I remember the year I needed a note to go to Opening Day.
It was 1995, and I was 12. I had never been to Opening Day before, and I really wanted to go. I had just lived the last eight and a half months without baseball, and I vividly remember my mom telling me on the morning of August 12, 1994 that baseball was going on strike. While at the time, I didn’t understand the financial implications of the labor battles, I knew that my life would be without baseball for an excruciatingly long period of time.
When April 1995 rolled around and the MLBPA and owners announced a strike settlement, I spent days lobbying my parents. “Please can we go to Opening Day?” I’d ask numerous times a day. Finally, as the delayed Opening Day crept closer and closer, my parents told me that yes, we could go to Opening Day.
April 26 — Opening Day 1995 — was a Wednesday, and my sixth grade class had plans to go see our high school’s dress rehearsal for Anything Goes, the annual musical. I would have to leave the production toward the end, and for that, I needed a note. Dressed in full Yankee regalia in honor of Opening Day, I snuck out of school early that day as my dad took me and my sister, then 7, to our first Opening Day game.
The game was a blast. The crowd of 50,425, still sore at the players for their eight-month walk-out and the owners for canceling the 1994 World Series that could have seen the Yanks face off against a very potent Montreal Expos team, was rowdy from the get-go. That day would be only the day until the ALDS that the Yanks would break the 50,000+ attendance mark. Those were the days.
The game itself lived up to all my Opening Day expectations. I witnessed the pomp and circumstance of Bob Sheppard, then a sprightly 84, announcing the lineup. There was Buck Showalter in his trademark jacket. Wade Boggs, Jim Leyritz, Paul O’Neill, Danny Tartabull, Don Mattingly, Mike Stanley, Bernie Williams, Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly lined up along the first base line while Jimmy Key warmed up in the bullpen. As the National Anthem began, all was right in my world.
The Yanks won that day, 8-6. Tartabull homered in the second inning to deep left-center, and the Yanks never looked back. Jimmy Key went 5 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits, but Kenny Rogers was worse. For the Rangers, he threw 3 innings and gave up 4 earned runs before Johnny Oates yanked him from the game. Bernie hit a home run; Pat Kelly went 3 for 4; and John Wetteland threw a perfect ninth for the save.
Since that day, I’ve been to a few more Opening Days. In 2002, still recovering from that heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, I trekked down from college outside of Philadelphia to Baltimore to catch the Yankees and Roger Clemens lose badly to the Orioles.
Last season, my first full baseball season back in New York after four years of college and ten months spent living in Washington, DC, I sat in the left field bleachers as Carl Pavano became the most infamous Yankee Opening Day starter of all time. When Alex Rodriguez‘s 8th inning home run to left center cleared the fence, little did I know that a historic MVP season would unfold in front of New York only to cumulate in a dramatic opt-out during the final outs of the World Series and a subsequent reconciliation. The Yanks won that one, beating Scott Kazmir and the Devil Rays 9-5.
So here we are again. It’s Opening Day 2008, and the baseball slate is wiped clean. We have a glorious schedule of 162 games ahead of us. We have summer nights at a jam-packed Yankee Stadium and tense late-season games in Fenway Park. We have full seasons from the much-heralded young guns, a swan song for a baseball Cathedral and a July filled with an All Star spectacle.
This is Opening Day, and this is what makes baseball great.
As much as we don’t like rules around here, now and then, we have to enforce some measure of control over our anarchy. With Opening Day just a few hours away, let’s take care of this bit of housekeeping right now.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen a huge increase in the level of visitors and comments to this site. As I noted yesterday, we’ve had over 1.25 million page views since the Yankees 2007 season ended. With baseball on tap, we expect this site to remain popular, and we’ll be updating just as frequently during the season as we did during the off-season, if not more frequently. We’ll have game threads on a daily basis and other special RAB events as the season unfolds.
But before we get to the fun, I want to announce the RAB Commenter Guidelines. First-time visitors and long-time readers should take a minute to read through the guidelines. If you have questions or concerns, you know where to reach us. The guidelines will be posted permanently on this page, and a link above the comment box on each post will direct you to them if you need to consult the guidelines at any point. Click through the jump to read the guidelines.
Here’s to Opening Day.
Chad Jennings is back at it with the complete rosters. These aren’t official, but they’re darn close to it. Double-A Trenton will be the team to watch this year, but Low-A Charleston’s rotation is loaded with some serious potential. Can’t wait for the games to begin. · (12) ·
Chad Jennings managed to run down a list of where some key minor leaguers have been assigned. The notables:
Double-A Trenton: Phil Coke, Reegie Corona, Steven Jackson, George Kontos, Chris Malec, Dan McCutchen, Carlos Mendoza, David Robertson, Kevin Russo, Josh Schmidt, Eric Wordekemper, Chase Wright
That’s a decent infield, lots of versatility … I expect Marcos Vechionacci to man the hot corner full-time … they won’t be blowing many late game leads in Trenton this year, wowza is that a solid ‘pen … Wright was the victim of the rotation numbers crunch in Triple-A Scranton
High-A Tampa: JB Cox, Mike Dunn, Mitch Hilligoss, Jon Hovis, Mark Melancon, Ivan Nova, Braedyn Pruitt, Damon Sublett
Cox will be sent up to Scranton as soon as the weather warms up … looks like Hilligoss will continue to play short, which only ups his value … I suspect Pruitt will play his way out of the lineup by midseason, and could be replaced by Bradley Suttle at some point
Low-A Charleston: Austin Romine, Jesus Montero, Carmen Angelini
Romine and Montero will likely split time behind the plate and at DH, which will help keep them fresh both short and long term, but it’s not ideal developmentally for their receiving … Angelini’s just the man
Disabled List: Francisco Cervelli, Anthony Claggett, Christian Garcia, CJ Henry, Kevin Whelan
Whelan is out with a sore shoulder, ditto Garcia, who’s never been able to stay healthy for an extended period of time … not sure what’s up with Claggett or Henry … Cervelli’s out with the wrist obviously
None of the assignments are final, but for the most part they all seem reasonable. I’m curious to see how Charleston’s rotation shakes out, with guys like Dellin Betances, Jairo Heredia, Zach McAllister, Adam O. and Ryan Pope all legit candidates.
As part of their season preview, The Times dissected Yankee Stadium, both literally and figuratively. Tyler Kepner offers up an audio slideshow to go along with his article on the secrets of the Stadium. Richard Sandomir looks at the eventual demolition of both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. · (1) ·
What would Opening Day be without a giveaway contest? Nothing. So here at RAB, we’re presenting the Opening Day PS3 MLB’08 The Show Giveaway Contest. And this time, we’ll run a tighter ship than we did with the photo caption contest last year.
The Prize: Copies of MLB ’08 The Show for PlayStation 3. Even if you don’t have a PS3, enter for the fun of it.
The Contest: Predict the New York Yankee firsts for the 2008 season. In the comments to this post, enter by taking your best guess at who will record following firsts for the Yankee season:
Hit (and what you think that hit will be)
The Fine Print: Each answer is worth one point, and the top three finishers will each win a prize. In the event of a tie, we have up to five copies of the video game to award. In order to be eligible to win this contest, you must leave a valid e-mail address in the e-mail field on the comment submission form. One entry per person please. This contest is open until 1:05 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, March 31, 2008.
As the Yanks prepare for their last opening day at the House that Ruth Built, Tyler Kepner checks win with a great piece on the hidden parts of Yankee Stadium that only the players know. Find out where the Yankee Stadium seats are fixed, where Jeff Nelson has left his marked, and why Goose Gossage thinks the new stadium is “something they had to do” and “just a shame.” It’s a great read. · (9) ·