Thursday, March 29, 2018

Best Baseball Opening Day Ever (Minus the Actual Baseball)

Mets legend Ed Charles, right, assists the author is showing off his 1969 World Series ring.
Spring is here again in the Northeast! It’s time to put away your warm winter clothes and dig out your equally warm but beer-proof Opening Day of Baseball Season clothes!
I’ll be doing that soon in preparation for today's New York Mets home opener, a near-annual ritual for me that includes the near-annual threat of the day being the coldest and/or wettest ever recorded for that date in history.
Maybe that’s why when I look back on all the Opening Days I’ve attended (22 unless my math fails me which it often does because ... writer), one of the most memorable was one where the game wasn’t even being played at the field.

In 2009, the Mets began playing home games in Citi Field, the modern replacement for the 44-year-old concrete doughnut known as Shea Stadium. Tickets for that first home game were hard to come by unless you could sell a kidney and my local liquor-store owner refused to sign my waiver.
Luckily, my wife worked for a major Mets’ sponsor that was hosting a special “viewing party” at the new venue for the team’s season opener, taking place on the road in Cincinnati a week earlier. The pitch: sit in the new stadium’s seats, overlooking the empty field, and watch the team play some 600 miles away on the field’s huge new video board. The reality was (as it so often is in early April in New York) that the weather was so cold and drizzly that we watched the game on the TV sets behind one of the bars inside one of the ballpark’s luxury clubs.
That’s where most of us would have been anyway. The club was filled with food, beer and more beer. Also, all the entertainment a long-suffering Mets fan could have wanted.
There, signing autographs to a long line of adoring fans, was Mookie Wilson — “hero” of the 1986 World Series champion Mets when he hit that Game 6 “little roller up along first ... behind the bag ... IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER” game-winner. I thrust a cell phone at him so he could speak to my ticket-providing wife, who had to work that day.
There, not signing autographs but standing alone at a railing, was Ed Kranepool — original Met and holder of the record for most games played (1,853) and seasons (18) in orange and blue. I told him about his being at my Little League awards banquet many years before, serving as grumpy guest speaker, a reflection both of his Bronx upbringing and his being at the tired end of a career spent mostly on subpar teams.
“Well,” Kranepool said, “you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Enjoy the game.” He’s still right about that.
There was Edwin “Eddie” Boison, aka, Cowbell Man — super fan known for rallying the faithful with clanging percussion. Though I had heard him for years, at the stadium or during broadcasts, this was our first meeting. It surprised me to learn he wasn’t on the Mets payroll but a cafeteria worker who paid his way in to most games.
There were two members of the “Pepsi Party Patrol” — the smiling, waving tossers of T-shirts between innings. It surprised (and saddened) me to learn that applying for their jobs did not require testing their throwing abilities for accuracy or distance.
And finally, there was Ed Charles. Charles, who died last week at age 84, was a key member of the 1969 world champion Amazin’ Mets. Despite a paltry .207 batting average during the season (he hit even worse in Series), he was revered by teammates and fans alike for his clutch play, positive demeanor and leadership skills.
He was also one of the nicest men around by all accounts, including mine. When a friend and I made admiring comments about the World Series ring on his finger, Charles quickly asked if we wanted to try it on. We were shocked, even more so when he suggested each us of pose with him while we took turns wearing the diamond-encrusted beauty.
I doubt I’ll have anything close to those experiences at next week’s game, but it will still be special. After all, Opening Day is all about hope. Given this past month, man, I just hope it doesn’t snow.
And with that, the “Always Home and Uncool” offices will be closed for the rest of the day to celebrate its annual rite of spring – Opening Day of baseball season.


Today you'll dig in the closet for your glove and snap a ball into it while sipping your morning coffee.

Today as the toast comes out of the toaster, you'll still remember how to execute a perfect "pop-up" slide.

Today you'll drive to work and admonish yourself to "keep your head down" and your eye on the road.

Today your team will be in first and planning to stay there.

Today you'll end your contract holdout.

Today you'll still be able to turn the double play.

Today you won't lose a business deal in the sun.

Today you'll find yourself rotating your arm around your head to stretch the shoulder and keep it loose.

Today someone asks if you'll be at the meeting and you respond by saying, "Let's play two."

Today you spend an hour in the attic with old baseball cards and dusty Sports Illustrateds.

Today sunflower seeds strangely find their way into your back pocket.

Today you find yourself muttering something about "Bill freakin' Buckner."

Today you'll think of wearing a black suit to match the eye black.

Today you'll have the steal sign.

Today you slip up in a meeting and mention "our sales team ... vs. lefties."

Today a hot dog and peanuts for lunch will sound about right.

Today you tell a co-worker to "warm up."

Today the only strike you'll know about is above the knees and below the armpits.

Today you'll wear your jacket only on your pitching arm.

Today you'll buy two packs of gum and stuff them in the side of your mouth.

Today, during lunch, you'll wonder why Coke doesn't come in a wood can.

Today you'll scratch yourself and spit for no apparent reason.

Today you'll wonder why stirrup socks never caught on.

Today you'll be the rookie looking to make it big.

Today you'll be the wily vet with just a little something left.

Today you'll look for the AM dial on your radio.

Today your glove is hanging off the handlebars of your bike.

Today seems like a good day for an ice cream before you head home.

Today is box scores and "Baseball Tonight."

Today is Donnie Sadler and Keith Osik.

Today is Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.

Today your first coach is cheering. Still.

Today mom's watching.

Today dad's in the backyard -- with his glove.

Today it'll still be a kids' game.

Today you'll be a kid.

Today is Opening Day.

Poem: “Today” -- By Greg Shea, Copyright © 2000 The Closer


  1. I've been waiting for this post! Go Tigers! Even though all my favorite guys are gone. Jeez. Verlander, Kinsler, J.D. Martinez. Good thing there's baseball all day to cheer me up.

    1. Word. Let the Tigers and Mets win it for the late Rusty Staub!


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