Great Pierogi Race
The Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N'at, commonly called the Great Pierogi Race, is an American mascot race between innings during a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game that features six contestants racing in giant pierogi costumes: Potato Pete (blue hat), Jalapeño Hannah (green hat), Cheese Chester (yellow hat), Sauerkraut Saul (red hat), Oliver Onion (purple hat), and Bacon Burt (orange 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.
The promotion was created by Pirates Coordinator of In-Game Entertainment Eric Wolff in 1999 at Three Rivers Stadium, then the Pirates' home park, and at the time featured only three characters: Potato Pete, Sauerkraut Saul, and Cheese Chester. 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 continued to make occasional appearances.
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 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. The event is sponsored by Mrs. T's Pierogies.
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 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. 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. 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. Russell himself would be fired after the Bucs finished a Major League-worst 57-105 record for 2010.
Return of Potato Pete
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.
During Potato Pete's return, he won 16 races in a row to tie the other pierogies, while Cheese Chester made a "rehab start" during the Panera Bread Great American Bagel Race during the August 28, 2014 game between the Altoona Curve (the Pirates Double-A affiliate) and the Richmond Flying Squirrels, competing against the bagels Blueberry Bob, Asiago Allie, and Cinnamon Crunch Cindy. (Coincidentally, Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton was himself making a rehab start in the game.) It was considered the first "MLB Mascot Rehabilitation Assignment". Cheese Chester then spent the next two days confronting Potato Pete at PNC Park until the two agreed that whoever won a one-on-one race after the Pirates game against the Cincinnati Reds on August 30, the winner would race with the rest of the pierogies the rest of the season while the loser would be out for the season. Cheese Chester won his spot back after Potato Pete built a sizable lead but tripped after taunting Cheese Chester, allowing Cheese Chester to win the one-on-one race and return to the season-long competition.
For the 2015 season, all five pierogies started part of the Great Pierogi Race on a regular basis, although on April 18, 2015, Potato Pete was "locked" inside a freezer as punishment after he cheated again.
Introduction of Bacon Burt
During the Pirates first homestand of the 2015 season, the team hinted over the course of several days on its official Instagram account that a new pierogi would be joining the Great Pierogi Race. After being interviewed by the Pirate Parrot and later ordered to race around PNC Park, the pierogi was introduced as Bacon Burt. In addition to his orange cap, Bacon Burt has a moustache. Bacon Burt would win in his debut race April 19, 2015, coincidentally while the Pirates were hosting the Brewers, taking Potato Pete's spot.
- Majors, Dan (June 19, 2010). "Out at the plate: Pirates dump outspoken pierogi". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Scandal in Pittsburgh: Pierogie Races Fixed". CBS Sports. June 19, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Pierogies level Teddy Roosevelt". Vimeo.com. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Dodd, Mike (June 20, 2010). "Pirates fire outspoken pierogi". USA Today. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- "Pirates pierogie racer rehired". ESPN. Associated Press. June 23, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2012.
- Langosch, Jenifer (October 4, 2010). "Russell relieved of duties as Pirates manager". MLB.com. pirates.com. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- Pirates: Cheese Chester Out 6-8 Weeks With Broken Foot KDKA-TV (07/24/2014)
- Cheese Chester to Rehab in Thursday Night's Panera Bread Great American Bagel Race Mike Passanisi / Altoona Curve (08/27/2014)
- The Return Of Cheese Chester KDKA-TV (08/29/2014)
- Pierogi drama engulfs PNC Park as Cheese Chester and Potato Pete race head-to-head MLB.com (08/30/2014)
- "Instagram". Instagram. 2015-04-19. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
- New Pirates Pierogi - BACON BURT! WKST-FM (04/18/2015)