04/06/11 6:00 PM ET
Bucs fans' streaks decades in the making
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
These four aren't likely to stand out in a home opener crowd that is expected to exceed 37,000 at PNC Park on Thursday, when the Pirates take on the Rockies at 1:35 p.m. ET. But these are hardly your ordinary Pirates fans. For all the attention that streaks get when they are associated with the Pirates, these men enjoy pretty impressive streaks of their own.
Both Coward and Coury have attended Pirates home openers for more than five decades. Coward's first came in 1958, when he skipped school at the age of 10 to attend the afternoon game with a friend. Since then, Coward has missed just one -- that coming when he was serving in the army in Korea in 1969.
"It was an established tradition with my parents that it was OK for me to miss school on Opening Day every year," said Coward, who was also absent from school to watch the season opener [if it was on the road] on TV.
Now a long-time season-ticket holder, Coward watched most of the Forbes Field season openers from the general admission section. If he arrived early enough, those seats were behind home plate.
He was there in 1961 when the World Series championship pennant was raised. He vividly recalls the ceremony the club held before the 1973 home opener, a ceremony that honored Roberto Clemente, who had died in a tragic airplane crash the previous winter.
Last year's home opener was also particularly memorable, though more for what happened afterward than the actual result -- an 11-5 Pirates victory over the Dodgers. Shortly after leaving PNC Park, Coward felt intense stomach pain. After being rushed to the hospital, Coward was diagnosed with appendicitis.
"I said that God must have been looking out for me, because he made sure I didn't miss that first game," said Coward, who has, in total, attended more than 2,600 Pirates games.
Coury's string of attending home openers is just as impressive. He, too, has attended each one since 1970, and the 2011 home opener will mark Coury's 51st in 52 years. Though he lives 54 miles from PNC Park, Coury has missed just 18 home games in total in his 42 years as a season-ticket holder.
"The anxiety of waiting from the last game until the next season always gets me excited," said the 76-year-old Coury. "It's always a sellout crowd. Where I sit are all season-ticket holders and most of them attend Opening Day every year and from then on they give away their tickets. On Opening Day, you always see people that you know."
Opening Day in Pittsburgh has often been a family affair for Coury. His wife of 39 years, Judy, attended the opener with him for 38 of those years. The only one she missed was in 2008, shortly before she passed away.
As for Coury's 41-year-old daughter, Mary, she has attended each home opener since she was born. That included two in 1970. After attending the April home opener at Forbes Field as a two-month old, Mary Coury accompanied her dad to the first game at Three Rivers Stadium that July.
"I've always been a baseball fan," George Coury said. "It's always been one of my passions. My wife always said, 'You love baseball more than me.' And I said, 'Well, maybe, but I love you more than soccer.'"
Jim McVay, 41, hasn't had the time to match the streaks of Coward and Coury. But McVay said his father, William, has been to each home opener for over 50 years. William McVay, 78, is unable to get out to many games anymore, but the opener isn't just another ordinary game.
Both McVays plan to be at PNC Park on Thursday.
Since he began attending games with his dad as a child, Jim McVay has missed only a couple of home openers -- those absences coming when he was busy playing hockey in college. The one year McVay could get away, he attended the Three Rivers Stadium opener with his college buddy Brian O'Halloran, who now serves as the vice president for baseball operations under Theo Epstein in Boston.
"Opening Day is a new season with hope," McVay said. "It's a new everything. I think it's unmatched. Every year, everyone is 0-0 on Opening Day. The Pirates are tied for first on Opening Day. That's the way I look at it."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.