Column: A franchise officially reborn

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
Clint Hurdle raises a fist toward the Pirates’ 1,000 chanting, cheering fans at Turner Field. — GETTY

ATLANTA -- "Atlanta ..." Jeff Banister breathes out, as if by way of a wistful sigh.

It's 6:32 p.m., about a half-hour to first pitch Tuesday at Turner Field, and the Pirates' bench coach is down at the far end of the visitors' dugout. He enjoys doing this before games, usually with the bill of the cap pulled down, immersed in the many intricacies the sport of his life might throw his way by sunset.

Only this time the bill's up.

"Atlanta," he repeats with a small smile. "Here, of all places."

Yeah, here, of all places.

6:33 p.m.: Other end of the dugout. Clint Hurdle's curious smile suggests he wants to know what Banister was musing. So he hears it. And as he expects, it was about Oct. 14, 1992. You know, as Hurdle is reminded, the day the franchise died.

"Right," Hurdle came back softly. "The franchise died. So I've heard."

9:58 p.m.: Tony Watson induces a smooth 3-6-3 double play for the final outs of a 3-2 victory over the Braves, one that propels this remarkable, resilient-beyond-words 128th edition of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club into the National League playoffs for a second consecutive summer.