Phil Coyne began his career as an usher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1936, when Babe Ruth and four others were the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was still ushering in 1947, when the World Series was televised for the first time. And, of course, in 1960, the year Bill Mazeroski won the World Series for the Pirates.
And he’s still ushering for the Pirates. At 99 years old.
Coyne, a retired machinist who never married, first started seating Pirates fans when the team played at Forbes Field in Oakland, where he was born and raised.
“Yeah, I was a Pirates fan. You had to be,” said Coyne, who as a 16-year-old in 1935 – the year before he started ushering – watched as Ruth’s final homerun sailed over the wall at Forbes Field.
“We all ran down to get the ball,” he recalled, adding, “I think it’s still out there.”
He followed the Pirates to Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium, where in 1970 he watched them lose to the Cincinnati Reds in the first-ever game played there. Then in 2001, he followed his team to PNC Park, also located in Pittsburgh, where he’s been seating fans in Section 26 and 27 ever since.
Coyne, who was born on April 27, 1918, did have to take a four-year hiatus from ushering between 1940 and 1945 to serve in World War II; and, even after so many decades have passed, he still gets emotional each time the “Star Spangled Banner” starts playing.
Coyne celebrated his 99th birthday in April but still shows no signs of slowing down: “As long as your mind is straight, you’re alright,” he said. “I surprise them every year, too.”
He’s still able to climb up and down the stairs in his designated area; actually, he does use a cane when he’s not working, but only, he chuckles, because “it gets me a front seat on the bus.”
Despite his love of his home team, Coyne confesses his secret to finding joy after 81 years on the job has less to do with the Pirates and more to do with people.
“I get more hugs and kisses now than I ever got in my life,” he says.
Watch the video below to hear this amazing and truly inspirational man’s story in his own words, and share to spread smiles!