Not growing up in Cleveland, I never went to an Opening Day game there, and because I didn't grow up in a family of Tribe fans, I was never pulled out of school to watch on TV or anything like that. I've said before that my fandom was a very solitary experience, and until college, most of it came from newspapers, baseball cards, and the occasional game at Chicago's Comiskey Park. Most of the Indians' Opening Day games weren't televised nationally, so I couldn't have watched most of them, even if I was in school.
Opening Day 2002 came during my senior year of college, by which point the internet was changing how I could follow the team, and cable television meant a lot more games were broadcast. The Indians were coming off the final playoff appearance of their successful run, and their game in Anaheim against the Angels was chosen to be the Sunday night opener. I watched it in my apartment with with roommate Shawn.
Bartolo Colon made his third Opening Day start in a row for the Indians. Before he even took the mound though, the Tribe had taken a 4-run lead, as Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Jim Thome, Travis Fryman, and Milton Bradley each collected a base hit in the 1st inning. Fryman also added a home run in the 3rd. An Einar DIaz single plated a sixth run in the 9th inning.
Colon walked two batters in the 2nd and gave up a double in the 8th, but those were the only runners to get as far as second base. Meanwhile, Colon had been efficient with his pitches, setting the stage for something I'd been waiting nearly four years to watch.
A Maddux is a complete game shutout in which the pitchers uses fewer than 100 pitches. It's something I came up with in the summer of 1998, and I'd been keeping track of them in a notebook ever since, but I'd only ever seen them when checking box scores (and I missed almost half the ones that happened in those years). Colon entered the 9th inning with a chance to throw the first one I'd actually been watching.
A leadoff single to Garret Anderson put the Maddux in jeopardy, but Colon got Troy Glaus to hit a ground ball to Vizquel, who started the double play. Then, on Colon's 98th pitch of the game, Brad Fullmer hit a harmless grounder to first base, which Thome fielded before stepping on the bag to end the game.
With that, Colon had completed not only the first Maddux I ever watched, but the first Maddux any pitcher had thrown on Opening Day (and still one of only two). In doing so, Colon created my favorite Opening Day ever.
What's your favorite Opening Day?