With the Mets 2018 season beginning today, we are all hopeful that this will be the first Mets team since 1986 to win a World Series. If history is any judge, fans will depart Citi Field with that feeling as the New York Mets do have the best winning percentage on Opening Day. Whether the good feelings and warm memories continue from there is anyone’s guess.
As you look to turn on the television or head to the ballpark, we thought we would share some of our Opening Day memories with you in the latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable.
Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)
Two words: Collin Cowgill (That’s not my actual answer)
I think I’m going to cheat here. The first game that came to mind for favorite Opening Day memory was the Mets’ home opener in 2000. It was their first game played in North America, if that helps? The Mets split a two-game set in Japan the week before and then faced off against the Padres at Shea, and I was there. It was my first time attending a home opener, and I had to bend the rules that day too, seeing as I was, technically speaking, scheduled to continue my high school education that afternoon. A couple of friends and I cut class, took the 2/3, transferred to the 7, sauntered up to the ticket window, bought four tickets, and enjoyed a 2-1 victory. I brazenly put the schedule magnet giveaway on the refrigerator, and as far as I know was never caught. Please do not tell my mother.
My favorite Opening Day memory was Tom Seaver‘s 1983 Opening Day start. It was tremendous.
The details of Seaver’s homecoming were detailed in this Sports Illustrated piece.
This one has me stumped since I have not been to a Mets opening day since the Shea days. One that stands out is the chilly home opener for Tom Glavine. A 15-2 Mets loss I believe. Good times.
I cut school to go to Opening Day in 1980. My mother wrote a note to the teacher saying “sorry my son was absent. He went to Opening Day. P.S. the Mets won 5-2.” The teacher let me off the hook but only because the Mets won. I cut school in 1983 to see Seaver’s return as a Met. I cut school in 1988 to see Darryl Strawberry hit a HR on Opening Day, then left early to get back to theater rehearsal, and I had to platoon style elbow crawl my way under the director so she wouldn’t know I was gone. Luckily they never got to my scene yet so I was out of trouble. Until we left for the day and the director said “How was the game?” As many times as I cut school for Opening Day, it’s a wonder I can put a sentence together.
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend 17 Opening Days/Home Openers (18, counting the first home game after the 1981 strike, which was functionally a second Home Opener), my favorite among them the 2001 Home Opener, when the 2000 NL pennant was raised, we were handed replica championship flags on our way in, Tsuyoshi Shinjo introduced himself to us with a homer, Mike Piazza socked two, the Mets obliterated the Braves and, not incidentally, the weather was perfect.
But with all due respect to the thrill of being on hand to, as Howie Rose says, welcome the National League season to New York, my core Opening Day memory is from 1975, when I convinced a friend to skip Hebrew School and watch the rest of the first game of that season.
The game began while we were still in shall we say regular school (sixth grade). Our teacher put the Mets and Phillies on the classroom TV. One wise guy tried to switch to the Yankees. Out of pique, the teacher switched it off.
Fast forward a bit, and my aforementioned friend and I went to my house to catch a little more of the game before we had to get to Hebrew School. This was Seaver versus Steve Carlton, and it was such an occasion that I said to him, “I’m not going to Hebrew School today.” He was convinced to not go, either.
We watched to the end and were rewarded for our truancy. Seaver pitched a complete game. Dave Kingman homered in his first game as a Met, and Joe Torre (also a new Met) drove in the winning run in the ninth, or what we would today call walkoff fashion. The whole winter was about reconstructing a dismal 1974 squad and hoping Seaver would be healthy. For one day, everything clicked as we dreamed.
Unless you walked by a newstand on your way to work or you saw their Tweet, chances are you missed the front page of the New York Daily News:
STAGE FRIGHT: Shohei Otani too scared to play for the @Yankees…
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 4, 2017
Judging from their steep decline in circulation, you probably did.
Make no mistake about it, the front page was an unnecessary shot at Shohei Ohtanti, and it was for the “crime” of spurning the Yankees.
As is typical with the New York Daily News, facts have not relevance here. The front page claims he “fears big city,” which is completely absurd when you consider his final list includes Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Arlington, with is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. But sure, he’s really afraid of the big city or big market teams.
Speaking of fear, are we really sure a 23 year who is eschewing tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars just to compete at the highest level is afraid? Do we really want to say someone who wants to do the unprecedented in both pitching and being a position player is scared of anything? Seems like Ohtani loves a challenge.
That’s actually backed up by the seven contenders he has selected. In a few of these locations, he’s going to have the follow in the footsteps of some terrific Japanese players:
As we have seen with the Mariners and the Dodgers, the list goes well beyond those two legends. Throw in the Giants, who had Masanori Murakami (first ever Japanese MLB player) and Tsuyoshi Shinjo (first Japanese player to play in a World Series), and you have someone who is not intimidated by anything.
Still, none of these facts prevented the New York Daily News from publishing something just plain wrong.
Really, it should come as no surprise. The New York Daily News has been known by push beyond the lines of common decency for its front pages, including but not limited to, showing a blow-by-blow of how a woman was murdered.
It’s also a newspaper that once had the gall to publish an Andy Martino gem saying one of the reasons Mets fans hated Luis Castillo was because he was Hispanic. Put another way, he was calling Mets fans racist for not liking a player who turned in this gem:
Overall, the New York Daily News published yet something salacious, incendiary, and just plain wrong for reasons they only know. Only this time, they did it because someone had the temerity to select the baseball destination that was best for him. If we followed their standards, we could go as far to call them racist.
However, I won’t. I have actually standards.
The Mets never seem to get it right sometimes. The Yankees got Hideki Matsui, and the Mets got Kaz Matsui. The Mariners get Ichiro, and the Mets get Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The Royals have two sport superstar Bo Jackson, and the Mets get Magic Man Number 7 D. J. Dozier:
Dozier was a football player. He was a first round draft NFL pick by the Vikings and an 18th round draft pick by the Tigers. In the NFL, he’d get stuck behind Barry Sanders and Hershel Walker. He theoretically signed (as a minor league free agent) with the Mets for that reason. Basically, he was John Elway, but he stuck with baseball.
While in the Mets’ organization, he began to rise. He was ranked as the #44 Best prospect in all of baseball. He stayed with the Mets due to his unhappiness with the Vikings. The trouble is he never really panned out. He finally made the Mets in 1992 on the “Worst Team Money Can Buy.” He hit .191/.264/.498 in only 25 games.
This is a cold reminder that typically the Mets are reactive instead of progressive. It’s a time when moves didn’t pan out. This move seemed more of the same like when Michael Cuddyer struggled right out of the gate. It looked like another lost year at times with the struggling offense. As we know, it didn’t happen that way.
This year the moves and call-ups have panned out. Michael Conforto has been great. We know about Yoenis Cespedes and his incredible hot streak after coming over to the Mets. This isn’t 1992 anymore. The Mets can win this year. This is why I like remembering players like Dozier. I want to see the progress of the team, and I like people are seeing how things are different now.
So with that said, let’s offer a hat tip to magic man number seven D. J. Dozier.