Is Opening Day, really Opening Day anymore? Not really, when you consider that the traditional opener in Cincinnati has been relegated to almost a fourth class status. This year, Major League Baseball has an Opening Sunday with three games followed by an Opening Week celebration, if you will. So while we are excited for the baseball season and we call it “Opening Day”, it’s meaning and tradition has been cast aside like many other traditions. But that is a debate for another time.
Today, we look at three memorable Opening Day moments in the history of the New York Mets. So as you wait for that first pitch at the unseemly time of 8:30 PM EST Sunday night (another joke, but again, for a different day), let’s look back at some Met Magic, part of the franchise with the best Opening Day record.
1985-The Kid debuts with a bang.
The 1984 Mets finished with a record of 90-72, good for second place in the National League East and one year after finishing last. They boasted the previous two Rookie of the Year winners in Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden and were in search for a piece that could put them over the top. Prior to the 1985 season, they swung a deal with the Montreal Expos, acquiring All-Star catcher Gary Carter for four players, one of them being the popular Hubie Brooks. On Opening Day, the Mets faced off against the St. Louis Cardinals, the first of many dramatic contests the teams would wage during that season.
New York enjoyed a 5-2 lead entering the seventh inning thanks to Keith Hernandez driving in two runs and scoring another and George Foster contributed a solo home run. The Cardinals rallied for two runs in the seventh and one in the ninth to even the score at 5 and send the game into extra innings. In the bottom of the tenth frame with one out, Carter officially became a Met in a big way, slugging a game-ending home run off ex-Met Neil Allen and giving the New Yorkers a dramatic 6-5 victory. It is one of the more famous home runs in team history.
1994-Tuffy smacks three but the Amazins’ have the last laugh.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis may not ever amount to more than a fourth or fifth outfielder. However, the former Met will always have July 12th, 2015. On that day, Nieuwenhuis swatted three home runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks, helping his club ride into the All-Star Break with a three game sweep of the Snakes. 21 years prior to this big moment, an opponent of New York had a similar day at Wrigley Field.
Tuffy Rhodes received 675 plate appearances with three Major League clubs across six seasons. However, he launched himself into baseball lore on April 4th, 1994 when, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, he connected for three home runs of Gooden. Rhodes’ big hits came in the first, third and fifth innings and he is the only player in baseball history to hit three home runs in a single Opening Day game. However, the Mets smacked 16 hits with Jose Vizcaino, Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent each going deep as New York prevailed by a score of 12-8. Rhodes would hit another five home runs the rest of the season but became a proficient slugger in Japan with 464 home runs in the land of the Rising Sun, including 55 in 2001, a single season record shared with the legendary Sadaharu Oh and former Major Leaguer Alex Cabrera.
2015-A foreshadowing of events.
After finishing with the best record in baseball in 2014, the Washington Nationals signed Max Scherzer, the top free agent pitcher on the market. The Nats were clearly going for it all and on paper were the trendy pick to win the World Series. Not only did they lose in the division series in 2014 but they also were bounced in the 2012 divisional round after blowing a two-run, ninth inning lead in Game 5. It looked like the Nats were going to begin 2015 on a high note as Scherzer kept the Mets hitless through five innings and Washington led 1-0.
In the sixth, the first of two errors by Ian Desmond combined with Lucas Duda‘s two-run single put New York ahead 2-1. In the next inning, Desmond committed another error and when Travis d’Arnaud laced an RBI triple, the Amazins were once again victorious on Opening Day. It was a sign of things to come as Washington never seemed to get going all year, resulting in the dismissal of manager Matt Williams. The Mets would later ride an 11 game winning streak that put them in first place for good.