Today is Opening Day for the 2016 Boston Red Sox. And in my mind — a sick and twisted place you don’t want to visit without hand sanitizer — it’s the greatest single day of the year. So to recognize this glorious event, I am recounting the five greatest Red Sox opening day moments ever. And by “ever”, I mean games that happened during my life time and that I happened to be sober for. Some happened during Fenway Opening Day, others at just “plain old Opening Day.” But they all rocked. So there.
5. Dwight Evans’ home run to kick off the 1986 season: After a long winter’s baseball drought (not to mention a fifth place finish in the ’85 East), Dewey said, “Fuck this noise” and busted us out of the gate with a dinger on the first pitch of the game–something that had never been done before. Looking back, it was a fitting way to begin what was from my perspective the most exciting Red Sox season of the 20th century. Never mind that it ended with Wade Boggs crying in the visitor’s dugout at Shea Stadium and my limp body collapsed in a heap in a West Roxbury home. This home run was a sign that we were in for one hell of a ride.
4. Manny’s first Fenway home run: Going into the 2001 season, we still had the bitter taste of a defeat at the hands of the Yankees in the 1999 ALCS on our lips, made worse by New York scooping up prized free agent Mike Mussina over the winter. Still, screw New York. Our plan B was Manny Ramirez and, yes, the money we threw his way seemed outrageous at the time. But all of that subsided when the man strolled to the plate at Fenway for the first time as a member of the Boston Red Sox. We were already down 3-0, thanks to some first inning struggles from Tim Wakefield, but with two men on, Manny delivered the first pitch he saw over the green monster and every dime spent to land him was suddenly worth it. I’m proud to say I was there (thanks, Dad), and to say that the place went apeshit when he launched that home run is like saying Tommy Chong likes the occasional joint.
3. Mo Vaughn pisses off two hundred fans at the Cask ‘n’ Flagon: The Sox were down, 7-2, to Seattle in the bottom of the ninth on Fenway opening day 1998. Half the crowd had already moved out to the bars; those who remained were a curious mix of diehards and folks too drunk to move. Improbably, the Sox rallied for seven runs off the likes of Heathcliff Slocumb, Tony Fossas and Mike Timlin, the lethal blow being Mo Vaughn’s grand slam. Looking back, it’s a sad reminder of what might have been with Mighty Mo, and a lesson that you gotta keep the faith.
2. Mariano Rivera tips his hat to the crowd: Admit it, when Mo ambled out to a rousing chorus of cheers during the 2005 Fenway Opening Day ring ceremony — looking about as threatening as Chachi from Happy Days — then smiled and tipped his cap, you couldn’t help but like the guy. Even if it was just for a couple seconds and you felt absolutely filthy about it later.
Yes, that’s Dave “The Man” Roberts getting his ring on Fenway Opening Day 2005, which I’m fairly certain also came with a “free drinks for life in the City of Boston” card. I’ve been privileged to have seen three Opening Day ring ceremonies in my lifetime, but this one will always be the best. Where does it rank on YOUR list?