30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 8
It’s Opening Day At SheaI can hear those words – “It’s Opening Day At Shea” – in Howie Rose’s voice (even if he’s never actually said them).
Opening Day probably should be a national holiday so we can all celebrate it together at the ballpark. But reality doesn’t work that way, and going is already an expensive endeavor (it’s usually one of the most expensive tickets of the season). If I think hard enough, I can probably remember where I was or what I was doing for most of my 30 Opening Days as a Mets fan. They’re mostly vague memories of watching the end of the game at home after school or trying to listen to the game at work.
1987 was my first (as a fan watching on TV), and still might be my most memorable. Not for the game, but for the pregame. The team’s most recent World Championship flag was raised behind the CF fence at Shea Stadium and the World Series rings were handed out before the game. That is the part I remember having on tape (since I was at school when it was happening live). That’s also one that lives on in Mets fandom as part of the bonus features of the 1986 World Series DVD set. That’s a good thing because I wore out that tape. The DVD is ready for its annual viewing.
1988 was when Strawberry hit the roof at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. 1992 was a night game in St. Louis (even after only 5 years of being a fan, I knew a night game for Opening Day seemed wrong). 1993 was the first game in Colorado Rockies history. 1994 saw Doc Gooden giving up 3 HRs to Tuffy Rhodes at Wrigley. 1995 was in late April after the lockout which followed the player’s strike, and it was the first game at Coors Field.
I remember cutting class in 1998 when I was in college so I could watch the Mets first March 31 game. That was the 14th inning walkoff hit by Alberto Castillo at Shea. I made a few sound bytes from that game which is part of my Opening Day blogging tradition.
Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen's intro
The winning hit from Opening Day 1998 at Shea
2000 was the series in Tokyo. I was still in college. I remember trying to get up at 5am to watch the games. I don’t remember much success in those attempts.
Starting in 2002, I was a working man and had to find a way to escape the office in order to listen to any portion of the game. I remember taking a long lunch or a mid-day break to go to my car to put on the radio just to hear a little bit of Opening Day.
2003 was the first Opening Day I experienced in person. I saw some tickets available the week before and said “what the hell, I’ll take off work and go”. It was a cold March 31 at Shea Stadium. This was a bad era for the Mets. Art Howe was the manager. It also turned out to be Bob Murphy’s last Opening Day. I’m glad I got to be there to see him introduce the Mets from my seat deep down the LF line in the Mezzanine box. I wish I had a camera (even without much of a zoom, as digital cameras were in those days). I won’t remind you of the score. You can click the link to the box score if you really want to know.
I remember working from home in 2005 and 2006 to watch Opening Day. After all, it should be a holiday. 2005 was the opener in Cincinnati with Pedro Martinez’s Mets debut. As a side note, some enterprising puzzle maker took a photo from the 2005 home opener against Houston and made a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle of it. A few years later, I bought it, put it together, and had it framed. It hangs in my living room. 2006 was the debut of SNY.
Coming off the success of 2006 (I’ve repressed the memory of the final inning of that season) I wanted to be there for the 2007 home opener. This was back in the days of the Mets having ticket lotteries to get into Opening Day at Shea. I had a friend who got picked in the lottery and was able to get me a ticket so far down the right field line on field level that my seat faced the outfield wall and not the infield (if you really remember Shea, you’d know what I was talking about).
2008 was the final Opening Day at Shea (after a road trip). 2009 was the christening of Citi Field (also after a road trip). By then, I also had MLB’s internet package so I could listen on radio on my computer at work (working around meetings). MLB.TV usually had technical difficulties that got in the way of celebrating Opening Day. Some of the more recent seasons are actually a blur. In researching this post, I noticed MLB had some weird schedules with late-week Opening Days for some reason. Real Opening Day is the first Monday in April.
In 2014, I went back for Opening Day, and it was March 31 again. It was cold at Citi Field. I remember sitting in what was then called Caesar’s Club for most of the game trying to defrost my hands and the rest of the game paying social calls to friends. I did see Parnell blow the save in the 9th. This was the year that Daniel Murphy missed the opener because of the birth of a child, and for some reason, people got in an uproar over it.
2016 was a special one. The Mets were defending NL Champions. They started the season in Kansas City with a World Series rematch (dumb luck that it happened that way). Then on Friday came the home opener. In this day in age, that was cause to take off work and head to Citi Field. I don’t remember any of the game, but I do remember being there, moving around the ballpark making social calls to people. It was a day to tailgate and celebrate.