Today I will attend my 38th consecutive home Opening Day for the Giants. I went to 20 at Candlestick Park ... if I make it to the 2019 opener, I’ll have 20 at China Basin, as well.
Honestly, I don’t even know how this happened. I love baseball, but I’m not a big fan of the endless nostalgia that accompanies it ... no Field of Dreams for me. I can’t remember what inspired us to go to the 1980 opener. The Giants had a good 1978 season, but went back in the crapper in 1979. While I wouldn’t have known this at the time I bought my tickets for 1980, the team opened with six losses in seven games on the road. Something else I couldn’t know in advance: I broke my foot. And our seats were nosebleeds.
But the game was fun. The visiting Padres had two future Hall of Famers in Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield. The Giants had one of their own in Willie McCovey. The Giants also had a few favorites: Darrell Evans, Jack Clark, Vida Blue. Vida went the distance, and the Giants won, 7-3. Like I say, it was fun, enough so that when the 1981 opener came around, I was there again. That game went 12 innings before the Giants lost, 4-1. 1981 was the awful year when the season was split in half. There was every reason to skip the 1982 opener. Yet for some reason, I made it to my third straight.
The Giants squeaked out a 3-2 win. More important was the rest of that season, for 1982 was a thriller that went down to the final weekend before the Giants finally fell. That season may have cemented my adult attachment to the game, and ensured I’d go to a lot more Opening Days.
But even then, I wasn’t thinking of a streak. Three times in a row is barely worth noticing. Truthfully, I can’t remember just when I realized I had something going. But eventually it happened, and Opening Day became a personal holiday. It’s hard to pick out the most memorable moments in the first 37 openers I’ve seen. There was 1999, the last opener at Candlestick, with homers by Marvin Benard, Barry Bonds, and Rich Aurilia. There was the flabbergasting first opener at the new park, when a journeyman named Kevin Elster, who had sat out the previous season, hit three home runs for the fucking Dodgers to lead the Giants to a loss. (They lost all five games on their first home stand, before rebounding and making the post-season.) There was 2002, when Barry Bonds sent us all home with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th. And 2004, when Barry hit the 660th home run of his career, tying him with Willie Mays. In 2012, Matt Cain carried a perfect game into the 6th inning, when the opposing pitcher pushed a weak grounder into the outfield. He was the only base runner Cain allowed that day.
And last year, when the Giants overcame a four-run deficit against the Dodgers on their way to a big 12-6 victory.
Who knows what to expect today for Opener #38. I’ll make one prediction: if new coach Barry Bonds shows up in uniform, he will get the biggest ovation of the pre-game introductions.