Friday Focus – The Year We Missed Opening Day

Friday Focus

Everything was there yesterday, the smell in the air, the sunshine. A crisp breeze gusting past you just enough to remind you Winter is leaving begrudgingly. Everything was there but the game, baseball has punched our ticket out of Winter’s darkness for well over a century as Americans, and many of us have taken it for granted.

I missed it dearly, and I’d love to tell you some flowery story about my Dad taking me to every opening day or something similar, but that’s not my baseball story, that’s not why opening day is special to me. Why I became so very interested in baseball and its incomparable history is very much my Father’s doing.

I’m going to date myself a bit here but, can’t be helped, I actually hope this brings some of you back a bit. Others will be sent scrambling to Google to find out what I’m talking about. When I was 9 or 10 my Dad decided we needed one of those new-fangled home computers. So, we headed down to the Bes…. Um, ok it was Radio Shack and he bought a Tandy 2000. Now, if you know my Dad at all, he wants you to be just as excited as he is when he makes a purchase like that so of course I got a game. Earl Weaver Baseball, and man it was everything. It had in its database every Hall of Fame player to ever play the game even a few from the Negro Leagues. Names like Three Finger Brown and George Sisler entered my consciousness. It had manager modes where you set the lineup and made all the decisions, but the play was simmed, a ton like Strat-O-Matic actually. I clearly remember the first time I subbed Sisler for Gehrig who was in a huge slump. I already liked baseball but now I could see all the numbers behind it, all the scenarios that go into decision making.

I took my 1987 Topps complete set and entered every single player in the set as a custom player. If they had 9 years of stats, I entered 9 years of stats, that’s how you created players, no rating, just the entered numbers based on years of playing baseball. Bo Jackson was an absolute beast.

For Rookies who had no numbers, I subscribed to The Sporting News and Baseball magazine using my grass cutting money. It helped that the computer was in my room, thanks Dad.

I followed trades and made the corrections to every team. If a player was called up, I added them. I laid on the living room floor with a notepad and wrote an entire 162 game schedule and set forth to manage every game of that season.

OK, nerd fest over. Sure, I played baseball too, I watched it, I listened but nothing forced me to look at everything that went into baseball more than that game. I launched my first of these “seasons” on opening day and followed the season straight through.

I never looked at baseball the same, it was so much more than a game at that point. There were real probabilities, matchups that were bad for the best players in the game and above all I started to see why John Cangelosi needed to start a couple times a week.

As deep as the game is on the field, it’s a drop in the bucket of this game’s history and tradition. That’s where opening day really gives you a charge. From the first pitch in Cincinnati, and the first kayaker fishing a ball out of the river. The bunting, the opening day painted on the field, the underlying knowledge that right now everyone is 0-0. The day is special, it should be a national holiday and so should the Super Bowl, c’mon America!

We missed this one, but we will have one. When it comes, appreciate it all, soak it in and put the business side of this game aside if only for an inning. Sing out load as the Eat n’ Park Smiley Cookie bounces along to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Enjoy it, because as Baseball always signifies that the season is about to change, we learned after 911 that baseball also means this; America is back in business.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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