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Opening Day in Major League Baseball is special, and something to mark the calendar.
But it is also for the pretender baseball fans. Many go to say they went. It’s also easy as the weather is more pleasant in the spring in April.
Fourth Of July baseball, now, is for the tough. It also marks the midway point of the season, at least symbolically. And no matter what day the games are played, it feels like Saturday. Like today.
And great things tend to happen.
Here are 5:
5. “THE SANDLOT” GAME: Ok, this is not MLB. But this 1993 classic set in 1962 about kids playing baseball in a park near their homes is one of the greatest baseball movies of all time. They don’t play in a sanctioned, overly organized Little League. It is not the worst youth baseball invention of all time – non-summer travel ball. At the time and up until the late 1970s, there were enough kids in many neighborhoods across the country to have enough for a full game without joining a league. Those days are gone. In a classic scene, the boys play on the night of Fourth Of July. Their field has no lights naturally, but they play by the light of fireworks. Who doesn’t wish there were enough kids in their neighborhood to do that.
The Fourth Of July Game That Ended On The 5th Of July
4. BRAVES-METS, 1985: On Thursday, July 4th, 1985, the Atlanta Braves hosted the New York Mets, and it seemed like a Saturday … and a Sunday. A crowd of 44,947 – at least part of the time – at Atlanta’s Fulton-County Stadium got their money’s worth, and then some. The start of the game was delayed 90 minutes for a 9 p.m. opening. It lasted six hours and 10 minutes, excluding more rain delays. The Mets won, 16, 13, in 19 innings.
It was not the longest game ever played in MLB, but no game has ever ended later – 3:55 a.m. And as promised, the few remaining fans – or late arrivals – got to watch the fireworks. At the time, Ted Turner’s WTBS in Atlanta would replay Braves games each night after midnight for those who missed it. I watched it for 15 minutes after 2 a.m. before realizing it was live. Mets’ first baseman Keith Hernandez hit for the cycle. Braves pitcher Rick Camp, batting .060, hit a home run in the bottom of the 18th to re-tie the game, 11-11. The Mets scored five in the top of the 19th for a 16-11 lead before one more Braves’ final comeback failed.
3. NOLAN RYAN 3000, 1980: Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan struck out Reds’ center fielder Cesar Geronimo for his 3,000th career strikeout at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. The Reds won, though, 8-1. Ryan would finish with a Major League record 5,714 strikeouts in his career from 1969-1993. He also leads MLB in no-hitters with seven.
2. DAVE RIGHETTI NO-HITTER, 1983: New York Yankees’ right-hander Dave Righetti was a solid MLB pitcher for 16 years and was with New York from 1979-90. He finished 82-79 in his career with 252 saves and was twice an All-Star and twice a Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. But he never had it like he did on July 4, 1983, when he no-hit the Boston Red Sox for a 4-0 win in Yankee Stadium. It was the Yankees’ first no-hitter since Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers. Righetti’s no-hitter was also the first by a Yankee left-hander since 1917. He struck out Wade Boggs swinging to end the game.
Nothing Better Than Lou Gehrig Moment
1. LOU GEHRIG’S SPEECH, 1939: It looked like something out of the movies, only better, more dramatic and more poignant. It was also tremendously sad as Yankees great Lou Gehrig bid goodbye to fans at Yankee Stadium just two weeks after being diagnosed with ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is a neurodegenerative disease that was later named after Gehrig. He died on June 2, 1941 at age 37. He played his last game on April 30, 1939, and finished his career (1923-39) with 493 home runs.
Before the Yankees beat the Senators on this day, 11-1, Gehrig said this to the crowd at Yankee Stadium:
“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”