Baseball is officially underway in 2016 now that today's opening salvo between the Cardinals and Pirates is in the books. As exciting as that might be, for Yankees fans it's nothing compared to their own Opening Day, tomorrow against the Astros. It also happens to be their home opener at Yankee Stadium, which is always a much-anticipated event as well, going all the way back to when Babe Ruth christened the old stadium with its first ever home run in 1923.
In the 83 years since then, Opening Day has remained one of baseball's cherished traditions. As the old adage goes, everyone is in first place and there's the feeling that anything can happen, regardless of expectations (just ask last year's Mets or Astros). So whether Opening Day has been at home or on the road, it's created some tremendous highlights for Yankees fans. These are just some of those memorable moments.
1996: Hello, Derek Jeter / A snowy beginning
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of an awesome Opening Day in '96. Entrusted with the starting shortstop position, the future captain wasted no time in proving to new skipper Joe Torre that he had nothing to worry about. Jeter belted his first career homer off a big name in veteran Dennis Martinez, and he added an acrobatic over-the-shoulder catcher, too.
The Yankees won that opener and just a few days later, they also had an unforgettable home opener bombarded by snow. That didn't bother Andy Pettitte though:
1978: It's raining Reggie Bars!
Hot on the heels of their first World Series title in 15 years, the Yankees got off to a bit of a slow start on the road, but they already had a fun promotion planned for their home opener. Shortly after he signed with the Yankees, Reggie Jackson said that one day, he would have a candy bar named after him. Well after crushing three homers in the decisive Game 6 of the 1977 World Series to clinch the title, the Yankees did just that.
Everyone entering the stadium on April 13, 1978 was given a "Reggie Bar" to enjoy. Some people ate them right away, some people kept them as souvenirs, and some threw them onto the field when Reggie lived up to the moment by smashing a three-run homer in his first at-bat:
The game was delayed while the grounds crew picked up all the Reggie Bars, creating a pretty ridiculous spectacle. The dinger was the difference, as the Yankees beat the White Sox, 4-2, and went on to win another championship.
1998: ALL OF THE RUNS
There is tragically no video online of the record-setting 17-13 carnage at the 1998 home opener. In Yankee Stadium's 75th year, the Yankees and Athletics celebrated with fireworks and a highly entertaining back-and-forth slugfest. In lieu of footage, here's a sample of what I wrote about the chaos last year:
No game in the history of Yankee Stadium had ever seen as much scoring in one contest, and luckily for the 56,717 in attendance, they were also part of a record crowd—it was the largest one at Yankee Stadium since it was remodeled in 1976. Those crazy first five innings were what people couldn’t stop talking about the next day though. They took two hours and 51 minutes to play, longer than eight of the other fourteen MLB games on the schedule... The A’s and Yankees scored 29 runs on 28 hits and 14 walks.
After the game, Buster Olney heard from first base coach Jose Cardenal, who remarked, "This has got to be the most brutal game I’ve ever seen in my life."
Brutal for the players? Probably. Amazing to watch? Absolutely. Catch it if it ever comes across "Yankees Classics" again.
Here are just a few more Opening Day highlights from clips around the Internet:
2003: Hideki Matsui's grand slam Bronx debut
2010: Matsui welcomed back with his '09 World Series ring
(Matsui appears at 6:18)
2007: Yankees pay tribute to fallen teammate Cory Lidle
Lidle's son threw out the first pitch and oh goodness, it's getting dusty in here.
1981: Fan favorite Bobby Murcer belts a pinch-hit slam
Let's hope the Yankees make more great Opening Day memories tomorrow.