Opening Day still special

Opening Day means something in baseball.

Other sports don’t really even bother with a name for their openers. And they don’t play their games in the afternoons on weekdays.

No, Opening Day, or the home opener, still means something. If it didn’t, 41,000 people would not have crammed into Progressive Field Friday on a cold, rainy afternoon.

Despite my lifelong obsession with baseball, I’ve only been to a pair of home openers.

Both were in the old Municipal Stadium.

Both were afternoon games.

And both got me out of school.

“Zach,” my father said as I sat down at the dinner table in 1991, “do you have anything important at school tomorrow?”

“Uh… I don’t think so,” I replied.

That was all my father needed to know.

“Well, I’m gonna pull you out of school and take you and your brother to the game tomorrow.”

Now, understand, if I’d had a big science test the next day, I’d have said it wasn’t that big of a deal.

If I had been asked to introduce the president the next day for an assembly, I wouldn’t have blinked.

Go see a baseball game?

The home opener?


And I get to miss school?

Yeah, I was in.

Now, the Indians were three years from being decent. Then-GM Hank Peters was building a winner, but it hadn’t materialized yet.

In fact, the Indians of 1991 were a collection of players too young to win or not old enough to retire.

In preparation for this column, I went to and looked up the box score from the game I saw.

It was surprising how little of the actual game I remembered. All I could recall was that that the Indians lost – one of 105 times they would do so in ’91.

But the pieces were starting to show up.

Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar all were in that lineup.

So was Mike Huff, who led off and played center. While I specialize in remembering random Indians players from this time period, Huff’s mere existence had escaped my memory.

The Indians’ starting pitcher was Eric King, someone I didn’t like because the Indians’ had traded my favorite player – Cory Snyder – for him.

King was pretty good, allowing just three runs over 8 1/3 innings. But Rangers starter and future ace Kevin Brown was better, allowing just one run over seven. King took the loss.

I don’t remember much of that.

I do remember the crowd was big. More than 46,000 people came to the old stadium. No matter how bad the team was, people still came out. And it was a one-day crowd. Two days later, when the Indians and Rangers resumed their series, they drew a little more than 6,000 fans.

The other Opening Day I attended was two years later, the final season of Cleveland Stadium. While most openers are filled with optimism, this one was somber. It had been just two weeks since the boating accident that claimed the lives of Tribe pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews, and injured pitcher Bob Ojeda.

It was a huge crowd, more than 73,000, and I remember seeing many of them in tears.

All I remember from the game itself were two things.

1. The Yankees won big over the Indians.

2. It was the first time I remember my mother trying to cheer me up by saying “a little boy in (insert opponent’s city) probably is really happy right now.

This was supposed to make me feel better. Never did.

But Opening Day is special, and baseball is special, for another reason: if your team loses today, you can see it win tomorrow.

And if it loses tomorrow, there still at least about 155 left.

And that’s why we love baseball.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

Contact him at: of follow him on Twitter @Zachthewriter