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9/24/2013 11:04 A.M. ET

Buck-a-gallon gas is gone, but Bucs are back

Much has changed in the 21 years since Pittsburgh's last postseason appearance

The common characterization of the Pittsburgh Pirates' return to Major League Baseball's postseason is to point out that a generation has passed since they last played meaningful baseball in October.

But a lot more has passed since the Pirates last mattered, in 1992. It was a different world, and the cultural compass spins wildly trying to pinpoint it.

You can start with MLB itself. There were four divisions -- two in each league -- and a total of 26 teams, the game having already gone through several waves of expansion, the most recent one being in 1977, when the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners joined the American League.

People were watching a new TV hit, "Seinfeld," grooving to Nirvana, jaw-dropping to Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct," buying cars for an average of $16,000, and saying goodbye to Johnny Carson.

A gallon of milk ($2.78) cost more than twice as much as a gallon of gas ($1.13) -- but, to the best of anyone's recollection, Detroit was not looking into developing an engine fueled by milk.

One thing people were not doing was using cell phones. Well, not without some weight-training first. And the irony is, in those days they were called mobile phones.

People wanted something to carry in their pockets, not their backpacks. Motorola's first flip phone was introduced in '92 -- and could be pre-ordered for $3,500.

As for mobile-phone usage, the typical monthly plan was priced at $29.95 -- and gave you a whopping 30 minutes of talk. After that ... ka-ching!

A personal computer with 8 megabytes of memory and a 60-MB hard drive went for $2,800. Needed only a storage upgrade? You could get a 125-MB upgrade for $349.

(Now, eight gigs come on a keychain for the price of a good cup of coffee.)

Miley Cyrus was born.

Bill Clinton was elected president.

Red Barber passed away.

TWA went bankrupt.

Los Angeles rioted, over Rodney King.

Magic Johnson came out of HIV-forced retirement to join Team USA's first Dream Team for the Barcelona Olympics.

The most-recent version of Windows was 3.1.

And, most obviously, Barry Bonds threw from left field to Mike LaValliere, but Sid Bream slid in safe and the Pirates slid out of focus for 21 years.

Buck-a-gallon gas is not coming back. But the Bucs have.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.