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It’s finally that time of year. Winter feels over in most of the country and the temperature is starting to rise. Throughout the United States, people are out and about enjoying everything Spring in America has to offer, but something's missing. Everything is almost right, but it doesn’t feel like it's officially spring just yet. Everyone’s waiting on Opening Day. Baseball is the great “American pastime” and despite an apparent decline in popularity over recent years, there’s still something magical about Opening Day even for many of us who aren't baseball fans.
It's not exactly a quiet time of year. It's smack in the middle of March Madness and the NBA playoff race, not to mention European soccer is starting to heat up. It’s also not exactly a particularly meaningful game. Hundreds of games will come after, players will get injured, and plenty of teams will sell their season away or buy up for an October run. Nevertheless, Opening Day still feels special. It’s the return of an old friend. In a way, it’s almost comforting. And there’s always something special about the first. We celebrate the first of things all the time, so it’s just natural that we would celebrate Opening Day. That celebration helps make Opening Day one of the biggest stages in baseball, creating moments and memories that spur on that love for the first game of the season.
Opening Day in 1947 saw the first African American player in the MLB play his first game, perhaps the most crucial moment in baseball and possibly sporting history. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the modern era in a 5-3 win for the Brooklyn Dodgers where he managed to score a run after getting on base due to an error. Over the next 10 years major league football, basketball, hockey, and tennis started to see relatively more minority representation, arguably in some part thanks to Jackie’s inspiration. Robinson helped pave the way for the entrance of other minorities as well, helping create a sports landscape that represented far more of the country.
There’re plenty of stories that come with Opening Day. Babe Ruth christening Yankee Stadium on Opening Day with the first-ever home run hit inside that historic stadium. The Detroit Tigers scoring ten runs in the ninth without a single home run to complete a 14-13 comeback victory, easily the largest deficit overcome in an Opening Day game. Bob Feller throwing the only no-hitter in an Opening Day game. Hank Aaron hitting home run no. 714 to tie Babe Ruth’s home run record. Opening Day seems to have a penchant for the spectacular. Every year it creates memories for us that we pass down from generation to generation. Think of that kid from the Bronx who watched Babe Ruth hit that home run in the first game at Yankee Stadium whose great grandkids are now watching The Judge knock out homers in the new Yankee Stadium.
Opening Day is the beginning of a journey. People take off work and kids play hooky to run down to the baseball park and help kick off the season. Families gather together around the TV to watch their chosen teams or friends gather at the local bar donning jerseys old and new alike. It’s a moment we share across the country with each other, united by the simple fact that we’re all doing the same thing at the same time. The whole day there’s an air of anticipation that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It isn't because the action on the field that day is particularly exciting, but because you’re excited to see everything that is still to come. The almost perfect games, the broken records, the ninth inning comebacks. The agony and elation that comes from the single elimination wild card games. Legends are created and careers are ended all in the course of six months. New names enter the fold from obscurity and old names prove they still have something left in the tank to give. And it's all ahead of us. We love Opening Day, and we can’t wait to see what it brings us next.
Celebrate Opening Day by checking out the Vintage Sports collection of baseball memorabilia.
Knox Ashford, a content writer for Vintage Sports, is a regular contributor to the site including stories, product descriptions, and video scripts. You can follow him on twitter @KnoxVSports for regular updates.