Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No. 869 – And So I Know

Performer: The Stone Temple Pilots
Songwriters: Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland
Original Release: Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: None

When I had BBT, I started a petition to advocate for a national Opening Day holiday, which makes sense when you think about it: It’s right in between President’s Day and Memorial Day, and what better to celebrate than the end of winter and the start of the National Pastime? Unfortunately, like most of my good ideas, it went nowhere.

As it stands, no team celebrates Opening Day like the Cincinnati Reds. It’s the one game that’s a guaranteed sellout—even when the Reds are terrible, which they’ve been pretty much since 1995. I had never been to a Reds Opening Day, so Debbie and I decided to go in 1996. I got tickets the day they went on sale in January, but they still were in the red seats in center field under the scoreboard.

It was a cold, crisp April Monday (right after this album came out), but other than the temperature, it was a perfect day. The Reds were coming off a playoff year, so there was a lot of anticipation at what was expected to be a good year.

I was apprehensive, because the Reds had fired their manager who had led them to the playoffs (and would have in 1994 too had their not been a strike) and brought in someone who was not up to the task, as I accurately predicted to anyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t). But Opening Day always brings out the optimism, so let’s go Reds!

Sparky Anderson, who had also just been fired from the Detroit Tigers, finally had time to come back to Cincinnati, and he served as the parade marshall. (Cincy has an Opening Day parade: How cool is that?) That means he would throw out the first pitch, taking the ball from an elephant. (Insert your own Marge Schott joke here.)

Finally it was time to start, and the lefty Pete Schourek fired strike one to start the season to a huge roar of approval. The next pitch was high and outside … and then all Hell broke loose.

2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of my first Major League game. My first game of any kind was the Triple-A Columbus Jets in 1970. I probably have seen more than 300 pro games, maybe 400. I’ve never seen a no-hitter. I’ve never seen a milestone home run or strikeout. I’ve never seen a pennant clincher.

But I have seen the only time in baseball history when a home-plate umpire collapsed and died of a heart attack on the field, which of course is what happened after that second pitch in 1996. It’s bad form to say “woe is me” given the circumstances, and I’m sorry for that, but it sucks that that’s the biggest historical event I’ve witnessed at a ballgame.

Oh well, Opening Day is only 45 days away, and Opening Day always brings out the optimism.

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