Fitt: A Tribute To Steve PivovarColumns
Hours after Scott Wingo crossed the plate to lift South Carolina to the 2010 College World Series championship and officially end the Rosenblatt Stadium era at the CWS, a handful of scribes remained in the press box, putting the finishing touches on their tributes to Rosenblatt or their salutes to the Gamecocks. It always takes a little longer to write on that final night of the CWS, when we’re all repeatedly interrupted by a parade of goodbyes and see-you-next-years from our media buddies. Finally, Omaha World-Herald writer Steve Pivovar made his way down to my end of the press box and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Congratulations,” he blurted. I gave him a confused look, then said, “Well, congratulations to you too, Piv!” He grinned sheepishly and said, “What am I saying congratulations to you for? I don’t even know what I’m saying!”
It was that kind of night—lots of exhaustion, emotions and thoughts running into each other in everyone’s heads. Pivovar, the unofficial Rosenblatt historian, had seen just about everything in his decades covering the CWS. But before he left he turned to me and said, “I didn’t think I’d ever see a team win six straight games here.”
I loved that moment in 2010, when the emotions of Rosenblatt’s final night bubbled over into nonsense in the form of that befuddling “Congratulations.” I think of that moment often when I think of Piv, who died at age 64 on Wednesday morning after a battle with kidney cancer and pneumonia. Many of us harbored deep love for Rosenblatt, but nobody loved it more than Piv, the driving force behind the World-Herald book “Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha’s Diamond on the Hill.” I have a copy of that superb book — inscribed with a personal note from Piv — proudly displayed on my shelf. It is one of my most valued possessions, partly because of my affection for the great man who authored it.
That grin was never far from his mouth, often accompanied by a mischievous twinkle in his eyes as he prepared to unleash his latest carefully crafted witticism. Sometime in the third hour of a plodding night game at the CWS, you could count on Piv to amble down press row, lean on the wall behind your chair and inject some life into a sleepy night with his wonderful sense of humor. Sometimes he’d have a good one-liner cued up and ready to go. Sometimes he’d have nothing in particular to say, and the conversation would go wherever our late-night loopiness led it.
Piv was truly a College World Series institution. During his 45 years at the World-Herald, he covered approximately 1,700 games at Rosenblatt Stadium as a beat writer for the Omaha Royals and as the paper’s lead CWS writer. He covered nearly 500 consecutive CWS games before his battle with cancer cruelly ended his streak just shy of that milestone this year. He was honored during the CWS when the TD Ameritrade Park grounds crew etched “PIV” into the dirt before one of the games, and a tribute to Piv played on the TDAP video board. When it was over, the press box gave him a heartfelt ovation. I don’t know if I’d ever heard prolonged clapping in the press box before that touching moment.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could feel Piv’s absence in the press box this year at the CWS. Several years ago, I began mixing press box lemonade and iced tea to make Arnold Palmers, and that became my go-to drink during CWS games. Piv joked that in Omaha, that drink is called a Steve Pivovar. I’ll miss that kind of goofiness (but I will forever refer to a lemonade-and-iced tea mixture as a Steve Pivovar!).
I’ll miss Piv’s presence in the CWS press conferences, when he’d always begin his questions by introducing himself in his gentle Midwestern accent: “Steve Pivovar from the World-Herald here in town.” And then you could always count on him to ask something insightful, because Piv was a true professional who was just really good at his job. When I covered my first College World Series in 2005, I liked Piv immediately, and looked up to him from the beginning. I remember telling my future wife when I got home from Omaha that someday, I wanted to be Steve Pivovar.
There is no better testament to Piv’s professional and personal success than the simple fact that he is universally respected by his peers and universally liked by everyone he came into contact with. Those are markers of a life very well lived.
It makes my heart ache to think that I won’t get to exchange any more “see-you-next-years” with Piv at the conclusion of future College World Series. He meant so much to a great many people, and he’ll be sorely missed, but also fondly remembered.
So let’s all raise a glass of Steve Pivovar and toast our friend Piv. Congratulations, Piv. And I know exactly why I’m saying congratulations to you.