Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day: Cincinnati's greatest holiday

by: Josh Bethel
Staff Writer

When people talk about baseball, they talk fondly about history. Hell, baseball is a game who's foundation relies on history more than any other sport. Football today barely resembles the same game it did even 60 years ago and people seem to forget that the three point line didn't exist until 1979. Meanwhile, baseball has hardly changed since the 1890's. But when it does, those changes mark a turning point in the game and divide it into different eras, such as the infield fly rule or the dead ball era. Baseball always remembers where it came from.

A player passing milestones set by those decades before help us rank them among the greats in the game's illustrious history. But the ones that stand above the rest are those who manage to do firsts and set the precedent for what is considered greatness: Cap Anson's 3,000th hit in 1897, Babe Ruth's 50th home run in 1920, Ken Williams' 40th stolen base in 1922 or Harry Wright's Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869.

Cincinnati is a baseball town. Always has been and always will be. And as forgettable as Reds history has been the last 20 years, you should never never forget that when it comes to America's pastime Cincinnati is a city of firsts. This was something that was recognized every year when fans sat on their couches and players in their dugouts eagerly waiting for Cincinnati to throw out the first pitch and declare a brand new season of baseball had begun. That nod was an acknowledgement for all that Cincinnati has brought to the sport, something that baseball is slowly beginning to forget. But it's something that the city of Cincinnati will never erase from it's memory. No matter how bad the Reds were the season before or how bad they are projected to be in the season to come, nobody looks forward to the beginning of a brand new season like the fans of the Cincinnati Reds. Opening Day in the Queen City is unique. A holiday unto itself and unlike any other celebration in sports.

All of this celebration is for a reason: The Reds were not only the very first professional baseball team but also the first and only team to go undefeated in a season. They were the first team to play on the East and West coasts in the same year and the first and only NL team to ever go wire to wire and win a World Series. In 1935 they were the first team to play a night game, which was also the first game to feature fireworks. And the tradition rich franchise still continues the tradition to this day, hosting several Fireworks Nights throughout the season.

So as you sit down today and prepare for the 162 game gauntlet that makes up the greatest regular season in sports, keep all of this in mind. When the talking heads on TV begin to talk about the vast history of Wrigley and Fenway or start to pretend that baseball owes itself entirely to the Yankees and Red Sox, smile to yourself. Because you know what the rest of baseball seems to have forgotten: The first pitch of the season shouldn't be thrown out in Japan at 6 in the morning. It should be thrown in Cincinnati, by a Red.

Here's to a successful and healthy 2012 for America's oldest team! Go Redlegs!

Be sure to give Josh a follow on Twitter (@joshuadbethel).

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