Opening Day, after 158 days it is back. Baseball gives us moments, ones to savor and ones to share. On Oct. 29, the Phillies recorded the final out of the 2008 season.
On April 6, 2009 we start again anew.
April 6, 1971, Willie Mays hits a home run. It wasn’t that home run on opening day that was amazing as he had accomplished the feat so many times before. (It was number 627 of his 660 career dingers) The amazing part was at just shy of 40 years old the great center fielder would homer in each of the Giants' first four games, to tie a major league record that still stands.
Two year later, on this very day in 1973, the game changed forever when Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees stepped to the plate to become the Major Leagues first designated hitter. He drew a bases loaded walk, and finished the day one for three in a game that the Yankees lost at Fenway, 15-5.
April 6, 1989, Orel Hershiser’s 59 scoreless innings streak is finally broken in the first inning vs. The Reds. With two down in the first Barry Larkin becomes the First Earned run to cross the plate again Orel since Aug. 30, 1988
Speaking of scoreless, on Aug. 30, 1918, the Brooklyn Dodgers beat The New York Giants 1-0 at the Polo Grounds in a game that took only 57 minutes. Ask any Red Sox fan, 1918 was the start of one of the most infamous streaks in sports.
On that same date in 1905, The Georgia Peach, Tyrus Cobb began his career with a double off New York Highlander Jack Chesbo in a 5-3 Tigers win. Just 4,190 more hits later, Cobb got his last hit on Sept. 3, 1928. During a ninth innings pitch hit, Cobb doubled.
Sept. 11, 1928 Cobb stepped to the plate again in a ninth inning pitch hit situation, this time Cobb grounded out to shortstop Mark Koening.
Sept. 11, 1985, Peter Edward Rose in front of a crowd of 47,000 plus at Riverfront Stadium broke Cobbs all time mark off of pitcher Eric Snow of the San Diego Padres. Rose would manage to get this hit total up to 4,256.
Aug. 17, 1986 Pete Rose strode to the plate for his last at bat against, Richard “Goose” Gossage of the same San Diego Padres, and struck out. It was the 1,143rd strikeout in the amazing career of Charlie Hustle.
Four years to the day on Aug. 17, Carlton Fisk pounds out home run number 328 to pass Rose’s former team mate, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.
When Fisk retired, he had smashed 376. At the time, the most by a catcher. But his most famous came in the 12th inning on Oct. 21, 1975. The image of a man willing greatness into the New England Night. A night when Carlton was larger that both Bench and Rose, if only for a moment.
Oct. 21, 1980, Losers become winners. As Steve Carlton pitches a four-hitter through seven innings and Tug McGraw shuts down the final two. The Philadelphia Phillies bring the World Series to Philadelphia for the first time.
The Phillies recaptured that magic again on Oct. 29, 2008. After a single and a stolen base Brad Lidge fanned Eric Hinske on a 0-2 pitch to once again allow Philadelphia to proclaim itself at the World Champions of baseball.
That brings us to today. I arise this morning with the sun shining, and a bounce in my step.
I waded through the “winter of my discontent.”
I rationalized steroids and A-Rod, Clemens and Barry.
I watched at an Economy crumbled and Manny Ramirez stead fast in his demands for a huge sum of money.
I sat by as the best big game pitcher in the history of the game finally decided that it was time to walk away from the game.
I had to listen as Yankee fan’s celebrated the signing of three of the most sought after free agents on the market to contacts that totalled over $400 million. Then they whine about the prices the seats in the stadium cost like I am supposed to feel sorry for them. How exactly did they think they were going fund a $200 million payroll.
We found out that Bug Selig is not only somewhat clueless as to the running of his league, but he makes a lot of money while doing it.
Joe Torre decided that old Vegas rules of story telling don’t apply to the New York Yankees.
There were some high lights, like The Kid heading back to Seattle for what looks to be a victory lap. For the record I was never crazy about Junior in Red anyways.
The hall of fame voters got it half right, Rickey was a no-brainer, just ask Rickey, and he’ll tell you how good Rickey was. In the process of getting it half right 28 writers managed to show us that the voting process is a joke at this point.
The second annual WBC came and went and other than America, the world loved it. Too bad Team USA couldn’t manage to get itself in shape for this. Just a heads up guys, the next one is in 2013. I hope that’s enough notice, apparently knowing three years in advance wasn’t enough this time.
But with all that said, today is the day. The Phillies get to fly their banner and put on their rings. Somewhere on the breeze wafts take me out to the ball game.
For me, for you, for fans every where be begin to believe again. Our hero’s, our entertainers return to us for another summer of the amazing, disappointing, frustrating and inspiring.
Over what will amount to approx 208 days we will await the moments. The night Randy Johnson wins number 300. We’ll hope to see him toss strikeout number 211. Is it a bit of a stretch? Sure, but who says the Big Unit doesn’t have a little magic left. Maybe, just maybe enough to make him the second man in MLB history to top the 5,000-strikeout mountain.
Will you be watching when Rivera becomes the second closer in history to crack 500 saves. When Mo manages to add yet another meaningful date to baseball’s storied history?
It all begins with opening day, the wind blows a little warmer today. The sun shines a little brighter. Fans everywhere young and old woke up with a sense of Christmas morning.
Instead of a fire truck or a new bike, we hope to be greeted with a double play or a ball in the gap.
Here I sit on April 6, shaking off winter like a pitcher ahead in the count that can get what he wants.
I have sat patiently through the winter awaiting the spring, awaiting the next great moment in baseball history.
Here’s to the start of another great year in the sun, here’s to another summer of the amazing, it’s time boys, PLAY BALL!!!