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The story behind the original Jolly Roger

The original Jolly Roger
The original Jolly Roger 02:18

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Jolly Roger flags have become commonplace throughout PNC Park during baseball season. But who started it all? When were the flags first brought into the ballpark?

Gary Love holds the distinction of being the first Pirates fan to bring a Jolly Roger flag into PNC Park, starting the tradition back in 2001 when the stadium first opened its doors.

"I said to my wife, we were in a museum in Salem, I said, 'Hey, I'm going to get one of these flags and see if I can take it into the ballgame,'" Love recounted.

The stage was set.

The first official game at PNC Park was played on April 9, 2001, when the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Pirates, 8-2. The Buccos were well on their way to another losing season, but a new era and tradition were born.

"I had [the flag] on a broomstick, security said, 'No, no, you can't bring this in here!' And I said, 'What do you mean, do you want to win in this new ballpark?'" Love said.

The security guards then left Love to chat with their supervisor. The supervisor came back and asked Love where he was sitting.

"Left field bleachers, near the foul pole."

The head of security at the time granted Love's wish on a few conditions. The flag couldn't be waved during game action, and Love was not permitted to hit anyone with the stick.

"Anything good that happened in the game, I stood up and waved it, people cheered, and the rest is history," said Love.

Little by little Love noticed that more and more people were bringing their own Jolly Rogers into the stadium.

Love estimated that in 2013, the year the Pirates clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 1992, 500 flags were flying around the park.

Love's passion for the Pirates runs deep.

"Very much my family's culture is Pirates baseball," he added. "My grandma, like I said, was the biggest fan, my dad and I could come into Three Rivers Stadium and find her by listening. She would hoot and holler so loud."

Now, Love has passed on his love for the team to his daughter.

"I always miss school on the first day [of the season]."

"She's never gone to school on [the same day as] the home opener. Not going to happen; it's a family holiday," the elder Love said.

Gary's daughter may be a big fan, but even she admitted no one can top his fandom.

"It's crazy; I think he's crazy," Love's daughter Mauriana said with a smile.

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