PITTSBURGH -- Last year, the city of Pittsburgh declared Aug. 29 to be Phil Coyne Day. But Friday at PNC Park may as well have been the second observance.
The Pirates celebrated Coyne's 100th birthday, honoring the longtime usher who worked more than 6,000 games in Pittsburgh since 1936. The point of the pregame ceremony was written in gold down the left-field line, in front of the sections Coyne used to serve: "PHIL 100."
Coyne, who grew up, and still resides in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, spent 81 years as an usher. He followed the Pirates from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium to PNC Park, before announcing his retirement earlier this month.
"Phil is truly a Pittsburgh legend and, as we have said, legends never retire. Phil is a historic figure not only with the Pirates, but also within the great game of Major League Baseball," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "We are honored to host Phil and his family tonight to celebrate his 100th birthday, and to thank him for his long-time dedication to the Pirates and our great fans."
Coyne was in the stands as a fan in 1935 when Babe Ruth hit the final three home runs of his career. He was there for Game 7 of the World Series in 1960, working behind the Yankees dugout when Bill Mazeroski etched his name into baseball history. He was here in 2013, when postseason baseball returned to Pittsburgh after a 20-year absence.
Coyne was interviewed during the 2013 National League Wild Card Game broadcast, marveling at the black-clad crowd behind him. "Tonight is their night," Coyne said then. But Friday was Coyne's day.
He was welcomed onto the field wearing a personalized No. 100 jersey -- something to go along with the No. 99 jersey the Bucs gave him last year. He had about 180 friends and family in attendance, all of them wearing "PHIL 100" shirts and sitting in sections 26 and 27, Coyne's area from the day PNC Park opened, until the end of last season.
Coyne was recognized on the field as the Pirates opened a three-game series against the Cardinals on Friday night. Beforehand, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" and fireworks shot off in center field, as Coonelly and broadcaster Greg Brown unveiled a proclamation from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Soon, Coyne's uniform and ID card will be on permanent display in Cooperstown.
The Pirates also dedicated a plaque at PNC Park that sits, fittingly, near sections 26 and 27. The club made a $5,000 donation in Coyne's name to the Children's Hospital in Oakland. After the ceremony, Coyne joined his family in the stands -- to watch the game, not to work.
Even the concessions were dressed up for Coyne. In left field, one stand offered the "Phil Coyne Classic," a footlong hot dog with mustard and relish (the only way to eat a hot dog, Coyne says), a souvenir helmet sundae with vanilla ice cream and two Oreos (Coyne's daily treat along with a glass of milk) and a souvenir soda. The price was, of course, $19.18.