The day we have all been waiting for. Opening Day. It should be a national holiday. It’s going to be kind of weird opening on a Thursday this year. While I prefer the traditional Monday opener, I’m not going to be “get off my lawn” guy and rail about it. I understand why they are doing it. They have incorporated more off days during the season, which I do think is a good thing. Sometimes I don’t know if people realize what a grind a 162 game season is, half of which is on the road. So Monday, Thursday who cares? Baseball is finally back.
I, of course, will be off work Thursday to watch the Cubs open the season in Miami. I always take Opening Day off. I would say it’s a tradition, but that would lead one to believe that it’s always the same thing every year. I have a lot of different memories of how I’ve spent Opening Day over the years.
Have you ever been to an Opening Day? I have. Kind of. It wasn’t the season opener, but it was the home opener at Wrigley Field. It was 1995. The previous season in August with the infamous lock out. No pennant races. No World Series. And potentially no fans. Teams were all set to start the 95 season with replacement players. That also meant replacement ticket prices. I don’t remember exactly how cheap the tickets were, but they were cut-rate. Then, at the last minute, the conflict was resolved, and the real players were to be back. Teams still had to honor the cheaper tickets. Here’s what I remember about that day. It was cold as hell. It was in the 30s actual temperature, who knows what the wind chill was. The Cubs played the Montreal Expos, and Sammy Sosa hit a home run. The Cubs won, and I vowed, after I thawed out, that that would be my first and last Opening day in Chicago. Call me whatever you want. Baseball is a warm weather game, and those conditions were brutal for me as a fan, much less the players.
Speaking of which, the weather wasn’t much better in 2008 playing the Brewers. Not to go off on this tangent again, but why were they not playing in roof-covered Miller Park ? In any case, the Cubs were down 3 when the newest Cubs, Koske Fukudome, hit a 3 run homer to tie it, only to see the Cubs eventually lose 4-3. We thought Fukudome’s star was born that day. He didn’t live up to that hype, obviously. That was all forgotten during that season when Sammy Sosa slugged 20 homer runs in the month of June, 66 for the season, won the MVP, and the Cubs made the playoffs.
I remember the last time the Cubs opened in Miami. 1997. I was working full time on the graveyard shift and going to school. Opening Day and school occurred on the same day. Guess which one won out? My buddy Randy and I ended up at our favorite watering hole, watching the Cubs drop the opener to the eventual World Champion Marlins. You might say the Marlins bought that World Series, signing Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Gary Sheffield, and more. Of course those guys were all pretty much traded off after that season. At the time, I was fine with it, and of the Cubs had done that and just won one, I’d have been more than happy.
Who could forget Opening Day at Wrigley 1994? Cubs vs Mets. Doc Gooden on the mound for the Cubs. Not going to score many runs off of Gooden right? Enter Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes.
Not 1, not 2, but 3 home runs! Again, I was working midnights in those days, but I wasn’t going to waste an Opening day sleeping. My buddy Randy was there that day too. This time we just sat in my apartment with our jaws on the floor watching Rhodes hot the trifecta against one of the best pitchers in baseball at the time. Of course the Cubs will lost that game 12-8, but it was a wild one.
I disrupted my sleep in 200 also. The Cubs played the aforementioned Mets. But this was in Tokyo. I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think it was even the same day there as it was here. That was a 2 games series and the Cubs lost the opener and took game 2 for a split in Japan.
Those are some of the memorable Cubs openers for me. Obviously it’s just one game. But when you win, you’re in first place for at least a day and you feel good. When you lose, you think the season is over. Of course we’d all love to see the Cubs open with a bang Thursday. But if they lose, we still have pretty good reason to be optimistic about the season. Any of you who follow me on Facebook (and feel free to do so if you’d like) knows I faithfully post a picture of the white W flag every time the Cubs win. It’s something i started doing a few years ago just for the heck of it, and I have had people tell me now they depend on seeing it to know how the Cubs did that day. I have my flag ready to go this Thursday. Step 1 of 162 and hopefully more after,
So what memories of Opening day do you have? Have you ever gone to one? Lost sleep? Taken the day off from work? Certainly I can’t be the only one who celebrates Opening Day like its Christmas.