Opening Day for America's Pastime
Opening Day Poll
Do You Remember Looking Forward to Opening Day
I can remember the days of my youth. Although baseball was never my favorite sport to play or watch, from about nine years of age, I can remember looking forward to coming home after school on the first Monday in April to watch the first game of the baseball season. In those days, the Cincinnati Reds hosted the first game of the baseball season in honor of their status as the first professional baseball team, beginning way back in 1869. I would generally get home sometime around the fifth or sixth inning, as school did not end until 3:30 and the game started around 1:30 (if memory serves correct).
Why did I look forward to this day? One major reason that I enjoyed Opening Day was its heralding of the beginning of Spring. Another reason I looked forward to Opening Day was its proximity to the end of the school year. Less than two months remained until Summer vacation and lazy days playing in the yard, which included throwing a ball against a wall in imitation of a major league pitcher.
The Reds always played the first game in my school days. They inhabited the wonderful cookie-cutter stadium known as Riverfront Stadium, which looked pretty much like Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, and Philadelphia's Veteran's Stadium, among others. All were multi-purpose stadiums built to house both football and baseball games. They were also very boring. Baltimore's Camden Yards changed the drive toward boring stadiums with astroturf fields.
All of these stadiums, however, were nothing when it came to real tradition. I can remember watching games on television broadcast from such stadiums as Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field in Chicago, the real Yankee Stadium in New York, Fenway Park in Boston (before seats on the Green Monster), and the old Tiger's Stadium in Detroit. These ballparks hearkened back to a time in which baseball was definitely the American pastime, the only game in town. All had Depression or pre-Depression origins.
The demise of these stadiums is depressing from the standpoint of a historian. Players like Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, and Ernie Banks played in these stadiums. Today, only Wrigley and Fenway remain of the old pre-WWII ballparks. With the demolition of such treasures, a part of the nation's history is lost.
When Is Opening Day?
Traditionally, Opening Day fell on the first Monday in April. In recent years, this has changed, however. Surprisingly, the first games that count in 2012 were played before the official opening day as the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners opened the season in Japan by splitting a two-game set. This year, Opening Day is on the first day of April, although March 31 will be "Opening Night" with a game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros televised by ESPN.
Regardless of the changes over time, however, millions of baseball fans will continue to look forward to Opening Day, if for no other reason than nostalgia of a simpler time when day after day could be spent tossing a baseball against a brick wall while dreaming of one day making the Big Leagues. Most, like me, will never so much as sniff such an opportunity, but the memories of dreaming are still cool to think about.