PITTSBURGH - This is the weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates are saluting their 1960 World Series team.
That team actually had its roots in the early 1950s when rookies like Dick Groat and Bob Friend were gems among over-the-hill veterans who would lose 100 times in a 154-game season.
To say they took some lumps would be a major understatement.
The Pirates added more players, they got better and they took a big step forward in 1958, finishing second. The following season was a setback, but it all became a magical season in 1960.
The magic didn't last long, though.
In 1961, the Pirates were four games under .500, .487. In 1962, they rebounded to win 93 games, but finished fourth.
That off-season, the Pirates started breaking up the 1960 team, trading away three-fourths of their starting infield - Groat, Dick Stuart and Don Hoak.
The following year, Bob Skinner and Harvey Haddix would depart.
In the rest of the '60s, the Pirates seriously contended just once. They went to the final week of the 1966 season in a three-way race with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
Short on pitching, they won 92 games and finished third.
The Pirates had a great crop of prospects arrive in the late '60s, and that fueled their success in the 1970s.
Remember that baseball had the ideal competitive situation in the '60s.
The reserve clause was in effect, so players were bound to their teams until the club decided to move them.
There was no free agency and no arbitration. If the Pirates had a player, they could keep him for as long as they wanted.
Even if that player sat out multiple years, his rights were still retained by the club.
In that incredibly team-friendly environment, success was still difficult to achieve, then sustain.
As the Steelers and Penguins discovered last year, winning doesn't necessarily carry over to the next season.
The Penguins named Sidney Crosby the best athlete under 25.
Hard to argue with that, although hockey players have an advantage here. The very best ones can turn pro at 18 and the exceptional ones can step in immediately and star. Crosby has, and Mario Lemieux did, too.
Crosby will begin his sixth NHL season two months after he turns 23.
One of the overlooked aspects of Crosby is how he's been able to avoid major injuries in his career.
He had a high ankle sprain that sidelined him two seasons ago, but he's been free of chronic problems.
Lemieux was already having major issues with his back after five NHL seasons.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com. His weblog is at altoonamirror.com.