Around here we call it Opening Day

“It’s opening day. Or Opening Day, depending on your perspective.” – Jim Bouton, Ball Four

It starts now. This is when stuff starts to get real. “Starts to,” because while yes, the games count this early, you still can’t really tell anything about anything. There are guys who play the game who say, “Hey, why all the excitement? It’s only one out of 162.” While this is an inarguable fact, it means different things to different people. It means spring is really here, despite chilly temperatures and snow on the ground. It means getting ready for summer and spending more time outside. It means hope for your team – heck, right now, we’re all 0-0 and everybody, presumably, has a shot.

For the Mets, historically, Opening Day has been nothing but famous. For the first eight years of their existence, they never won on Opening Day. Considering that they hardly ever won the rest of those seasons, either – but for one wonderful exception – it fit with the Amazin’ narrative. The Mets were born in 1962 and started 0-9. In 1963, it was 0-8. In ’64, they cut it in half, 0-4. This was how the fans could point to improvement. Finally, in 1970, the Mets won on Opening Day, mere moments after receiving their World Series rings. Since then, they’ve almost never lost on Opening Day, going 18-3 from 1970 through 1990 and a little more statistically balanced later on – 18-9 from ’91 to ’17 – but 36-12 more than makes up for 0-8.

So how will it be this year? There is more hope surrounding this team this year than there has been in the last three. With fingers crossed that the injury devil will pass them by this season, the pitching staff looks like it could border on the dominant. The lineup looks as solid as it ever has, despite possible disaster looming at first base. The bench looks surprisingly strong – again, supposing they aren’t pressed into too much action – and the bullpen looks sturdy, and might be further fortified soon. Of course, we know better than most what can go wrong; we were dragged through it last year. But it’s Opening Day and if you can’t have hope today, you never will. It may not mean anything, but it’s fun to speculate. It’s fun to look ahead to those warm days, to summer evenings seeing the sun set behind home plate, to watching the Unisphere light up and grabbing a cold beer. Opening Day: two of the sweetest words you’ll ever hear.

Your intrepid columnist has attended every Opening Day at Citi Field since 2014. He’s sat in the bitter cold (’14), been burned by the sun on a 72 degree afternoon (’15), seen a pennant raised (’16) and come away with a really bad false impression on the season to come (’17). The Mets won all but one of those, so my presence in Queens just may be a good harbinger for the day.

Let’s hope it’s one for the season. LGM!

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

3 comments for “Around here we call it Opening Day

  1. Mike Walczak
    March 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

    RIP Rusty Staub

    We lost a great Met today. Rusty Staub passed away. He was a NY icon and great philanthropic man.

    A time to remember, what memories do you have of Rusty ?

    Here are mine.

    I saw him hit his last major league home run at Shea Stadium.

    I also remember going to Met games very several hours before the start of the game. In his last year, I say and watched him take batting practice in the cage. Yes, he still choked up on the bat and even over the age of 40, he ripped line drive after line drive.

    One of the worst days of my 50 years of being a huge Mets fan, is the day that they traded Rusty to Detroit for Mickey Lolich. I was infuriated and heart broken. I hated Lolich. He went 8-13 in his only year with the Mets. Now, as a more level headed individual, I see the Lolich had a good year. His ERA was 3.22. That’s what heated sports passion can do to you.

    • March 29, 2018 at 9:38 am

      While I was a fan before, 1972 was the year that I really got hooked. There was so much excitement around the acquisition of Staub and I desperately wanted to see him on a real Mets baseball card but I’d have to wait a couple of years. I still maintain that if he hadn’t gotten hurt in ’72 that they would have won that year, too.

      Anyone who saw Staub in the ’73 WS play with a wrecked shoulder – and not just play, but play great – had to be inspired.

      Staub did two things that stood out to a little kid. First, he’d put his hands on his hips and look at the umpire when he felt he wrongly called a strike. And second, he’d blow hard through his mouth and make his lips flutter when he was down in the count and had to get serious.

      Goodbye Rusty – glad I got to see you play.

  2. Eraff
    March 29, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Rusty was a Great ballplayer, beloved every single place He played. I remember him as a somewhat slow guy who somehow ran bases very well (Like Hernandez), and played great D—and one of the powerful and accurate arms to have played.

    He brings to mind a big list of Great But Not HOF guys… a list that includes Vada Pinson, Julio Franco, Steve Garvey, Johnny Damon, Willie Davis, Bill Buckner. Most of them “Old Timey” by today’s standards. Guys “trapped” in a Mindset that might make them look paler than our memories of them…if we look at things like OPS and other Modern Stats, especially compared to today’s Frothier Offensive Setting.

    That’s a different Argument or Pondering for a Different Day. He was a Great Ballplayer…evidently a Great Guy and Teammate. A Fan Favorite Everywhere.

    Thanks Rusty..Farewell…We Remember and Celebrate You!

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