Major League Baseball Opening Day 2013Tuesday, April 2, 2013 20:57
Baseball’s Opening Day has come and gone, and while it is time to celebrate baseball, let us lament a lost tradition.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Baseball is back!
Can’t say how many people I saw yesterday wearing their team’s gear for Opening Day…and how many times I was asked about baseball scores by people seeing me in my hat and shirt. At least in Los Angeles, love of the game appears to be burning strongly.
Major League Baseball has evolved a lot over the last couple decades, instituting a series of changes that have shocked and dismayed the vast number of baseball traditionalists who worship the sport. Interleague play, adding the wild card, adding yet another wild card again last year…money has always been the root cause for making such transitions, just as it is for everything else in pro sports.
Even so, that’s not to say that anything generating increased interest in a sport is a bad thing–quite the contrary, even when the powers-at-be only care about the cold, hard bottom line resulting from the renewed enthusiasm. Even I, a traditionalist from a traditionalist family, raised in the mystique of baseball’s history, have to admit that, for the most part, these one-time hard-to-fathom changes have been positive for the game. Interleague play has been fun thanks to its uniqueness, intelligently maintained by the limited way it has been implemented to date (we shall see if the new format for 2013 in which interleague play occurs throughout the year and in which 48 more total interleague games are played lessens said interest). And the wild card has added a lot of excitement to the postseason. As for those (myself one-time included) who claimed that it would diminish the value of the regular season…while indeed winning the division is no longer do-or-die, oft times the wild card is the hottest team in its respective league at the end of the season, what with the heat still being on in a way not seen by a runaway division winner. That momentum has carried on to the playoffs, resulting in several World Series championships.
Unlike many people, I was not bothered by the addition of a second wild card in each league last year. A full expanded round with several teams would have diminished the division championships, but two wild cards playing each other do not. And a single, winner-take-all game does not ridiculously extend the postseason or make the other teams wait unnecessarily. As for the arguments a single game is not enough to determine a fair winner in baseball–a sport in which the better team wins at best only two-thirds of the time–true, but I find that acceptable due to said single-game playoffs being limited to the two wild card teams who did not win their divisions. On top of which, as a traditionalist, such one-game playoffs were not some new invention but rooted in baseball history as tiebreakers–most famously, the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees playoff game in 1978. Darn you, Bucky Dent!
But there is one tradition whose elimination has received relatively little fanfare, and that’s sad.
I am talking about the first pitch of the first game of Opening Day taking place in Cincinnati.
For those of you not overly familiar with baseball history, the Cincinnati Reds were the first professional baseball team, founded in 1869. In honor of that stature as the oldest of baseball’s franchises, the first of the Major League Baseball season has traditionally been tossed in the Queen City.
Now I understand and can look past having a special launch game the night before as there was Sunday between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros (great for ratings) and especially a kickoff series overseas (great for growing the game internationally). But is there any reason to dispense with this tiny bit of tradition on Opening Day for the rest of MLB?
None that I can see. And thus this small note harkening back to the beginnings of professional baseball has sadly disappeared for nothing.
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