Front Porch Friends

Grandma Ziegler would be very happy these days. Most summer evenings you could find her sitting on her front porch along McColloch Street in East Wheeling. Her silver white hair would be loosely piled into a bun, her face flushed pink after she and Aunt Mary finished the dinner dishes at the large, white porcelain sink in the kitchen.

There was no air conditioning in the old house and the front porch offered respite from the heat in the kitchen where Grandma Ziegler’s delicious hot German potato salad was prepared.

A rocking chair was a must as she kept up with her beloved Pittsburgh Pirates on the old radio on the porch. She relished the roar of the crowd when ball met bat for a home run. She “watched” the game with her eyes closed to the weariness of a hot summer day, all the while rocking to the soothing sing-song voice of Pirates commentator Bob Prince.

Aunt Mary joined her on the porch, their pet poodle sitting at their feet. Life was simple but not always easy. Mary’s hands worked the knitting needles to create another blanket for a friend or family member, stopping only to listen more intently to a big play.

I don’t know that Grandma Ziegler ever stepped inside a baseball stadium in Pittsburgh but she loved the Buccos like they were old friends. And for many people, baseball filled a void in an otherwise uneventful summer evening in their inner city neighborhood.

I wish I could have seen her face Tuesday night when the team won a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals, thrusting the Pirates into first place in the National League Central. But the rocking chair has long been still and a whole new generation is discovering how it feels to wave the Jolly Roger in celebration of another win.

Today, baseball games are still heard blasting from radios and TV sets perched on porches and decks. The mania surrounding the rejuvenated Pittsburgh Pirates can be seen as people catch a game on their cell phones and computer screens. A new generation is enjoying the thrills and spills of baseball that is fun once again.

People like to follow winners and baseball fans, like all sports fans, can be finicky. But I think there are more Grandma Zieglers out there who simply love the game and remain loyal to a team regardless of the numbers at the end of the night. They treat them like friends, and friends don’t desert one another when the chips are down.

There are a lot of baseball games yet to be played this year. The outcome of the season is not a sure thing for any team. There will be good and bad days. But that’s not just baseball, that’s life.

For now, we will pull on the T-shirts and ball caps, dust off a place on the porch or plop on the couch in our air conditioned living rooms and be entertained. If we don’t travel to the home games, we will look for our family and friends when the TV cameras pan the crowd.

I’ll bet there will even be a few Grandma Zieglers and Aunt Marys sitting in those seats.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at