The best Opening Day ever …
If you’re a baseball fan of any varying degree — and if you’re reading this, I trust you are — I think we can all agree that Opening Day is the best day of the year.
I’ll save all that cliche stuff about ‘starting anew.’ Let someone else write that. Let’s just say there’s nothing else in professional sports like the first day of baseball season. The first college football games of the year? Watching your team steamroll Bethune-Cookman? Sorry. The first NFL or NBA game of the year? No. That just doesn’t cut it.
With baseball, it’s just different.
I don’t know about you, but Opening Day is all about making memories. I’ll be working today but there was a time when, not unlike you, I was a fan, when I bought a ticket, when sat in the stands with friends and cheered like a wild teenager.
That’s because my favorite Opening Day memory involves be actually being a wild teenager.
It was April of 1986 and I was a junior in high school. I grew up 40 minutes south of Seattle and spent a lot of time in that since-demolished parking garage called the Kingdome (maybe you’ve been there, maybe you haven’t. If you haven’t, you didn’t miss much). The place did get very loud on occasion (see 1995 playoffs and Grand Slam Summer Jam, featuring Loverboy, BOC, others) when it was filled (which wasn’t often).
Anyway, we didn’t have a high school baseball game that day, maybe it was rained out (happened a lot) and we got out of practice early to go watch my team (then), the Mariners, face the Angels on Opening Day in the Kingdome.
April 8, 1986, it was. I can still remember the details and thanks to Baseball-Reference, I can fill in the blanks pretty well.
For most of my youth, the Mariners were pretty bad. There would be beautiful days where I sat in the Kingdome with 9,000 other fans, watching the Mariners get trounced. Every once in a while (on days games) someone on an upper level would open a door and you would catch a peek of sunlight. But you know what? We didn’t care.
Side note: My mother took me and a bunch of my friends on the train to Seattle for a game when I was, say, 12. Amazing time. Got my picture taken with this guy. Remember him?
Anyway, the game.
The Mariners are facing the Angels who have a young Wally Joyner and an old Reggie Jackson in the lineup. Mike Witt was pitching. He was always pitching against the Mariners. If you don’t remember Witt, the guy threw gas. He had eight strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings and his team had a 4-2 lead when he left the game. Donnie Moore (ugh, sad irony) blew the save when he allowed two runs in the ninth inning.
Now, me and my buddies were sitting in the second deck in left field. Not great seats, but we didn’t care. Pretty tame game until that ninth inning when Alvin Davis led off the inning with a double. The Mariners then sent Barry Bonnell into the game to run because Davis had that proverbial piano-on-the-back thing going for him, though he could certainly rake.
Presley then tied the game with a two-run home run off Moore. The fans, well, what was left of the 42,121, went bonkers. Opening Day, home run in the bottom of the ninth? Are you kidding? As a soon to be 17-year-old, this ranked along the lines of getting your driver’s license.
It only got better from there.
Seattle reliever Pete Ladd held the Angels scoreless in the top of the 10th inning. Facing 39-yearold Ken Forsch, who was in the final year of 16-year career, takes the mound for the Angels in the bottom of the inning.
Terrible inning for Forsch. Great inning for the Mariners. An amazing experience for us.
Here’s how it went (with liner notes):
— Forsch strikes out Danny Tartabull. (Ugh, Scott Bankhead trade. Really?)
— Forsch walks Phil Bradley (Loved watching the former Mizzou quarterback play)
— Ivan Calderon (RIP) singles to center field. Bradley, who could run, scampers (yes, scampers) to third base. Runners on the corners.
— Forsch falls then walks one of my favorite Mariners, Gorman Thomas, to load the bases.
— Bonnell (who entered the game as a replacement for Davis … which I still don’t agree with) pops up in foul territory. Ugh. Two outs.
OK. This, my friends, is where my Opening Day memory was made.
Forsch serves up a pitch to Presley (he of the game-tying home run in the ninth inning), who sends it into the seats in left field. Not just a walk-off home run. But a walk-off grand slam. Amazing.
For some reason, I was wearing a yellow sweatshirt. It was borrowed, I believe. It probably wasn’t clean. Why is this important? Because on the news that night, watching the replay, you could see me (or a small, yellow figure, with my friends) jumping up and down in left field after the grand slam.
Holy smokes, it was fun recalling that. Opening Day.
I’ll leave you with that as we head to the Padres opener today against the Dodgers.
Who knows what you’ll see today. Who knows what you’ll remember. Maybe you’ll be tracking a box score 26 years later on Baseball-Reference, trying to piece together details from your own memorable Opening Day. Maybe that day is today.
Corey Brock, MLB.com