Great Pierogi Race

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A Pierogie Race featuring (from left) Oliver Onion, Cheese Chester, and the Pirate Parrot.

The Great Pittsburgh Pierogie Race N'at, commonly called the Great Pierogie Race, is an American mascot race between innings during a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game that features four contestants racing in giant pierogie costumes: Jalapeño Hannah (green hat), Cheese Chester (yellow hat), Sauerkraut Saul (red hat) and Oliver Onion (purple hat).

The pierogies travel once a year to Miller Park to take on the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages (the inspiration for the Pirates' version of the promotion) when the Pirates play the Brewers, as well as to Nationals Park to take on the Washington Nationals' racing U.S. Presidents when the Pirates play the Nationals. Conversely, both the Brewers and Nationals bring their respective characters to PNC Park when they play in Pittsburgh.

1999-2008[edit]

The promotion started in 1999 at Three Rivers Stadium, then the Pirates' home park, and at the time featured only three characters: Sauerkraut Saul, Cheese Chester, and the blue-capped Potato Pete. It quickly became a fan favorite, and beanbags in the likeness of the different characters are given to children at certain ballgames as a promotion. Jalapeño Hannah was added soon after the promotion began. A year or two after the Pirates moved to PNC Park, Oliver Onion was added and Potato Pete dropped, though Potato Pete continues to make occasional appearances.[1]

In previous years, the race mainly took place as an animated sequence on the video board, showing the pierogies running through different sections of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an announcer speaking English to cover the race. The race culminated in the contestants running into the ballpark from right field, toward the visitors' dugout. Occasionally, the Pirate Parrot influenced the outcome of the race by distracting or knocking over contestants. A winner is determined and the leaderboard updated after the race. Often, a "humorous" disclaimer such as "No pierogies were harmed in the race" follows the leaderboard. A champion is crowned at the end of every season. At times, the Pirates will have faster runners wear costumes of pierogies that are behind in the races in order to keep the season-long competition "close", in effect making the races somewhat fixed.[1] [2] The event is sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogies.

2009-present[edit]

Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln of the Presidents Race running the Great Pierogie Race at PNC Park during a Pirates-Nationals game on April 23, 2011. Jalapeño Hannah won this race.

The animated sequence was dropped completely at the beginning of the 2009 season. Now, the race begins near where the tarp is rolled up on the third-base side, and the pierogies race around the warning track until the Clemente Wall in right-field. The race has lost many of the occasions of the Pirate Parrot influencing the ending; the races are generally won by normal means, although strange incidents do occur.

In 2008 and 2009, the pierogies appeared twice at Washington D.C.'s Nationals Park in the nightly Presidents Race. The first night in 2008, the four pierogies were chased by President Teddy, wielding a large aluminum foil fork and knife. The second night the pierogies faced off with the presidents in a relay race. The relay race was repeated in 2009, with Potato Pete TKO-ing Teddy Roosevelt with a flying tackle, which was replayed[3] over and over on sport shows. The Presidents appeared again at PNC Park during the Pirates series against the Nationals in April 2011, racing against the pierogies.

In 2010, the Pirates fired one of the pierogie racers after he made critical comments of the team on Facebook, a story that received national headlines.[1] Andrew Kurtz, 24, of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, had criticized the team's decision to give then-manager John Russell and Pirates GM Neal Huntington contract extensions in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.[4] The Pirates later rehired Kurtz after the team discovered that his boss in charge of the race didn't follow proper disciplinary action within the organization.[5] Russell himself would be fired after the Bucs finished a Major League-worst 57-105 record for 2010.[6]

During the race on July 23, 2014, where the Pirates were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cheese Chester broke his foot while competing. Later on during the game the Pirates announced via their scoreboard that Cheese Chester was placed on the 15-day disabled list and Potato Pete would be making a return to take Chester's place for the time he'd miss due to the injury. The Pirates posted on their Twitter account a picture of Cheese Chester with crutches and confirmed it was indeed a broken foot and he would miss 6-8 weeks. It will be the first time that Potato Pete has competed in this event since the 2001 season; it will also mark the first appearance of Potato Pete at PNC Park since his encounter with Teddy Roosevelt in 2009 and his first appearance of any kind since 2012 when he confronted Teddy at Nationals Park.[7]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Majors, Dan (June 19, 2010). "Out at the plate: Pirates dump outspoken pierogi". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Scandal in Pittsburgh: Pierogie Races Fixed". CBS Sports. June 19, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Pierogies level Teddy Roosevelt". Vimeo.com. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ Dodd, Mike (June 20, 2010). "Pirates fire outspoken pierogi". USA Today. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ Associated, Press (June 23, 2010). "Pirates pierogie racer rehired". ESPN. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ Langosch, Jenifer (October 4, 2010). "Russell relieved of duties as Pirates manager". MLB.com. pirates.com. Retrieved October 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Pirates: Cheese Chester Out 6-8 Weeks With Broken Foot KDKA-TV (07/24/2014)