout, he seems to walk that fine line between/along being a father, a pal, a big brother, a counselor and a leader. Off the field, he is known to get standing ovations in a Starbucks or a Kroger supermarket. No bulls---/phony "aw shucks" attitude; and conversely, no arrogance. Acceptance and appreciation.

And the appreciation goes both ways. My brother Paul witnessed as much recently when he shook his hand and thanked him for doing a great job, and all Clint wanted to talk about was how great "these kids" – as he put it – are, and how much he loves his team.

McCutchen is the MVP, regardless of how the ballots come out. Starling Marte, in the hands of a mentor, has the makings of a big star -- shades of Puig and occasionally subtle tones of (and I'm about to enter sacred territory here) The Great One. But it will be Clint Hurdle who, to the joy of the fans and his players alike, will stand front and center to the applause in PNC Park Tuesday night.

The Pirates are coming home and so am I. Beat 'em Bucs.

-- MKD

Friday, Sept. 27, 5:15 p.m. ET

The baseball playoff picture can get pretty confusing. Hoping to clarify things, my sister Pam emailed me the following. For her, here's how it breaks down:

A.

• If the Pirates win two (or three) against the Reds, the wild-card game is in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have an outside shot at winning the division, but have to win four straight games (including a Monday playoff game versus the Cardinals) and the Cardinals have to lose four straight.

• If the Reds win two games, they hold the tiebreaker over the Pirates and the wild-card game is in Cinci.

B.

If it rains in Pittsburgh, and the temperature hovers in the 60s with sunny skies in Cincinnati for three consecutive days, the wild card is in Cinci.

C.

If we have a government shutdown AND the debt ceiling is not raised -- jobs will be lost, the stock exchange will go crazy, peoples' portfolios will crumble -- then no one will be able to afford to go to a baseball game and sports will be the last thing on anyone's mind.

So, there ya go. By the way, Cincinnati is the hometown of John "Let's Shut Down the Government" Boehner. Now, how badly do you want to beat the Reds?

Burnett takes the mound for the Pirates on Friday. Get there early. Ted Cruz throws out the first pitch AND reads from Dr. Seuss.

Beat 'em Bucs!

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 12:15 p.m. ET

No words to express how happy I am for all the Pirate fans! For me, THIS is what this is all about. This great town deserves it!

Spent most of the game as I often do. Pacing. Talking to the TV and myself, on the phone with my brothers and sister, trying to figure out what it's going to cost me flying back and forth from three more days on the movie "Birdman" in Montreal (where Clemente started, by the way) and Pittsburgh for the playoffs. That's right. The playoffS. Plural. Then glancing down at my dogs, who were looking at me like I was out of my mind.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh Pirates celebrate
Michael Keaton for ESPN.comSomewhere in this room, Michael Keaton's dogs are wondering what's happened to their master.

One of the Pirates announcers about half-apologized for having been critical of the direction, or lack of direction, of the team in the past. Many, many people were. He and others had a right to criticize. Note, though: Huntington and Nutting weren't actually there (or responsible) for most of the really miserable seasons. The most acute criticism didn't really happen until about the past four or five years, but 15 seasons is a long time to wait. Let alone 20. You want to talk about patience?!!

But the organization listened and they deserve credit for doing so. The past is the past -- let it go. We became that team that I had always wanted us to be -- the one whose name on the schedule makes other teams' hearts sink a little when they look at who they face next.

I said earlier that Nutting, Huntington, et al deserve a standing ovation regardless of how this season ends. Well, now we at least know how it doesn't end, and no one is happier than I am. So, everyone -- every long-suffering fan -- stand up and give yourselves a standing ovation, as well. Enjoy it.

Me? I'm not done yet. We're only two down to the Cardinals in the division. Do we need bats? Yes. We do have J. Grilli and Burnett, each of whom, I'm guessing, is THAT GUY in the clubhouse, the one you need right now. Intense, focused competitors who can keep everyone's heads just where they need to be. Yes.

I'm not sitting down yet. I was in Three Rivers Stadium in '79 when we were down three games to one to a great Baltimore Orioles team and we won it all. So, I'm ready to be on my feet all through October.

Cole takes the mound tonight against the Cubs. Eight hours to game time. I've got to go stretch. Beat 'em Bucs.

-- Michael Keaton Douglas

Monday, Sept. 23, 3:15 p.m. ET

I was always more of a word guy than a number(s) guy. Ask any math teacher I ever had, and they will back me up on this. (A small trickle of sweat just rolled down my back.) But word problems were always a conundrum I liked.

There's a good word: "conundrum."

"Immaculate" is a good word. "Yogurt" is not a good word. Terrific food. Helpful in providing your gut with the good bacteria. But not a good word. It just isn't.

By the way, while sounding very ugly at first blush, "gut" is a good word AND a word that is a noun often used as a verb -- sometimes you just have to gut these things out. "Summer" is one of those words. There are people who actually "summer" in places. They "summer" in the Hamptons. They "summer" in Switzerland.

In Pittsburgh, you pretty much "summered" the same place you "wintered," "autumned" and "springed" (sprung?). The woods, a park, a pool hall, a friend's backyard or maybe the Polish American Club in "The Bottoms." Which is where I last saw my Irish parish priest. At the bar with a scotch in front of him. I'm wandering.

Numbers? Not much of an appeal for me. Granted, they're useful. You know, GDP and all that. But … I am an inconsistent meditator, and when counting breaths, I count. Often, I see uniforms with numbers on them. Jim Taylor, No. 31. My brother Paul's high school football uniform, No. 56, etc. If there IS a number that stands out to me, it would have to be 21. The Great One. Roberto Clemente. Way too much to go into about that here and now. More on this later.

For now, the number I have in my head is 2. The magic number is 2.

Charlie Morton goes for the Pirates against the Cubs tonight. Beat 'em Bucs.

-- MKD

Friday, Sept. 20, 1:15 p.m. ET

About midseason LAST year, I made the statement (I may have tweeted it; hard to remember out of all of about 11 tweets I've made in my life) that the Pirates were not a fluke. Despite their painful finish, I was not wrong. They were well into a rebuilding process about which even I'd had doubts. But it worked; and regardless of what happens with the remainder of this extraordinarily fun season, Neal Huntington, Bob Nutting and Clint Hurdle (and whoever had the guts to make some of this year's moves) should come out of the dugout for a curtain call and get a standing ovation along with the team itself.

Big win yesterday. How about that catch by Sanchez?! Check it out here.

I'd just come out of the fetal position after Wednesday night's heartbreaker against the Padres. I haven't gone into the fetal position since … well, since I was a fetus, I guess.

Liriano -- the Man's a dude -- goes for Pittsburgh tonight. Do I even have to say anything about this series? Six hours 'til game time. Enough time to take my little setter out and see if we can find some partridge for dinner. Beat 'em Bucs.

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 5 p.m. ET

I'd like to start this in the most dysfunctional way by assigning blame to my brother George rather than accepting responsibility for my lifelong "enthusiasm" for the Pirates. Let's forget for a moment that my natural-born "enthusiasm" has been described as extreme, contagious and intense, making me -- in the eyes of our childhood neighbor Mrs. Potter, the matriarch of a household not exactly known for its "enthusiasm" over anything -- peculiar.

So, for now … yeah, let's blame it on George. And here's why.

[+] EnlargeMazeroski
AP Photo/Harry HarrisBill Mazeroski's approach to home plate wasn't any more exuberant than Michael Keaton's brother's joyous dance through his Forest Grove, Pa., neighborhood.

I was getting off the bus from St. Malachy grade school in Forest Grove outside Pittsburgh on an October afternoon when I saw him running toward me, jumping up and down and waving his arm in the air yelling "The Pirates won the Series! The Pirates won the World Series!" Because he was running right at me, I naturally assumed he was on his way to greet me with the good news. But he ran right past me, and I watched him disappear down Forest Grove Road jumping up and down, alerting the neighborhood. He looked like an insane, 12-year-old version of Paul Revere. George, never light on his supply of enthusiasm, would have yelled, Good news, gang! The British are coming, and they're wearing bright red coats so they'll be real easy to shoot!

He was the only one of seven kids who was born at home -- in the house -- thereby dodging the grim vibe of the hospital. Maybe that explains it.

We didn't see him again that day until well after supper -- yes, i still call it supper -- when we all excitedly discussed the Pirates win.

Until October 1960, my interest in sports was minimal. But seeing George's unbridled joy and excitement led not just to a lifelong love of sports but also to showing up a half hour early to baseball practice (getting there on foot many times), to an obsessive breaking-in of my infielder's glove, to a deep, soulful pride in coming home in a filthy, dirty uniform, to mornings spent checking box scores, to evenings spent drawing pictures of Clemente, Virdon and others (copying the style of the great drawings of John Johns from the Pittsburgh Press), to locker combinations of 2827 (bucs), to naming a pet rabbit (who I caught chewing on a lamp one day) Bill Mazeroski, to baseball-softball-hockey league uniforms with the No. 9 until I was over 40 years old, to all Pittsburgh sports teams and probably to all things Pittsburgh.

Before 1960, before my brother's Revere-like run, my "enthusiasm" centered mostly on reading about, drawing pictures of or acting out scenes from anything involving cowboys, war stories, detective movies, adventure stories or anything about the west or horses. Anything where the good guys (or good horses) won.

In 1960, the good guys won. St. George slayed a dragon. St. Michael beat down Lucifer. And on a beautiful afternoon in 1960, in Pittsburgh, Pa., Bill "Maz" Mazeroski hit a home run over the head of Yogi Berra to win the World Series.

So if you're wondering if I've jumped on the bandwagon … yeah. I've been on it for more than 50 years. Morton takes the mound for the Bucs against the Padres at PNC park. Two hours to game time.

Beat 'em Bucs. Let's talk later.

-- Michael Keaton Douglas

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