Opening Day never gets old with many happy returns

March 31, 1998|By Ken Rosenthal

Opening Day is a Baltimore tradition, a civic celebration, an electric moment in a city where baseball is king and Camden Yards is the throne.

It is a special section in the newspaper, wall-to-wall radio and TV coverage, a media horde of about 500 descending on the day's hero.

It is bunting at the ballpark, pomp and circumstance, the president throwing out the first pitch when he's not running away to Africa.

Opening Day is the sight of the warehouse, the smell of Boog's, the action on Eutaw Street.

The gates of the greatest ballpark on earth swinging open.

The warm smiles of the ushers, welcoming back old friends.

Opening Day is Chapter One of a 162-game mystery.

The 2,479th installment of Cal Ripken's streak.

And 3,038 in a row at home for the Orioles' other Iron Man, 73-year-old umpires attendant Ernie Tyler.

Opening Day is Eric Davis starting in right field on the first day of the rest of his life.

It is Boog Powell, Joel Stephens and thousands of others, waging their own courageous fights against cancer.

It is a day to remember Rex, watching from his own skybox.

And a day to embrace new PA announcer Dave McGowan.

Opening Day is March 31, for crying out loud.

Mercifully, El Nino is pitching.

Opening Day is Mike Mussina's first appearance at Camden Yards since his glorious performance in the 1997 postseason.

And Armando Benitez's first appearance since Tony Fernandez took him over the right-field wall.

It is a day to raise the flag on the Orioles' first division title since '83, with the team's best manager since Earl Weaver sitting home in Winter Park, Fla.

Think Davey is watching?

Opening Day marks the beginning of the Ray Miller Era, with Mount Angelos dormant.

"My manager searching is over," the owner told USA Today, ominously.

Opening Day is a new beginning for bench coach Eddie Murray. A second chance for pitching coach Mike Flanagan. A long-awaited breakthrough for first base coach Carlos Bernhardt.

It is bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks' 30th opener in an Orioles uniform -- only 14 took place without him.

Opening Day marks the Orioles debuts of warhorses Joe Carter, Doug Drabek, Norm Charlton and Ozzie Guillen.

And maybe the beginning of the end in Baltimore for Rafael Palmeiro and Roberto Alomar.

It is a day to gasp at the most expensive baseball team ever assembled, playing right here in lil' ol' Bawlmer.

And a day to grumble at the price of tickets, concessions and the new caps, redesigned especially for you.

Opening Day is a parachutist dressed as the Oriole Bird, aiming for second base and landing in the parking lot.

It was a good omen -- the Orioles won their last World Series the year it happened, 1983.

Opening Day is a dramatic 10th-inning home run by Boston's Tony Conigliaro, playing his first game since the beaning that forced him to miss the entire '68 season.

It is Dave McNally's three-hit shutout of Milwaukee in '73, complete with two homers by Frank Robinson and a 4-for-4 day by Don Baylor -- two doubles, a triple and a homer.

Opening Day is a clean score book.

A day that begins with every team unbeaten. A day that ends in a box score.

It is a 12-0 loss to the Brewers in 1988, the Orioles swearing it was only one defeat, when actually it would be 21.

It is a three-run homer by Cal Ripken off Roger Clemens in '89 after Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy predicted The Rocket would throw a no-hitter.

And it is Sam Horn hitting two three-run homers in Kansas City in '90.

Big Sam, where have you gone?

Opening Day is the big, bad Yankees, lurking in New York.

The expansion Devil Rays, joining the AL East.

The small-market Royals, soon to be 0-3.

Opening Day is 61 homers to go for McGwire and Griffey.

It is the great Tony Gwynn, the magnificent Greg Maddux, the amazing Barry Bonds.

And it is the Florida Marlins, trotting out 13 rookies and calling themselves the defending champs.

It is Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.

And it is America's new sweethearts, Derek Jeter and Mariah Carey.

"Ma-ri-ah! Ma-ri-ah!"

Let's hope they're still dating when the Yankees make their first visit in June. Even better, let's hope they're not.

Opening Day is Brady Anderson playing hurt, B. J. Surhoff grinding out an at-bat, Ripken diving to stab a grounder.

It is Davis raising the roof, Mike Bordick making every play, Alomar taking your breath away.

It is not a day to boo Terry Mathews.

Opening Day is an afternoon game, a reminder of simpler times and a cell-phone extravaganza for the suits who broke away from the office.

It is a two-hour, 20-minute masterpiece or a three-hour, 45-minute mess.

4 It is a talk-show controversy waiting to happen.

Opening Day is fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and grandparents telling you about the very first Orioles opener in 1954.

It is a day to break out your old glove.

To remember the first game you ever attended.

To remember the game that broke your heart.

Opening Day is the dawning of spring, the renewal of life, the beginning of time whatever.

Opening Day is a ballgame.

Play ball.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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