The Last Time... (Cubs Opening Day Edition)
"Why, I remember when my father and I used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and watch the season start in Japan."
--The Onion ("On Baseball's Opening Day")
Has Opening Day lost any of its luster since Major League baseball trash-canned the quaint tradition of starting every season with a single game, played in Cincinnati, the home of the game's first professional team, where the occasion was celebrated with a parade down the city's streets? Is the day less magical now that it has unfolded in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Japan, and the weekday game in the Queen City has given way to a made-for-ESPN event played on Sunday night? Of course it has.
But the thing is, it's still a damn special day on the baseball calendar and in WAY too many of the past 99 Cubs seasons, it has been the one and only day of the season when Cub fans' optimism was in full bloom.
So in honor of a day so wonderful that even Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, Jr. can't completely desecrate it despite his very best efforts, here is a list of Cub-relevant Opening Days of the past, specifically, the last time...
...the Cubs opened the season at Wrigley Field: 2001, when they lost 5-4 to the Expos.
...the Cubs opened the season at Wrigley Field and won: 1996, when the home side beat the Padres, 5-4.
...someone other than Carlos Zambrano was the Cubs' starting pitcher on Opening Day: 2004, when Kerry Wood went five innings and earned the victory as the Cubs beat the Reds, 7-4
...the Cubs started a rookie catcher on Opening Day: 1989, when 24-year-old Joe Girardi went 2-for-3 against the Phillies.
...someone other than Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez started at the
corners of the Cub infield on Opening Day: 2003, when Hee Sop Choi and
Mark Bellhorn had the honor.
...the Cubs were shut-out on Opening Day: 1993, when the Braves' Greg Maddux and Mike Stanton whitewashed the Cubs, 1-0.
...the Cubs won by shutout on Opening Day: 1974, when Bill Bonham blanked the Phillies, 2-0.
...Ernie Banks--whose Wrigley Field statue will be unveiled Monday--appeared in the Cubs' Opening Day lineup: 1970, when Banks had one of only five Cub hits in a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia's Chris Short.
...the Milwaukee Brewers opened the season in Chicago: 1990, when they lost 2-1 to the White Sox.
...the Cubs opened the season against the Brewers: never.
...the Cubs opened the season in the month of March: 3/31/03, when they crushed the Mets, 15-2, at Shea Stadium. (The only other time the Cubs opened in March was on March 29, 2000, when they beat the Mets, 5-3, in Tokyo.)
...a Lou Piniella-led team won on Opening Day: 2004, when Piniella's Devil Rays beat the Yankees, 8-3.
...the Cubs drew fewer than 38,000 to Opening Day at Wrigley Field: 1991, when only 31,622 showed up to see the Cardinals beat the Cubs, 4-1. It was 45 degrees and cloudy that day.
Real pussies, those 1991 Cubs fans.