Baseball is a sport that is meant to be enjoyed outside, preferably on a sunny day, with a brat in one hand and a beer in the other, rooting for the home team with the type of enthusiasm that can only be found in organized sports.
As a kid, the day was spent with sticky fingers from a mix of grape soda and ketchup, but the sentiment remains the same. A good game of baseball allows for everyone to return to their childhood, spend the day with friends and family, and simply have a good time.
As Opening Day once again draws closer, and the season will soon be in full swing, I recall some of the most significant memories of openers gone by.
Opening Day memories are among the most vivid the game can offer. My skin is full of bumps and my heart is soft with joy.
Some might remember some of Babe Ruth’s seven career Opening Day home runs, or the 1947 game between the Dodgers and the Braves when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the majors.
The Opening Day loss of yet-again World Champion New York Yankees to Oakland in 1999 was certainly one to remember, as the Yankees, those damn Yankees, have always been the team people love to hate. As they had just made another high-profile and expensive acquisition in Roger Clemens, and were coming off a 114-win season, it was a satisfying opener for non-Yankees fans. They would, of course, go on to win yet another pennant, but at least the season started out sweet.
The 2000 Opening Day between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets was very memorable, as it was the first MLB game to be played outside of North America. Played in Tokyo, the game was an exciting extension of America’s favorite pastime to the rest of the world, although the time difference made it hard to catch the game on television.
The excitement of a brand new stadium always makes for a grand Opening Day and none more so than the opening of Miller Park in 2001. Still one of the smallest markets in the league, Milwaukee’s passion for baseball led to the building of a still impressive retractable roof stadium, certainly something to be excited about then and now. Another great ballpark opener was the incredible game between the Rockies and the Mets, when the teams combined for 33 hits and 20 runs in 14 innings for the first game ever at Coors Field.
Baseball is a sport that brings together people from all walks of life, people from all backgrounds and cultures, for a day at the park. When it comes down to it, all that is really necessary is the good-old fashioned game, home runs and strikeouts, the 7th-inning stretch, grizzled players spitting the shells of sunflower seeds onto dugout floors… as long as there is baseball, as long as the opening pitch gets thrown, it’s bound to be a good Opening Day.