THE CLOCK struck midnight late Wednesday evening for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cinderella Buccos saw their magic carpet ride come to a painful conclusion at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. The venerable Redbirds ousted the Gold & Black, 6-1, in the deciding game 5 of their National League playoff series.
The loss, while hard to swallow for diehard Pirates' fans, does nothing to taint an otherwise brilliant season in the Steel City.
Back in spring training, the Pirate Nation would have been ecstatic if given the option of winning 97 games, making the playoffs and capturing the a wild-card game. In the process, Pittsburgh ended two decades of losing.
So coming up short in five games against the playoff-tested Cardinals is far from a disgrace. Rather, the Buccos earned respect from throughout Major League Baseball.
The Pirates shed the label of losers and have morphed into contenders. They also have returned the city of Pittsburgh into a baseball town.
The fans at PNC Park were just that -- fanatics. In the postseason, their passion was off the charts while setting attendance records.
While an exciting 2013 season is now in the books, it won't soon be forgotten. It is one that Pirate fans can reflect on with a sense of great accomplishment.
This year's success by the Buccos has transformed a culture of losing into one of optimism and promise, as many of the team's key players will be in the fold for years to come.
The 2013 campaign is a harbinger of even better Pirate times ahead.