Phil Coyne at the Pirates' home opener in April.

Phil Coyne at the Pirates' home opener in April.

Still from video by Cameron Hart of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State

Pittsburgh’s Phil Coyne, the legendary Pirates usher who’s seen 81 seasons with the team, gets his own day

“He hopes to continue for his 82nd season as an usher if his mind and body allow him to return,” a Pittsburgh City Council proclamation states.

Phil Coyne at the Pirates' home opener in April.

Phil Coyne at the Pirates' home opener in April.

Still from video by Cameron Hart of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State
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Phil Coyne is a fixture. He’s the kind of fixture that helps define a space, connect its past to the present and anchor the walls, even if imperceptibly.

The long-time Pittsburgh Pirates usher has spent 81 of his 99 years working with the team. In that time he’s seen everything — championship runs, stadium changes, legendary games and legends of the game, a hiatus to fight in World War II and no less than 14 presidential administrations.

Coyne was honored by the team on his 99th birthday earlier this year, just two weeks after he worked the home opener in rainy 30-degree weather. On Tuesday, Pittsburgh City Council honored him as well, declaring Aug. 29, 2017, “Phil Coyne Day” in the City of Pittsburgh.

“NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby recognize Phil Coyne for his remarkable commitment to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and the Pittsburgh community and for demonstrating passion for the game of baseball,” a proclamation sponsored by Councilman Dan Gilman reads.

At a ceremony Tuesday morning, Coyne was “surrounded by his family, friends, neighbors, and representatives from the Pirates whose lives he has touched during the near-century he has spent in the ballpark, Oakland, and Pittsburgh,” a statement from Gilman’s office reads. “His hard work and humility are a testament to our city and the reasons why it is so special.”

An attempt to reach Coyne and the Pirates front office for comment was not immediately successful Tuesday.

But Coyne has made no secret of his appreciation in the past. He’s also attributed his longevity to a ritualized bedtime snack of two Oreo cookies and a glass of milk — and more than a little luck.

He’s been less definitive when asked about the prospect of another season with the team. Coyne, a retired machinist who never married, will turn 100 in April.

“…I surprise them every year, too. I surprise them coming back,” Coyne told ESPN in an October 2016 feature. “I tell people as long as I don’t go to Heinz Field for a game that’s being played at PNC Park, I’ll be back.”

City council members are among those counting on it. Coyne is counting on it, too.

“The lifelong resident of Oakland and soon-to-be centenarian still guides Pirates fans to their seats in Sections 26 and 27 of America’s most beautiful ballpark and insists that he hopes to continue for his 82nd season as an usher if his mind and body allow him to return,” council’s proclamation reads.

In the meantime, fans will continue to believe in the power of cookies and milk, and they’ll continue to believe in Phil Coyne. The man’s a Pittsburgh legend and a fixture at PNC Park. And as with most fixtures, the place just wouldn’t be the same without him.

Read the entire proclamation below:

WHEREAS, the eldest of eight children, Phil Coyne was born on April 26th, 1918 in the Oakland neighborhood, just a few blocks from Forbes Field, the onetime home of the Pittsburgh Pirates; and,

WHEREAS, a lifelong fan of baseball, Mr. Coyne grew up attending Pirates games and playing catch with neighborhood kids on City ballfields, and in 1935, he saw Babe Ruth hit the final three homeruns of his career at Forbes Field; and,

WHEREAS, in 1936, Mr. Coyne was hired as an usher by the Pirates organization, a job he has held and relished ever since, and since then, his only time away from the ballpark was spent serving our country in World War II from 1941-1945; and,

WHEREAS, in his 81 seasons and over 6,000 games as an usher at Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and now at PNC Park, Mr. Coyne has witnessed baseball history from Bill Mazeroski’s legendary walk-off homerun in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series and Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit to World Series championships and the Pirates’ recent playoff appearances after a 20-year postseason drought; and,

WHEREAS, at the age of 99, Mr. Coyne has rarely missed a day of work, a remarkable feat that he attributes to a combination of luck and eating two Oreos with a glass of milk each night before bed; and,

WHEREAS, to this day, the lifelong resident of Oakland and soon-to-be centenarian still guides Pirates fans to their seats in Sections 26 and 27 of America’s most beautiful ballpark and insists that he hopes to continue for his 82nd season as an usher if his mind and body allow him to return.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby recognize Phil Coyne for his remarkable commitment to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and the Pittsburgh community and for demonstrating passion for the game of baseball; and,

BE IT FUTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby declare August 29th, 2017 to be “Phil Coyne Day” in the City of Pittsburgh.