Opening Day Like No Other
50 years ago, in 1968, Opening Day in Major League Baseball was a unique and somber celebration. Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated just days before. The original Opening Day was slated for Monday in Cincinnati and Washington only (as was the tradition of the time). Washington our nation's capital, and Cincinnati the oldest franchise. It was much like the tradition of Dallas and Detroit hosting Thanksgiving football every year. The country still grieving of the loss of the great Dr. Marin Luther King, and inner cities rioting because of the tragedy, D.C. and Cincinnati pushed pack Opening Day to Wednesday. The rest of the slate was scheduled for Tuesday (the day of the funeral) and was also moved back to Wednesday in respect to the grieving nation.
Strangely enough team president of the LA Dodgers, Walter O'Malley, still wanted to play on that Tuesday. He felt that because of the late start time of 11pmET there would be plenty of separation between the funeral and 1st pitch. A terrible mistake in judgement. This was the same man that helped break the color barrier just over 20 years before with the signing of Jackie Robinson back in Brooklyn. MLB today pays tribute to Jackie Robinson EVERY April 15th by having all players where his now retired 42. Nobody will ever wear that number again for any team.
"Mr. O'Malley is a man with tremendous ability," Jackie Robinson said to a reporter, "but also a man with a total lack of knowledge of the frustration of the Negro community. It grieves me that Walter O'Malley did not understand the importance of the thing."
It wasn't until the Dodgers opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, refused to take the field that day that Opening Day between the two clubs was pushed back to Wednesday like all the rest. This is the last time that all MLB teams would be slated to play Opening Day on the same Day. Until today!
That's right ALL 30 MLB teams are scheduled to play today. A new concept by Commissioner Rob Manfred that I for one applaud. Let all of the nation rejoice in the celebration of our national pass-time together. Nobody left out. I never liked when I would refer to Opening Day and half of my baseball friend were waiting until the following day for their team to take the field. It's also nice that the season is starting on a day all to itself. I am used to Opening Day being shared with college basketball's title game that evening, and even though it was a nice tradition, I'm excited that the greatest game has its own day that families can share together without a national title game overshadowing it.
As luck would have it, one specific game has already been rained out and pushed back to tomorrow; Washington @ Cincinnati. 50 years to the week. Maybe just a reminder from the baseball gods how important this anniversary is.
Opening Day is always my favorite day. Baseball was how my parents, grandparents and I spent a lot of time together. We learned a lot about each other as well as the great game. The down time between pitches allows us to converse while the game is on. No other sport has that. That's why it's OUR GAME. The game is pure. It has no time limit and you have to throw the ball over the plate and give the other man a chance. You can't run and hide and kill the clock.
So, watch the game, drink your beers and eat your favorite foods. Just try to reflect on how this great game touches us all. It's America's game. Our game is entrenched into our nation's history, and helps define who we are and were. Good and bad.