Like the rest of you fellow Dodgers fans, I can’t wait for Opening Day. Heck, I’m just as excited about the game at the Coliseum as I am this Monday, and if UCLA , OK, I’ll go out on a limb, when UCLA makes it to the Great 8 this Saturday, I just may be doing double duty. Anyways, with this being the 50th anniversary of the Boys in Blue here in this great city, this year also marks a little personal anniversay for me of some sorts, as this year marks the 25th anniversary of my first opening day and the 20th anniversary of opening day, 1988, a very magical year. Although the Dodgers would end up losing both games, as a kid in elementary school and the latter in junior high, I would realize early how special opening day is. On opening day 1983, I just happened to be in spring break so my uncles took me to see the Blue battle the Montreal Expos, two seasons removed from the epic 1981 NLCS battle. Being 8 years old at the time and not really recalling much except taking in the sights and sounds and hearing the Canadien anthem at DS ( which we dont here anymore, Thanks Bud ), just being at the Ravine was really special. The following week, I would witness Steve Garvey’s first game back at DS donning the god-awful taco brown duds of the Padres. He was given a rousing ovation in his first at-bat. 1983 would be special for the Blue , since they weren’t picked to win the NL West due largely in part to the loss of Garvey and Cey during the off-season. And the infield was really shaky that season too. ( Anyone remember Steve Sax’s throwing problems that season ? ) But somehow, the Blue found a way to capture the NL West flag, winning the division by 3 games over the Atlanta Braves, managed by…..Joe Torre. ( Note, the Braves and Reds were in the NL West at the time, while the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East. I guess the powers that be who ran MLB at the time flunked geography….)
Fast forward to Opening Day, 1988, 20 years ago. ( Boy, time flies …) By then, I was in junior high, and thanks to a promise I made to my parents that my grades would improve, my dad let me skip school that day and took me to the game. ( I would also have my English teachers approval to go, thanks Mrs. Menerey …) The experts that be picked the Dodgers to finish no higher than 3rd. After all, they were coming off back to back losing seasons for the first time since 1967-1968 . And no one really expected our off-season acquisition, an injury prone outfielder , Kirk Gibson, to light a fire . As for Opening Day, 1988, the Blue would battle the hated ones from up north, who were coming off a division title the previous season, and by then, I had learned to develop a healthy dose of hate toward those in Halloween colors. ( Will Clark also had a lot to with it too….) So here we are, Opening Day, 1988, Mrs. Partridge ( Shirley Jones ) would sing the national anthem, and in the bottom of the first inning, Steve Sax would deposit the first pitch of 1988 to the Dodgers to the lower field level seats in left field, and as Sax rounded second, leaped up, threw his fist in the air, and we just sensed this would be a magical year. Unfortunately, for Dave Dravecky, the Giants starter that day ( God Bless You , Dave ), that would be his only blemish as he would pitch a complete game and the Jints, ahem, Giants would knock Fernando around that day, 5-1. My hatred toward the Giants would only increase that afternoon as their fans that day were just outright obnoxious. ( Yeah, Giants fans were just as obnoxious back then …) But nonetheless, well, you know the rest of the story ’bout 88.
Just a little sidenote to Opening Day 1988, unfortunately for Giants starter Dave Dravecky, many of you may remember, that the following year, his left arm had to be amputated due to a cancerous tumor. He had been battling the tumor for quite some time, but unfortunately, in a game against the Expos in August of 1989, after throwing a pitch, he collapesed to the ground and would never pitch again. Still, you had to admire his courage to come back through trying circumstances, and though he donned the dreaded orange and black, his courageous display is something that cant be taken away.
Allright, how much sooner ’till Opening Day ?