• Opening Day Memories

    Posted by on April 4th, 2010 · Comments (5)

    Full disclosure, I’ve never been to Opening Day in the Yankee Stadium.

    However, I still get that tingly feeling – what Ray Liota described in “Field of Dreams” as an itch of an old amputated limb when the calendar turns even though its been more than 10 years since my last competitive baseball game and more than five years since my last semi-competitive game (I played in a Roy Hobbs-style men’s league after moving to D.C.).

    We don’t get this way about the first NHL or NFL game, its really only baseball’s grand opening – despite the destruction of the 12:30 Cincinnati start tradition – that gets America’s juices flowing.

    I’ve been privileged to go to the last three openers here in Washington and tomorrow I’ll be fortunate enough to go again.

    It’ll be my second presidential opening day (to go with one vice presidential toss)  as President Obama is slated to do the honors – 100 years after William Howard Taft threw out the first ceremonial first pitch.

    Taft’s first toss was in 1910 – and ironically (not in Michael Kay’s understanding of the word, which is to say coincidental, or Alanis Morissette‘s understanding of it, which is to say a string of lousy things) against Philadelphia and Washington – the Athletics and the Senators of the American League respectively.

    The pressure will be on Obama to do better than last time he toed the rubber, where he may or may not have bounced it.

    Obama also has to live up to America’s greatest president – at least when it comes to ceremonial pitches – George W. Bush.

    Say what you want about his policies and politics (and I’ll keep my opinion to myself, so please do the same in the comments), but Dubya threw gas. And not just old man gas – but from my seats in 2008, it looked like he threw a legitimate strike from the mound.

    That pitch opened up Nationals Park (and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman closed that game with a walk off homer, cementing my belief that everyone should win their opener and see something great, though I’m not optimistic about tomorrow), and Dubya has some first pitch experience with the Yankees – famously opening up Game Three of the 2001 World Series.

    Even Larry Hockett, Durham Bulls pitching coach c. 1988 knows, a major component of Bush’s legacy is his moundsmanship (5:37 mark, though the whole video is good).

    So all the pomp and fanfare, presidential or otherwise, is what makes Opening Day great. What makes it an event unlike almost any other on the sporting calendar.

    What makes Opening Day special for you, and what do you think about when the calendar strikes baseball?

    Comments on Opening Day Memories

    1. April 4th, 2010 | 6:36 pm

      Sean – great post.

      When I was in H.S. and college, I had a streak going on attending the Yankees Home Opener. I even went twice in 1981 – when they called the resumption of play that year as Opening Day II. I think I went for something like 6 or 7 years in a row.

      Then, I didn’t go to the Home Opener again for a long time – in terms of going on a regular basis – until 2001. Starting that year, through last season, I probably went to the Yankees opener around five or six times.

      But, it’s become such a big deal now that I don’t see myself going again for a while. Since I have to drive to the Stadium, I have to deal with parking. And, with so many people tailgating on O.D. now in the Bronx before the game, that means getting there at least 3 hours before the game to get a spot. And, when you tack on the game time, and my travel time, and dealing with rush hour coming home, that makes Opening Day to be a 8:30 am to 6 pm event. And, for me, attending a 9-inning baseball game – even one as big as Opening Day – should not be a 9 1/2 hour task.

      Plus, you also have so much of “the corporate crowd” at Opening Day. It’s a bit of a turn-off, all things considered, and I’ve found that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

      But, of course, as my kids get older, I could see myself going back to O.D. – and dealing with it all – if they really wanted to go to Opening Day.

    2. April 4th, 2010 | 7:12 pm

      What makes Opening Day special for you, and what do you think about when the calendar strikes baseball?

      Funny, I was just saying to my wife today, “My goodness, what would my life be like without baseball?”

      Really, I couldn’t imagine it. I think about baseball every single day. In fact, I would say that at least 5% of my time awake each day (or maybe more) is devoted to something baseball related, 365 days a year. I’m either watching it, listening to it, reading it, writing or talking about it, or just thinking about it, and nothing else, at some point, each day. Shoot, I even dream about it – more so than most people, I would guess…

      And, even though everyday is baseball day in my life, Opening Day is special, and exciting, etc. Why?

      Well, while baseball, period, is always nice – the pinnacle of it all is watching live professional baseball, played at the highest level, in real time, that counts. And, from the end of the post-season until Opening Day, you don’t get close to that…outside of watching the Caribbean World Series…maybe.

      How much time is between the end of the post-season and Opening Day? 22 weeks? Maybe 23? Somewhere around that, for sure.

      That’s almost a half-year. Try going a half-year, or so, without being able to experience something that you love, at its fulliest, in it’s perfect form, for that long. Whether it’s watching major league baseball, eating chocolate cake, or the intimate company of your main squeeze, you’re going to get excited over breaking that drought.

      Basically, for zealous baseball fans, Opening Day is a long-awaited fix to some serious jonesing.

      And, there’s the whole Selig “hope and faith” element to Opening Day too. That’s also a nice element of it.

      Start up the Buble…

      Birds flying high
      You know how I feel
      Sun in the sky
      You know how I feel
      Breeze driftin’ on by
      You know how I feel
      It’s a new dawn
      It’s a new day
      It’s a new life
      For me
      And I’m feeling good

      Opening Day is just the ultimate feel good fix for baseball fans. And, that’s what makes it special.

    3. MJ Recanati
      April 4th, 2010 | 7:56 pm

      Excellent post, Sean.

      What makes Opening Day special for me — and writing that felt like the opening I’d write for a grammar school essay — is knowing that my life goes back into a more comfortable routine. I now know that, for the most part, 7pm means getting home, changing into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and planting it on the couch in front of my television for three hours of Michael Kay’s inane banter which I tolerate only because his voice is the soundtrack to a usually enjoyable nightly ritual of Yankee baseball.

      In the winter, I get home, flip on Jeopardy or Family Guy or something on DVR and maybe, once in a blue moon (if I’m in the mood to torture myself) watch the Knicks. What’s good about that? The weather blows, there’s nothing exciting about going home and we spend six months on this site fighting eachother about stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter.

      April-November. That’s the good stuff.

    4. Tresh Fan
      April 4th, 2010 | 11:50 pm

      My favorite opening day at Yankee Stadium (even though I wasn’t there) was April 7th, 1970—40 years ago.
      A crowd of 21,379 came to witness what the NY Daily News called “The New New York Yankees”—the first Yankee opening day lineup not to have a single player from a Yankees World Championship team since 1923.

      Here’s the line-up and where each player stood in terms of service in pinstripes:

      2B Horace Clarke (5th Full Season)
      C Thurman Munson (Rookie)
      LF Roy White (3rd Full Season)
      1B John Ellis (Rookie)
      3B Danny Cater (1st Season)
      CF Bobby Murcer (2nd Full Season)
      RF Curt Blefary (1st Season)
      SS Gene Michael (2nd Full Season)
      P Mel Stottlemyre (7th Season)

      The opponent, then as now was the Red Sox, with Gary Peters on the mound.

      Clarke led off the bottom of the 1st with a crisp single (GO, HOSS!) and Thurman Munson promptly bunted him over to 2nd. A sac bunt…in the 1st inning. This was going to be some year!

      The Red Sox would jump out 4-0, shelling Stottlemyre for ten hits in five innings. The Yankees made a valiant comeback effort, chasing Peters in the 6th, but wound up losing 4-3 all the same.

      Not the most auspicious of starts. Still the Yankees went on to win 93 games that year. Not bad, not bad. And who knows? Maybe 93 wins will be the mark 40 years later.

    5. April 5th, 2010 | 12:03 am

      @ Tresh Fan:
      Believe it or not, I have a 1970 Yankees team signed ball. It’s the only team signed ball I own. Never knew that squad was the first Yankee opening day lineup not to have a single player from a Yankees World Championship team since 1923.

      But, now I do. 😉 Thanks.

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