By Phil Hecken
I’m sure I’m not the first person to opine that the first Monday in April should be a national holiday. But it should be. Opening Day is certainly viewed by many as the greatest day in the history of the world, and many celebrate it like it is. It’s the day when the greatest sport in the history of the planet begins anew, when every team is undefeated, and hope springs eternal. Or, at least it used to be that way.
Sadly, what for decades began at Crosley or Riverfront, with the Cincinnati Reds “officially” opening the season, has now morphed into a despressing spectacle of “Sunday Night Baseball” games and “Opening Series” played in Japan or Puerto Rico or Mexico. But every year, until recently, baseball opened in the Queen City. Yes, for decades, the first pitch always took place in Cincy, and to this day, the Reds remain the only team to ALWAYS open the season at home. It’s little consolation to those who revere tradition, where opening day is still treated as a holiday in the city with the oldest continuously operating baseball franchise.
Yes, they still begin the season in Cincinnati and it’s technically the the first day game on the first Monday of the season. The city still hosts a big parade, and folks young and old come out to watch. A great time is had by all, and those who don’t get the day off usually come down with a case of 24-hour polio, while the fans rejoyce. Fashion usually revolves around wearing Reds gear — and I can’t decide if this is the greatest or worst pair of stirrups I’ve ever seen. Probably the latter. For more pics of Cincy’s Opening Day festivities, look here.
Moving away from Cincinnati, it’s really a day for celebration across the nation, whether your team is opening at home or on the road. While all sports celebrate their own openings, no sport does it like baseball. Whether it’s a giant flag spanning the outfield, a huge banner splashed across the outfield wall celebrating last year’s World Series win, or just balloons, bunting or fireworks and more giant flags, it’s a sea of red, white and blue — a not-so-subtle reminder that this is STILL America’s national pasttime. Yeah…baseball does it up right for opening day.
Many of you, I’m sure, treat opening day as a national holiday as well. I still do, although I no longer play hooky from work (back in the day, I probably saw ten or so Mets home openers live), but I’ll have Monday’s game on the radio, as I do every year. The last year I went to Mets Opening Day was 2001 (although I didn’t take that picture). I’ll DVR the game, because, unlike any other game, opening day is the only regular season game where the full roster of each team is introduced to the crowd.
Despite the current fascination with garish commercialization, there’s still something special about seeing Jerry Dior’s graphic justaposed with the words “Opening Day” and the ubiquitous bunting. And, there have been some pretty amazing moments to happen on Opening Day throughout history.
I know many of you have your own “traditions” for opening day, just as I have mine. For at least the past ten or more years, I’ve watched The Natural and/or Field of Dreams the weekend before Opening Day, I have a special “Mets” tie I wear on Opening Day, and I always try to eat a hot dog (sadly, there is no ‘stadium mustard’ in these parts) for lunch, so Gulden’s Brown or Gold’s will have to do. I always listen to the game at work, living and dying with each pitch as though it were the seventh game of the World Series, instead of the first game of 162. And, for the past half-dozen or so years, I’ve re-read what has become my most eagerly awaited column of the year.
So, how about you? Do you have any traditions? Are you going to the game and playing hooky tomorrow? Do you wear any team gear to school/work, watch any baseball movies? Let’s hear ’em. Because, folks, the season may begin tonight in Fenway, but tomorrow is Opening Day.
The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.
Opening day always brings a sense of excitement, anticipation, a rebirth. Unless, of course, you’re “Ol’ Eddie.” Then opening day brings a whole new set of emotions. Here’s Rick:
Opening Day or game 162. pitchers and catchers need to talk, be on the same page…even if it’s softball, even if the pitcher’s been around so long he reportedly dated Abner Doubleday’s sister, even if catcher’s just joined the team after being released from…marriage.
And with that, enjoy your full color Sunday Benchies.
From The Squiddie Files: Sitting presidents have thrown out the first pitch on opening day 47 times. William Howard Taft became the first on April 14, 1910. That year, Walter Johnson threw a complete-game one-hitter and the Senators beat the Philadelphia Athletics, 3-0. This year, President Obama will mark the 100th anniversary of Taft’s ceremonial opening day pitch when he tosses out the first ball at Nationals Park. Here’s Lance Smith with a look back at Opening Days of yore:
It was one of the rites of Spring. The sitting President and other local dignitaries would make the trip to Griffith Stadium, shake hands with Clark or Calvin and toss a ball from the Presidential box (and NOT the pitcher’s mound) to mark the start of another baseball season. Even after the Senators had moved to Minnesota (replaced with the soon to be Rangers) and moved to District of Columbia Stadium (later Robert F. Kennedy Stadium) the tradition continued. Most of these first pitches made it into Life magazine.
Let’s look at some photos!
In 1941 Franklin Delano Roosevelt threw out the first pitch and sang the national anthem. (Note the photographers often framed FDR so his disablities weren’t apparent. The hand supporting him in the second photo would probably be cropped out before publication.) The Senators lost to the Yankees 0-3
By 1944, FDR was too ill to attend and so Vice President Henry A. Wallace was sent to see the Senators lose to the Philadelphia Athletics 2-3. Wallace shook hands with the Senators and Connie Mack and signed a few autographs. The photographers stayed to cover the game.
In 1946 Harry S Truman and his family came to see a Red Sox victory (3-6). (Have you noticed that players took off their caps when they met the President?) When the President threw the ball it was not to a specific player, but to the players from both teams.
Dwight Eisenhower (is that LBJ sizing up the seat?) came in 1953 to watch Washington lose to New York 3-6. Ike and his Veep meet the Griffiths. OK, Presidents do seem to enjoy this . I think this guy’s job was to stop any balls headed towards the President.
In 1961, the new Senators opened with a loss against the Chicago White Sox (3-4) Minnesota (home of the old Senators) Senator Hubert H. Humphrey was there to watch John F. Kennedy throw out the first pitch. In 1962 the Senators moved to a new stadium and JFK was there to throw out the first pitch. A rain delay meant he wasn’t there to see the Senators beat the Detroit Tigers 4-1.
I was hoping to make it from FDR to Richard Nixon, but I can find no Life photos of Lyndon B. Johnson throwing out a first ball. As a substitute, I’m including this photo of the Monterrey Little League team meeting Senator Johnson, Clark Griffith and Vice President Nixon. Nice stirrups, kids.
Great work Squiddie.
People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. — Rogers Hornsby
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: In keeping with the spirit of today’s post, you can probably safely assume the “theme” of things. As such, today’s guest scoreboard comes from Lance Smith, with another wonderful blast from the past. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
Back again with more Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions today. Lots to get to, and if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
We begin today’s tweaks with Mark Kiehn, who has a very interesting concept for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
My ideas for new Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniforms: Home, Away, Alternate
Next up is Barry Woods, who has some ideas for the Dirty Birds:
I read your blog every day, and am a huge Falcons fan. I really like some things about the Falcons uni’s now, but hate some things about them, so here goes. First off, gold is one of the team colors, so I am going to use it. As for the jesrseys, I changed the sleeves to eliminate the mess they have now, and have same colored sleeves and side panels (except for the black jersey). The black jersey I went solid black, with a red collar, and solid white pants just to have a different look. All of the socks, pants, and jerseys are interchangeable though, so you could mix and match however you felt like. The main thing to me was incorporating the gold, which to me is a great compliment to red and black.
Moving on, we have Paul Lee, who has a rather verbose new take on the LA Lakers:
Man! I’ve been waiting for this!
I’d like to propose new tweaks (mainly colors) for all three Lakers’ jerseys, and, on a related note, reverting the Staples Center floor back to the Forum colors.
Home Gold jersey would stay the same, except that the color of the number would be purple with white outlines (instead of white with purple outlines). White numbers paid tribute to West and Baylor days, but new purple numbers would honor Magic and Kareem days.
Away Purple jersey would stay the same, except that the color of the number would be gold with white outlines (instead of white with gold outlines). Lakers have always had white numbers on away jerseys, so a change is due. Plus, this would make it the exact opposite of the home colors, where gold and purple are swapped.
Home Alternate White jerseys would be changed the most, with the neck trim now in gold, and both the word “Lakers” and the numbers on front and back of the jersey be in gold with a purple outline. The current Jeannie Buss-designed, Chick Hearn tribute is just too purple for my taste, especially when it appears to be so blue-ish on TV.
I would also love to see the logo on all three shorts changed to the full Lakers logo, and not just the alternate “L” logo. A full Lakers logo might also look nice on the back of all three jerseys, between the collar and the player name, though the team would probably use the crappy “L” logo, if implemented.
1) Home jersey will stay the same, except the colors of the numbers (front and back) with be purple with white outline (instead of white with purple outline). Logo on back optional.
2) Away jersey will be the same, except the colors of the numbers (front and back) with be gold with white outline (instead of white with gold outline). Logo on back optional.
3) Third jersey will be exactly the same as my proposed away jersey, except all areas in purple will be swapped with white, and white swapped with purple. Logo on back optional.
Just my two-cents. I’m sure the NBA would love to sell more Kobe jerseys anyway.
Notice, unless the logo design is added to the back, none of the designs have been changed, only the colors.
And finally, we have Andrew Greenstein, who has some thoughts on how to improve the Celtics:
Hey Phil. Hope all is well with you. Here’s a concept I came up with for a redesigned Celtics uniform. You might want to post it on your blog and see what people think about it.
Andrew M. Greenstein
Thus endeth the tweak show. Check back next time for more.
OK ladies and gentlemen, that’s all for today. Enjoy the game in Boston tonight, but save your energy for tomorrow. Remember, it’s not an “official” holiday, but it should be. Uh-oh, I hope I’m not coming down with something.
I love Opening Day. I think we all do, whether it’s the players, coaches or front office. It’s just a special day in our American culture. It’s weaved into the fabric of what we are, and I think it’s a great day. — Bud Black