Opening Day Memories

By Rich Sparago

We’re a little more than a day away from the opening of the 2013 Mets season. Opening Day in baseball is special for many reasons. Among them, Opening Day means that spring and warmer weather are here. Opening Day also is a time for hope, since every team is tied for first place. As fans, we wonder about the upcoming winning streaks, we formulate plans to ride out the losing streaks, and we consider the moves our teams will make during the summer. Opening Day is a time to take the day off from work, skip school, and celebrate the rebirth of an American institution. The Mets have provided some memorable moments in the season’s inaugural home game. Here are a few of my memories from season openers of days gone by.

Opening Day, 1982- The Mets actually opened the season on the road, and came home to host the Phillies on April 13th. The Mets won the game, 5-2. 1982 was a year of great promise, as the Mets had acquired George Foster during the off-season, and were expected to be competitive in the NL East. It didn’t turn out that way. As an aside, 1982 was the first unveiling of Diamond Vision at Shea, and in that time, it was quite a sight.

Opening Day, 1983- Tom Seaver came back. Enough said. It was an emotional day at Shea, and the Mets beat the Phillies 2-0. Seaver chose to walk in from the right field bullpen, to a delerious roar from the crowd. The game almost seemed incidental to the return of The Franchise.

Opening Day, 1984- After starting the season 6-3 on the road, the Expos pound the Mets 10-0. Pete Rose played for the Expos, and Gary Carter hit a home run for Montreal. Still, something special was in the air at Shea, as the young Mets were exciting, and had just signed Keith Hernandez, acquired the year before in trade, to a multi-year deal. We knew that “it” was getting close.

Opening Day, 1985- On a frigid afternoon at Shea, Gary Carter makes his Mets’ debut. He does it in style, winning the game in the bottom of the tenth with a home run off of former Met Neil Allen.

Opening Day, 1998- This one was notable for the 86-degree temperature on March 31st. The game was scoreless going into the 14th inning, and the Mets won it on an Alberto Castillo walk-off walk, beating the Phillies 1-0.

Opening Day, 2003- My goodness, it was cold! The wind chill was 30 degrees at game time, and Tom Glavine was equally cold in his Mets debut. The Cubs thrashed the Mets 15-2 at Shea.

Opening Day, 2008- The Mets lost to the Phillies, after having begun the season on the road. But this one just felt strange, because we knew it was the last-ever Shea opener. Mr. Met began the countdown on the outfield wall, with how many games were left at Shea. It was like seeing the slow, painful demise of an old friend.

Opening Day, 2009- Citi Field opens for business after the Mets play 6 games on the road. The Mets lose to the Padres, as Mike Pelfrey‘s second pitch is sent into the right-field seats. David Wright later ties the game with a home run, but that was the high point (maybe for the season, too).

These are just some of my most memorable moments from the best day on the calendar. What are some of yours?

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