Opening Day and Other Insipid Thoughts
To a diehard baseball fan Opening Day is Thanksgiving, Christmas, and your birthday all rolled into one glorious day. What two other words, except “Lottery Winner,” could evoke such passion?
Even if you are a Mets fan, hammered all winter and spring with negative news, this is one day-one game to give it a rest. Now, it doesn’t hurt that the Mets are the titans of Opening Day. Posting a MLB best winning percentage (.647, 33-18 after yesterday’s 1-1 win) and ahead of the second place Yankees (.586, but the Bombers have participated in a ton more.)
According to Wikipedia, from 1968-1983, the Mets won 16 openers. Thank you Tom Terrfic! Seaver started 11 times for the Mets and posted a perfect 6-0 mark. If you were a young fan during that time, Opening Day was a slam dunk victory.
And, wasn’t it always a convenient coincidence that there was always a half-day of school on Opening Day? As a high school junior, I remember biding my time in the morning before bolting and catching the 7-train to be at Shea by the time the luminaries and debris had been cleared from the field.
Recently, I poured over the box score of the 1975 opener that I attended (the Mets had acquired Joe Torre from the Cardinals and Dave Kingman from the Giants, among others, to create a palpable buzz) on Baseball Reference.com.
Off the top of my head, I could tell you, Torre stroked a 9th inning base hit to score Felix “The Cat” Millan for the 2-1 victory. I didn’t recall that Seaver faced Steve Carlton of the Phillies, a Hall of Fame match-up.
Each hurled complete games, with Seaver scattering 6-hits, and Lefty only 4 (but one long homerun to Kong). Moreover, they pitched like they were double-parked-in an economical 2:02-and home from school right on time.
Imagine, the announced attendance was only 18,527? No wonder I purchased a mezzanine box seat without incident, minutes before the first pitch. With nary two nickels to rub together in those salad days, the ducket couldn’t have exceeded a sawbuck ($10) back then.
As I read the box score, I noticed that under “weather conditions,” it read, “unknown.” My fellow faithful fans, I can report it was sunny and mild, in the high 50′s at game time (thank you Dr. Frank Field).
Conversely, Opening Day 1970, which I had to witness the raising of the World Championship banner, a frigid low 40′s with a biting wind. When the Pirates tied the score with a ninth-inning rally, a collective groan could be heard through the stone-cold grandstands.
Just a few of many memories, and of course Johan Santana only added to the list yesterday. His return was a welcome sight.
For all the talk of gloom and doom this club could use a few breaks. I intend to not miss many Ike Davis or Lucas Duda at-bats this year. And, root for the kid, Reuben Tejada to develop into a serviceable major leaguer. And, root against the Marlins!
With Jon Niese in the fold for the next bunch of years, hope he brings the consistency the high numbers registered on his new pay stub affords.
Most importantly, give Jason Bay some rope and hope he doesn’t hang himself (figuratively folks). The man could use some sunshine to break through darkened skies. I mean ZERO RBI’s in 45 spring at-bats is putrid. 15 strikeouts. Oy!
If he doesn’t hit the ground running he might have to keep on trucking (make it look like you’re leading a parade, not being run out of town, Jason). Bay’s bat is still vital.
If he bats fifth and produces, that separates the lefties (Davis, clean-up and Duda, 6th) nicely in the order. Add David Wright and the pesky Andres Torres, and just maybe the offense flourishes. If it sputters, Bay might want to borrow Bobby Bonilla’s ear plugs.
Hope that Frank Francisco isn’t the second coming of Armando Benitez (or Mel Rojas) and Jon Rauch is better suited as a power forward for the Knicks.
All the cacophony of questions died down to a dull roar yesterday, the roar of devoted Mets fans welcoming their team back home prevailed – as it should.
About the Author: Doug Branch
Doug has been sports writing since 1983. He first wrote about the Mets at spring training that year, and his first interviewee was surly catcher Ron Hodges. He currently writes for Mets Inside Pitch, among other magazines published by Scout Publishing-which is owned by Fox Sports. He began following the team during the Wes Westrum era, and redeemed many Borden milk coupons for free Saturday baseball. The night of Tom Seaver's imperfect game against the Cubs, he was in line to buy a ticket when the windows slammed shut and abject disappointment ensued.
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