Oriole fans get a double dip of openers this week. First was the Monday win at Tampa Bay, that got the season started and now the Camden Yards home opener with Toronto in town. What is it that makes openers so special to so many of us?
I get it, the Orioles are the defending American League East champs so naturally there's a buzz about this team's possibilities, but even in the dark period (14 straight losing seasons) the ballpark was packed for the opener. I guess we celebrate that baseball is back and we can wave winter bye-bye. Is it just me but doesn't the grass look greener on opening day and the uniforms look brighter.
That's Jim Palmer throwing out the first pitch and he should know how to do it. The Hall of Famer started 6 home openers for the Orioles and lost only one of those six games. Dave McNally and Mike Mussina also made 6 home starts for the Orioles. There will be 80 more home games after this one but there's only one opener. When Buck leads his Birds down the orange carpet to thundering cheers hope springs eternal. Could this be the Orioles team that gets back to the World Series for the first time in 32 years?
I've seen every home opener since 1980 and admit most are a blur in the memory bank; however time will not dim a few special moments from opening day in Baltimore. Here are three of my favorites.
- In 1982 Cal Ripken Jr. started his Rookie of the Year season with a dramatic 2-run homer on Opening Day. The kid from Aberdeen rocked the Memorial Stadium house and when he headed for home his third base coach, Cal Sr., was the first to shake his son's hand. The first of his 431 home runs was a special one!
- In the 1992 opener Baltimore fans packed an industry changing new downtown ballpark. Veteran Rick Sutcliffe made sure the historic debut was a winner. He took care of the Cleveland Indians with a complete game shutout. Chris Hoiles had the first RBI at Camden Yards and Bill Ripken drove in a run with a squeeze bunt. Orioles win 2-0.
- Maybe the most talked about opener was the 2003 Snow Ball. A wicked snow storm engulfed Camden Yards in the third inning and when right fielder Jay Gibbons couldn't find the baseball for the snowflakes the game was temporarily halted (after Cleveland scored 2 runs on the hidden snow ball trick). I'll never forget Gibbons blinded by the snow with no clue where the baseball was. I'll probably forget that a Gary Matthews hit in the 13th inning gave the Orioles a 6-5 win.
Baseball like the weather is hard to forecast, but one thing is certain there's only one opening day and no matter what the score it's one of the best days of the year.
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