Here’s the First Pitch …. and the Season’s Over!

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It didn’t even take half a game for panic to set in among Mets fans.  If what Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright did last night happened in, say Atlanta or Los Angeles, nobody would say much and doubtless I wouldn’t be writing about it in this space.  But it happened to the Mets in Kansas City.  Yoenis Cespedes who supposedly was a gold glover once made yet another brutal error to open the last half of the first inning and set the stage for the Royals’ 4-3 win over the Mets.  His error, a passed ball and a hit made it 1-0 early.  It was 4-0 before the Mets scored in the 8th, and even by then the grumbling had begun about the sluggish play of team captain David Wright, who lost most of last year to spinal stenosis.  At the end, with a chance to tie, a runner on third and one out both Wright and Cespedes struck out to end the game.  Let the panic begin on the two sports talk radio stations in New York.  The hysteria will continue longer than it should have, since today’s Yankees’ home opener has already been rained out.  A good Yankee game today would have taken some of the focus off the Mets until tomorrow night when they face the Royals again.

Two games were played yesterday before the Mets-Royals game.  To open the day, the Pirates topped the Cardinals 4-1.  The season’s first RBI went to pitcher Francisco Liriano of the Pirates, who also struck out 10 men, tying a Pirates’ record for an opening day starter. He’s done that twice.  The Mariners’ Felix Hernandez is the only active pitcher to strike out 10 or more 3 times on Opening Day.

In the middle game, Toronto got 2 in the first and had a 5-1 lead before the Rays put up 2 in the last of the 9th. Troy Tulowitzki hit the season’s first home run with a man on in the 8th. Corey Dickerson, newly acquired from Colorado hit one in the 9th for one of the two Rays’ runs as they attempted a comeback in vain.

While the Yankees-Astros game is the only one rained out as we go to press, it may not be the only one to fall victim to early season weather. The Twins and Orioles are supposed to meet at 3:05 PM at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Also the Red Sox and Indians are scheduled to meet in Cleveland, which is notorious for cold and rain if not snow as the season opens.  Every year I wonder the same thing.  Why can’t whoever programs the schedules into the computer schedule all games for A. warm-weather cities or B. cities with a roof over their stadium  (Houston, Phoenix, St. Petersburg.) This will never happen because it makes entirely too much sense for MLB’s brain trust-the same people who decree that all World Series games must start so late most of the fans are in bed and not end until it’s almost time to wake up and go to work the next day.

Opening Day wouldn’t be complete without an injury. Cardinals’ outfielder Tommy Pham will spend the next 15 days on the DL with an “Oblique” strain.  Whatever an “oblique” is,  40 years ago you never heard of one being injured.  A pulled hamstring was about the most common nagging injury in the ’70s.  Until I hurt my back you couldn’t have told me I even had “Quads,” or “hip flexers,”  but I found that out when nothing worked after my  operation and I had to go to physical therapy, which is still ongoing after 15 months.

Cameron Maybin is unlucky enough to spend his birthday on the DL. The Tigers’ outfielder is 29 today and has been out with a broken wrist since Luis Severino hit him on the wrist in one of the earliest exhibition games this past March. They had drafted him in round 1 in 2005 right out of high school.  They had only just reacquired him from the Braves when he was hurt. He has also been a member of the Marlins and Padres. He was one of 6 Tigers traded for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrell Willis. He spent much of 2008 and 2009 in AA and AAA. His first full MLB season was in 2011 with the Padres.

Scott Rolen is 41 today. He was the Phillies’ 2nd-round draft choice in 1993. He was an All-Star 7 times between 2002 and 2011. He was with the Cardinals when they lost the 2004 World Series and won the 2006 Series. He went to the Reds in 2009 for Edwin Encarnacion who still plays for Toronto.

Former All-Star catcher and current broadcaster Ray Fosse is 69 today. He comes from Marion, Illinois, site of an infamous prison for federal criminals.  Today it’s bad conduct, if not a crime to slide into a catcher the way Pete Rose slid into Fosse to conclude the 1970 All-Star game. At that time it was considered an honest play though Fosse has suffered pain in his shoulder from that hit ever since. He’s worked behind the microphone for the A’s since 1986. Today he does more TV than radio. In 2002 he was nominated for the Ford C. Frick award but did not get it.

I so often mention members of the 1969 Mets when their birthdays come around I may leave room to be accused of giving equal time to their beaten foes the Orioles.  Eddie Watt of the Orioles is 75 today. He pitched for the Orioles from 1966-73, then a year each for the Phillies and Cubs.  As an Oriole, he was part of their world series winning team in 1970, and the losing Orioles in 1969 and 1971. In 1969 he had his lowest ERA at 1.65 and his high in saves, 16.

Gil Hodges, manager of the 1969 Mets was born this day in 1924 and died April 2, 1972 two days before he should have turned 48. His death sent a shock wave through the greater New York area and the baseball world.   He had been idolized as a Brooklyn Dodger and an original Met, Dodger and was well loved as manager of the Mets. He had been an All-Star 8 times as a member of “Da Brooks,” as the Dodgers were sometimes called. He claimed 3 World Series rings-in 1955, the only time Brooklyn beat the Yankees, in 1959 and in 1969. He played a single game with Brooklyn in 1943, then spent two years in the Marines. He was a minor league teammate of Chuck Connors, who later starred on “The Rifleman.”  Hodges  reached the bigs for good in 1947. I was 3 days shy of my 9th birthday when Hodges died.  I had discovered the Mets a year earlier. My grandpa told me of Hodges’ death. I was stunned.  A boy just about to turn 9 assumes baseball men are bigger than life and they can’t die.  I assumed that until the Hodges’ bulletin and the shocking news the following New Year’s Day of the death in an airplane crash of Roberto Clemente.

Hall of Famer Tris Speaker was born this day in 1888 and died in 1958. In a day of colorful nicknames he was called “The Grey Eagle.”  Between 1907 and 1928 he put up a .345 batting average with over 3500 hits. He spent nearly a decade in Boston, then a full decade with the Indians, then a year each with Washington and the Philadelphia A’s of Connie Mack. In that day of playing managers he held both jobs in Cleveland between 1919 and 1926. His Red Sox won the World Series in 1912 and 1915, and his Indians took it in 1920. His 792 doubles remain an MLB record. never a running team, Speaker held the stolen base record on the Red Sox from 1912 to 1973.




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