For over a century, baseball has been hailed above all other sports as America’s National Pastime. And no other game during the regular one-hundred sixty-two game season has been as eagerly anticipated as Opening Day. Baseball opening day is different than any other sport. Football, basketball, hockey all start in different stages of the fall, none clearly marking a transition from one season to the next. But baseball has always been seasonal. Long-time Tiger announcer Ernie Harwell would open the Spring training broadcast each year with: Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (KJV): “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” Having twice as many games as any other sport it spans three seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall). Baseball is as much a celebration of Spring as it is the beginning of a sport’s season.
Major League Baseball’s first officially recognized franchise the Cincinnati Reds were historically awarded the privilege of “opening the Openers” and hosted the outings from 1876-1989. Only twice during this time (1877 and 1966) were they forced to debut on the road due to rain. Finally in 1990, the tradition was broken and the Reds were scheduled to appear as the visitors against the Houston Astros. Despite the prestige of being christened as baseball’s opening act, Cincinnati has posted an average record of 50-52-1 that has been shadowed by the countless spectacles off the baseline including parades, fireworks, circus performances and the opening of new ballparks in 1884, 1894, 1912 and 2003.
2010 marks the one hundredth year that a President has thrown the opening day pitch. On April 14, 1910, President, and baseball enthusiast, William Howard Taft attended the home opener in Washington D.C. for the then Washington Senators (now the Nationals are the current D.C. team). Since then, more than eleven sitting U.S. presidents have tossed out the season’s ceremonial first pitch. Harry S. Truman, threw pitches with both his right and left arm in 1950.
Gone But Not Forgotten
2010 also marks the first year that some type of baseball stadium is not standing at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit. After many starts and stops final demolition of Tiger Stadium came to a close in 2009. The Tigers began play as a team in 1901 (other versions of the team existed prior to that). And while the passing of that landmark is lamentable, the team continues the tradition of playing their opening day game Friday April 9th against the Cleveland Indians for the 109th year. Spring is here.