Monday, April 13, 2009

Home Opener

Now the season really begins! Today the Cubs have their first game of the year at Wrigley Field. The season never feels like it has really started until I get to see Wrigley Field. I've been to two home openers, in 1979 and 1980. Tickets were much easier to come by back then. In fact, attendance at those two games was below capacity, 35, 615 in 1979 and 33, 313 in 1980. Today, the home opener sell out with minutes that the tickets are available online.

I don't remember much about the 1979 game other than that it was very cold! The Mets also clobbered the Cubs 10-6 so that may contribute to the lack of memories.

I do have a couple of memories about the 1980 game. Mom Brady, Florence Henderson sang the National Anthem. The Cubs could sure pull in the big names back then!

This is the other valuable Henderson card from 1980

The Cubs actually won, too, topping the Mets 4-1. By some scheduling quirk, the Sox also had a home game that night. Bill Veeck said anyone who came to the Sox game with a ticket from the Cubs opener could get in free. We took him up on his offer. After the Cubs were done, we hopped on the L and headed south to Comiskey Park. We were in the minority as the attendance for the game was 5,555. But hey, who could turn down free baseball!

Today would also be a good day to remember the home opener from 1969. The Cubs played the Phillies and on the strength of two Ernie Banks home runs and strong pitching by Fergie Jenkins took a 5-2 lead into the 9th inning. But Fergie weakened in the 9th and reliever Phil Regan was no help as the Phillies scored three to tie the game. Regan then gave up a run in the top of the 11th and the Cubs were trailing for the first time all day.

BUT...with one out in the bottom of the eleventh, Randy Hundley singled. Leo Durocher then had Willie Smith pinch hit for Jim Hickman. It was a great move as Smith smacked a Barry Lersch pitch into the left field bleachers for a game winning home run. The blast sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy. It was probably the best home opener win in team history. Today, I will settle for any kind on win.

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