I went to my first Yankees Opening Day in 1978, at the ripe young age of 10. Since then, I have missed exactly two. I didn’t go to a game for the entire 1984 season because I was irate that the Yankees traded Graig Nettles, the No. 9 in 9nine9. And I missed Opening Day in 1995 because I had just started a new job less than two weeks earlier.
Opening Day is always special to me, and I sometimes think my butterflies are worse than whatever the players are experiencing. The date is stamped in my mind the minute the schedule comes out, and I always have trouble sleeping the night before.
Today was an extra special Opening Day. After all, how many chances do you get in your lifetime to be at the very first official game in a brand-new ballpark?
In true Yankee fashion, the opening ceremonies were over the top. Bernie Williams, who is delusional enough to think he can still play in the majors, played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on the guitar, and did it well. John Fogerty, who looked about 81, did a horrible job lip-syncing “Centerfield.” Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem, and she has apparently been living the good life, as part of her ass was in the right-handed batters’ box and the other part was in the left-handed batters’ box.
In between “Centerfield” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a plethora of former Yankees were introduced.
The all-time greats made sense: Yogi Berra (who threw out the ceremonial first pitch), Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Don Larsen, Nettles, Paul O’Neill, Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, Moose Skowron, Mel Stottlemyre, Dave Winfield.
The recent favorites also made sense: David Cone, Chili Davis, Tino Martinez, Luis Sojo, David Wells, Williams.
But the Yankees were apparently desperate to fill a quota. How else could you explain including John Flaherty, who does a decent job in the broadcast booth but was a marginal backup catcher for a couple of seasons? Or Lee Mazzilli, who was a Yankee for about 27 minutes and is far better known as a Met? Or Jesse Barfield, who was a very good player on some very, very bad teams?
As for the game, CC Sabathia struggled horribly with his command, but the Yankees still managed to get to the top of the seventh inning tied 1-1, thanks to some clutch defense and the new ballpark’s first home run, off the bat of Jorge Posada. Then, thanks to the horrific pitching of Jose Veras and Damaso Marte, 1-1 became 10-1 in quick and bloody fashion, and the final score was 10-2, Indians.
Still, despite the loss, Opening Day is always a great experience. I joke (and I’m not sure how much of a joke it is, because I’m actually pretty serious) about how Opening Day is my only religious holiday. It’s always been the most special day of the year for me, and breaking in the new Yankee Stadium made today extra special.
I’ll be back in the ballpark tomorrow afternoon, hoping that Joba Chamberlain can get the Yankees back on track.
God, I love baseball season!