Chapin: No day like Opening Day
Crisp white chalk lines on brown dirt. Vivid green grass seen as one walks up the ramp from inside the ballpark toward the seats.
The crack (or ping) of the bat against ball. The “thwock” of a fastball popping a catcher’s mitt.
To those of us who love and understand baseball those sights and sounds bring back so many memories as we celebrate another Opening Day.
The chilly winds of season openers in this part of the world will give way to balmy late spring afternoons and later to sweltering midsummer evenings. Throughout the season those sights and sounds will spark memories among those in the older generation and will be a part of the creation of new memories for younger players and fans.
Whether it be on local sandlot or softball fields, on high school fields during the spring or at the half-dozen minor league and major league parks within driving distance, more baseball memories will be created — and it all starts on Opening Day.
Some memories come from actually being on a ballfield and some come from being a fan. Among my personal memories:
Long summer days spent on the diamond behind Colebrook Elementary School when I stayed for a week each summer with my cousins. There were a dozen or so kids living in the small community and it seems like we spent most of the day and night playing baseball.
Baseball cards. Before the days of highlights on television and now computers, baseball cards put a face on major league players for young fans. The Indians had no more than 30 or so games on TV each year and there was just one national game each week so we didn’t get to see our heroes that often.
Part of the fun was collecting the cards and seeing who you could get. One summer I ordered the entire Topps set by mail and discovered that took all the fun out of collecting. Of course, I no longer have any of my old cards, having thrown them all out somewhere along the line, but I did get to relive the memory by getting my sons into collecting.
Another great memory also has to do with my sons, coaching their teams for 13 years. Yes that meant lining fields and lugging around equipment bags all summer, but it also meant helping kids to become better players and helping them create their own baseball memories.
Most fans have a memory of the first Major League game they attended. What I remember most of my first visit to Municipal Stadium was the initial sight of the grass as we came up through the tunnel.
It was June 20, 1969, and the Indians played a Sunday doubleheader against the Orioles. The Indians won the first game, 3-2, behind Sam McDowell with the help of an eighth-inning homer by light-hitting second baseman Vern Fuller. Cleveland was shut out 6-0 in the nightcap. And yes, I did have to look up the details on Retrosheet.org, my memory is not that good, although I do remember Fuller’s home run.
And now this year I am ready for some new memories, not just from the Indians but also from my grandson who is playing T-ball for the first time. Can’t wait to share some old memories with him and to create some new ones.
Doug Chapin is a Vindicator sports writer. Write him at email@example.com.