CHICAGO — Fortysomething years into putting on a baseball uniform, and John Russell still enjoys it. Russell, with the same low, unchanging baritone voice he’s had since he was a kid in Norman, slowly listed all the charms of his job. Each day a new challenge. The daily preparation of trying to get 25 players to bond for a common goal. Seeing the fruits of labor. The intensity of the game. "You never (know) what you’re going to get; I enjoy that,” Russell said. "Each game has its own personality.” Russell certainly has his own personality. Quiet. Stoic. Steadier than a cruise ship. Now in his third year managing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Russell hasn’t been changed by the stress and frustration of working for one of sport’s chronic losers. When Russell walks out to argue a call, his face unchanged, his gait unhurried, Pittsburgh writers sometimes will joke, "John’s livid now.” Russell, a 1979 Norman High School graduate and a star at OU in the early ’80s, doesn’t apologize for his self-control. "I try to be consistent, try to be even-keeled,” Russell said the other day in Wrigley Field’s visitors clubhouse, after a 4-3 loss to the Cubs. "Consistency is what you want out of players. If I’m inconsistent, it’s tough for your players to be consistent.” Trouble is, the Pirates are historically consistent. They’ve reeled off a baseball-record 17 straight losing seasons, and Pittsburgh is 19-25 this season. In two-plus seasons running the Pirate dugout, Russell’s record is 148-219. Of the 294 men in baseball history who have managed at least 320 games, Russell’s winning percentage of .403 ranks 281st. Managing the Pirates is a thankless job. But Russell is thankful for it and says the culture in Pittsburgh is changing. "We’ve shown signs this year,” Russell said. "We’re not a club that can be scoffed at anymore.” Maybe not. But no one sees the playoffs in Pittsburgh’s future. No one sees anything but a pink slip in Russell’s future. But the Pirates do have some promising young players, and Russell sees he has the support of Pirate management. Russell believes Pittsburgh can become more like Minnesota than Kansas City, can become an occasional contender rather perennial doormat. "Our focus is winning now,” Russell said. "You can’t look to next year. You put the uniform on for a reason: to compete. Is that playoff baseball this year? Who knows? But we have to think about winning. "The talent level has gotten a lot better. The culture has changed. We’re here for a reason: to win games.” The Pirates have to appreciate a manager who stays steady despite the constant beat-downs. "When he comes to talk to you, you’re focused on what he’s telling you,” said Jason Jaramillo, a backup catcher, just like Russell was in his 10 major-league seasons. Jaramillo, who played at Oklahoma State, said he’s a sponge when constantly picking Russell’s brain on pitch selection and the game within the game. "He’s very knowledgeable,” Jaramillo said. "I’m really happy I’ve got a chance to learn a lot with him.” Russell was a journeyman catcher. Played with the Phillies, Braves and Rangers. He had just 1,087 career at-bats in those 10 years. "I didn’t have a great (playing) career, but it’s something I’ll always cherish,” Russell said. And now Russell has a job he cherishes. How long he holds it will be determined by whether the Pirates start winning. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.