When it comes to baseball, it seems like most folks around here support either the Phillies or the Yankees. But let's take a moment to recognize those dedicated Pirates fans out there.

The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season, President Bush was in his last year of office - President George H.W. Bush. A young former governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, was trying to unseat him. Harris Wofford was in his first year as U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, having replaced John Heinz. Robert P. Casey was governor.

The No. 1 song on the Billboard pop chart that fall was "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men. And the Pirates' Barry Bonds was skinny.

The Pirates were good in 1992 - 96-66 - and there was nothing, not even their crushing last-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves in the National League championship game, to predict the woeful streak upon which they were about to embark.

For 20 consecutive years following the 1992 run at the championship, the Pirates had losing seasons. Some long losing streaks at least have had charm and elements of lore. Since 1945 the Chicago Cubs always could fall back on the Curse of the Billy Goat for their losing ways. And the long-suffering Boston Red Sox could blame the Curse of the Bambino, until they vanquished it by winning the 2004 World Series.

The Pirates' streak was raw futility, just a grind - until last week. The Pirates were atop the National League Central Division, probably the best division this year, and on their way to the playoffs. For the first time since 1992, Pittsburghers are talking about the Pirates rather than the Steelers as the leaves turn. And it would be mathematically impossible for them to have a 21st consecutive losing season.

So here's to the Pirates and their fans, and to the loyalty and perseverance that help give baseball its appeal.