Moore: Opening Day brings back memories of Mariners’ history

Apr 5, 2015, 12:44 PM | Updated: Apr 6, 2015, 5:12 am
Center fielder Ruppert Jones was one of the stars of the early Seattle Mariners teams. (AP)...
Center fielder Ruppert Jones was one of the stars of the early Seattle Mariners teams. (AP)
(AP)

In my exhaustive research for this post, I discovered the Mariners are opening the season against the Angels on the exact same day the franchise had its first game ever. And it was against the Angels, too.

On April 6, 1977, the Mariners lost to the Angels 7-0 as Frank Tanana threw a complete-game nine-hitter, outpitching Diego Segui and John Montague.

Where were you on April 6, 1977? Not even born yet? In grade school? Danny O’Neil was 2 and still in diapers. Dave Wyman was 13, probably in seventh grade, and hadn’t even played football yet.

710Sports.com editor Brady Henderson, now 28, was nine years from being born and 38 years from making my life miserable as a persnickety editor who worries about little stuff way too much.

I was 19 when I went to that game at the Kingdome, and I remember being excited to have major-league baseball back in Seattle. I was 12 when the Seattle Pilots played here at Sick’s Stadium in 1969 and left for Milwaukee after one year. (To this day, I root against the Brewers and was never a fan of Bud Selig because he owned the team at the time.)

If you think the Mariners have been terrible since you’ve been watching them, in 1977 we rooted for guys like Dave Collins and Craig Reynolds, castoffs from other teams in the expansion draft. I loved them both, but there were times when I wondered if they’d ever get a hit.

Ruppert Jones was the center fielder, and out of the blue he emailed me the other day. It brought back memories of being star-struck. Jones was an average hitter with power, but he was a heck of a center fielder, almost in the same class as Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Cameron though not quite.

Always thought it was curious that he spelled his name with two P’s though he pronounced it ROO-Pert, and if you’re as old as I am, you can still hear the chants of ROOP, ROOP, ROOP whenever he came to the plate.

It’s funny what you remember about different things – for some reason I remember my sister complaining on Opening Night that she couldn’t smoke a cigarette at the Kingdome, and I remember it being a hot summer in 1977 when you looked forward to going to Mariners’ games indoors in air-conditioned comfort.

There truly is something special about an Opening Day or Night in baseball that’s different from other sports. Maybe it’s because baseball in this country is older than football and basketball. Maybe it’s because it’s a sign that winter’s over, another spring is here, bringing longer days and warmer weather.

Rick Rizzs will evoke all of those feelings on the Opening Day broadcast. Rizzs, as you know, loves the game. I busted his chops one time in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer column.

I can’t remember what I wrote exactly, but it was something about him always saying: “It’s a beautiful day at the ballpark.”

Let’s face it, it could be raining or snowing or blowing sideways sleet, and Rizzs would say: “It’s a beautiful day at the ballpark.”

The very next day after giving him a hard time, I ran into Rizzs at Safeco Field. I remember the sad expression on his face and how bad I felt, experiencing writer’s regret like never before.

“What do you want me to say?” Rizzs said in a soft voice. “It WAS a beautiful day at the ballpark.”

I walked away feeling like the smallest human being on the planet, and I still think of that when I see him and now wish I were as cheerful and optimistic as he is all the time, while realizing the Cougars have a better chance of winning the national championship than for that to happen.

In spite of what I wrote about him that day, Rizzs has gone on to buy me drinks and always ask me how my mom is doing, as if to make me feel even worse.

Here’s what I’ve come to learn: Rizzs is right. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, who’s playing and on what field, if you’re at a ballpark watching baseball, it’s a beautiful day.

And that will certainly be the case Monday at Safeco Field.

The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.

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Moore: Opening Day brings back memories of Mariners’ history