Out at the plate: Pirates dump outspoken pierogi
By Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Frustrated fans pleading for something -- anything -- to be done to stop the Pirates' losing ways are likely to find little to cheer about in the baseball team's latest move.
They fired a pierogi.
Andrew Kurtz, 24, of New Brighton, one of the 18 men who take turns posing as pierogies in a crowd-pleasing race after the fifth inning of every game at PNC Park, was dismissed by the team Thursday because he posted disparaging remarks about the Pirates on his Facebook page.
"My son always was a big Pirates fan," said his mother, Mary Kurtz. "He took pride in being a pierogi runner. Since when, in this country, are you not allowed to state an opinion? Well, here is my opinion: The Pirates came through again and let go one of their biggest fans and dedicated workers."
The Pirates introduced The Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N'at, inspired by the sausage races conducted by the Milwaukee Brewers, at Three Rivers Stadium in 1999. Four runners, costumed as pierogies, dash along the outfield warning track to break through a finish line of balloons, then exit into the ballpark seating area, where they greet fans.
Sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogis, the promotion features Cheese Chester in yellow, Sauerkraut Saul in red, Oliver Onion in purple and Jalapeno Hannah in green. One of the original pierogies, the blue Potato Pete, was retired a few years ago, but occasionally makes surprise appearances.
Kids love the event and the team has responded with pierogi-character beanbags, windup cars and other toys given away through the season. The mascots even travel to other cities' ballparks and make frequent appearances at events around town.
Mr. Kurtz became a pierogi two years ago when a friend told him about tryouts. He made the team, joining other men ranging from their early 20s to a 48-year-old runner who has been a pierogi since the beginning. There have been women runners in the past, but none this season, he said.
Sometimes the Pirates will permit outside organizations or groups to buy the right to run a race, but those occasions are rare.
"It's a blast," Mr. Kurtz said. "You pick out which eye you want to look through and just goof around and be stupid. No one knows it's you. You run your race and afterward you go up in the crowd and high-five people. They take pictures. It's a great time."Read more