Even after 14 years of losing baseball there’s something special about Opening Day. The grass is so green the uniforms so clean, on this day everybody is undefeated. I like the celebration of opening day it’s a combination of celebrating baseball, your favorite team and spring. Toss in some hot dogs and your favorite drink and there’s something for everybody.
I started covering the Orioles in 1980 so my first opening day was at Memorial Stadium in 1981. The Orioles were a season removed from the World Series and 2 years away from winning the World Series. Steve Stone, coming off a Cy Young year, was the starter in that opener. Ken Singleton and Rick Dempsey hit homers and the Orioles got the strike shortened season started with a win over George Brett and the Royals.
Cal gave us a great memory in 1982; in his first Opening Day at bat he slammed a home run. The place went nuts for the kid from Aberdeen, who would go on to be the Rookie of the Year, and the Kodak moment was 3rd base coach Cal Sr. shaking his son’s hand as Junior headed for home plate, what a thrill!
I’ll never forget Opening day 1989. The Orioles were coming off a season that saw them start 0-21 and lose a record 107 games. Facing Roger Clemens fat chance! Wait a minute these were “The Why Not Orioles” on that opening day Steve Finley made a crashing into the wall catch, Cal hit a 3-run homer and Birds beat Boston in a game and season to remember. The opening day win fueled an incredible season that had the Orioles playing for the pennant on the final weekend in Toronto.
A rare road opener in 1990 and Sam Horn was the man in Kansas City with a pair of tape measure homers. If you remember that Jay Aldrich got the win for the Orioles you’re as sick as I am.
Twenty years ago it was lights out at Memorial Stadium and the first opener at the new downtown ballpark. Hope you weren’t late, Rick Sutcliffe and Charles Nagy got it done in 2:02, Sutcliffe threw the first and last pitch in the first game at Camden yards a 5-hit shutout, Chris Hoiles and Bill Ripken (with a neat squeeze bunt) drove in the games only runs, O’s win the OPACY debut 2-0.
Tony Bautista is long gone but a lot of Orioles fans won’t forget the grand slam he hit off Roger Clemens in the 2002 opener. Orioles spanked the Yankees 10-3.
Last year was another loser for the Birds but the home opener was sweet. Jake Arrieta got the win and Brian Roberts drove in 3 as the Birds downed the Tigers.
Openers have included multiple visits by presidents, summer beach temperatures and snow storms. Remember Jay Gibbons blinded by that snow squall in right field and the snow delay that followed. PLAY BALL!! And remember the Orioles are undefeated for at least a day.