First person: Selig on favorite Opening Days
Brewers' first game, Aaron's return to Milwaukee among Commissioner's favorites
MILWAUKEE -- My favorite Opening Day was April 7, 1970, the first day that the Milwaukee Brewers played in County Stadium. Despite all the wonderful things that have happened to me since, that remains the single proudest day of my career.
It was the end result of 5 1/2 to six years of hard, hard work, trying to get baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves left. It was an unbelievable day. We got word that we could purchase the Seattle Pilots on March 31 at 10:15 p.m. Our staff at that time was me and a temporary telephone receptionist, Betty Grant. She stayed for 30 years. That was it, the whole staff.
But on April 7, we had 37,237 people at County Stadium. I remember there was such genuine joy at the return of baseball. We lost that day, 12-0, to Andy Messersmith and the California Angels, but I will say in all honesty that was the only time in my life when I didn't give a damn that we lost. I was so thrilled, so elated that we had been able to bring baseball back to Milwaukee. The joy in that ballpark on that day, the splendid shared emotion, was unbelievable.
The home opener in 1975, April 11, was special, too, because we were able to bring Henry Aaron back to Milwaukee. He had been a very good friend of mine for 20 years and of course he was a beloved figure here from his years with the Braves. I believe we beat Cleveland that day, and Henry drove in a run. But I also remember people singing "Hello, Henry" to the tune of "Hello, Dolly."
This is the kind of positive emotion that an Opening Day and baseball can generate. I don't think you find that anywhere else.
And then I have to recall Opening Day in 1980, April 10 in Milwaukee, when we were playing the Boston Red Sox. What a game.
It was a back-and-forth game, really one of those classics. I remember I was sitting with Haywood Sullivan, one of the Red Sox owners. We later went to dinner together. But I went out to the loge in front of the press box as I often did and there it was -- ninth inning, tie game, two outs, bases loaded, and Sixto Lezcano hits a real drive to right-center off Dick Drago. And it's gone. A grand-slam home run in the ninth inning to win, 9-5, on Opening Day. That was incredible.
We had a real run from 1978 through 1982, of course, the American League championship team. Those were really good clubs, capable of generating that kind of excitement.
The late former Commissioner Bart Giamatti used to refer to the annual renaissance of baseball. There is a renaissance in Milwaukee every spring. There is something special about Opening Day every year, but this year that will be particularly true in light of the horrendous winter we've had. I love Opening Days here, for a lot of reasons. And this March 31 -- ironically enough against the Braves -- will be even more meaningful than usual. It will be another real renaissance.