Opening Day

By Chuck Sigars | Apr 11, 2012

Of course I knew where it was. I may be old, my beard may be mostly gray and my eyes not worth a darn, but I wouldn’t forget where I put it.

Sure, there was a little dust, what of it? Dust gathers, it reminds us of what we are and where we’re headed, don’t think you’re better than dust, youngster.

Gather round, children, and I’ll tell you what I did on Opening Day of baseball season.

What’s that, young fella? You want to get back to Halo XI or some such nonsense? You say baseball is slow, a poor excuse for getting outside in the fresh air and eating overpriced hot dogs?

You run outside and cut me a good switch, boy. No, better yet, look at what I’m holding in my hand.

It’s called a videotape. It’s what came before all your fancy-dancy digital toys. A good old-fashioned analog storage device, the videotape. Don’t get smart with me; we can still find us a switch.

Look at the date there, written on the label. See what it says? That’s right. October 8, 1995. That date mean anything to you?

Didn’t reckon it would. So shut your trap and learn something. I’m going to tell you about The Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played. And it didn’t have no Gehrig or Ruth or Kofax or Kirk Gibson, although God bless ‘em all.

Folks will argue with me, but I’m holding my ground here. I’m a fan, and I got the right to think what I think. Some will beg to differ. Beg all you want.

And I don’t care if you hate sports, or are Amish or French or something else, I’ll tell you what: If you’ve never experienced a late-summer playoff race, well. You’re only half alive, then. And I feel sorry for you.

Where was I? That’s right, 1995. There was a baseball strike in 1994, a bad thing, nasty feelings, and 1995 started late and only had 144 games. So it was special right off the bat.

Not for the Seattle Mariners, though, not at first. The M’s were .500 on July 4, trailing the Angels by five games. A month later they trailed by 12. No surprises there.

And then? Well, young fella, some folks say it was Griffey coming off the DL. Others think California blew it. Others chalk it up to something else.

But some folks believe there were angels in the outfield that summer, and in the bullpen and in the front office, and that God Hisself smiled on Seattle and threw in a little miracle on the side.

One night at the Kingdome, Lou Pinella looked up in the stands, grinned and pointed. Someone was holding up a sign that said, “Refuse To Lose!” Pretty soon the whole dang country was saying it.

They won 19 games in September, the Angels crumbled, there was a tiebreaker and then Seattle headed to Yankee Stadium for the playoffs. They lost two in the big city, but Randy Johnson was waiting at home.

I was in the Kingdome for Game Three, by the way. I saw us win it with my own eyes. I sat right behind the bullpen. I could have spit and hit the Big Unit warming up, but then I could tug on Superman’s cape and be safer. Hush, now, don’t confuse me.

And then they won the next one, and then it was the fifth game. Cross my heart, hope to die, it went into extra innings, and Pinella went to the bullpen and grabbed Randy on less than 48 hours’ rest. He struggled a little, Randy did, gave up a run to the Yankees in the top of the 11th, and then?

Well, youngsters, little Joey Cora dodged a tag and slid into first base, a single. Griffey stood at the plate, called time, took a pitch, wiggled his hips and whacked one into center-left, another single. Two on, nobody out, and the American League’s batting champion came to the plate.

Whew. I’m getting all emotional talking about it, kids. It happens with baseball. No apologies.

I’ve heard it said that when Edgar Martinez’s bat hit the ball, that crack was heard ‘round the country and the bad feelings were gone, the strike forgotten, the scales evened. I’ve heard it said that the Seattle Mariners saved baseball that night, that moment, that pitch. Maybe so.

But Edgar hit a solid double, little Joey tied the game, and they waved Kenny home. Like they could have stopped him.

As I say, I watched it again on Opening Day. Shoot, I may watch it again today.

All right, run along now, you’ve listened enough. But, if you’re interested, I’ll play that tape for you one day if you can leave your X-Box for a couple of hours.

This is why an old guy like me has a spring in his step this time of year. And with apologies to Ray Kinsella, this ain’t Iowa. It’s heaven. Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks. It’s time for baseball.

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