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“There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League.” —George Vecsey
Is there a better way to describe Opening Day? Today is one the two high holy days in the Dubsism world (the other being the first weekend of college football). The beginning of a new Major League Baseball brings a generational feeling of rebirth, as Thomas Boswell once penned in “Why Time Begins On Opening Day.” After all, this is the one day of the season where everybody has an equal record; where each team still has hope heading into the 162-game campaign that separates the contenders from the pretenders.
“An opener is not like any other game. There’s that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one, you can’t lose ‘em all.” – Hall-of-Famer Early Wynn
For generations, Opening Day has arrived amid pageantry. In Cincinnati, Ohio, home of the sport’s first professional team, an annual parade marks an unofficial city holiday; the whole city essentially plays hookie to cheer on the Reds. For decades, the first pitch of every major league season officially took place in Cincinnati. Although the first regular season game is now a Sunday affair to appease the bitch-goddess of television, in deference to tradition, the Cincinnati Reds remain the only team who always opens the season with a home game.
Baseball is a game where anything can happen; as such sometimes special things happen on this special day. In 1940, Hall-of-Famer Bob Feller tossed an Opening Day no-hitter. 34 years later, Hank Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s career home run record. Sometimes, the thunder at the plate spans only that day, such as Dmitri Young, George Bell, and Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes being the only players to slug three dingers in the opener.
But nothing that exceptional is required; the day is grand enough of its own volition, so much so that presidents have become part of the tradition. Today marks the 100th anniversary of President William Howard Taft being the first to toss out the first pitch on Opening Day. Every commander-in-chief to this day has upheld the custom.
With that, perhaps this is the time to emulate the citizens of Cincinnati. Opening Day should be a day for all of us to take in the sights, sounds, traditions of one of the greatest days of the year.