Bye-bye regular season

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I’m glad the last day of the season is happening on Ocotber 3. My favorite final day of the season in my lifetime happened on October 3. It was 1993. I spent that day in Cleveland, at the last game ever played at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Tribe — with a young Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Carlos Baerga — were taking on the first place Chicago White Sox. The Sox won 4-0, but the packed house — over 72,000 for a baseball game, which was insane — cheered like crazy anyway.

First they cheered for the fact that Belle beat out Frank Thomas for the RBI crown (this was before we all learned that RBI didn’t really matter). Then they cheered for the fact that Cleveland native Bob Hope ended the day by standing on home plate and singing “Thanks for the Memories.” He was a bit wobbly by 1993, but no one cared. It was a treat.

Another reason why October 3, 1993 was fantastic?  As I watched the Indians and the Sox do their thing, I was scoreboard watching. And what I watched was the Braves beating the the Rockies handily, as David Neid, alas, was bested by Tom Glavine. Meanwhile, as Bob Hope sang, the Dodgers-Giants game was underway, but not yet decided. It wasn’t until I got down to my friend’s parents house in Wooster for Sunday dinner that we learned — via radio, not the Internet because the Internet was something you used at the campus computer lab in those days and, really, where were you going to get scores on that thing anyway? — that the Dodgers won, ending the last of the great division title races.  Man, what a day!

We won’t have any parks filled with 77,000 people today. And, with all of the playoff participants decided, we have no win-or-go-home games left to play.  But we do have the A’s and Rangers facing off in a win-or-play-the-wild-card-game thing. And the Orioles and Yankees could still end in a tie, forcing extra baseball tomorrow.  That’s not nothing.

Also not nothing: the fact that, for the last time until next spring, we have a slate of 15 ballgames. And no matter how great the playoffs can be, they’re … different than regular season baseball. Things become more important and more pitched and intense and that’s good. But today does mean the end of easy going, relaxing baseball for baseball’s sake that characterizes so much of the regular season. And I’ll miss that, even as things get all crazy over the next month.

Bye-bye 2012 regular season. You were pretty darn good to us.

Baseball to honor Stoneman Douglas High School as spring training games begin

New Era
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There were a few exhibitions against college teams yesterday but today the Grapefruit League and Cactus League schedules begin in earnest, with big league teams, more or less, facing big league team, more or less.

The baseball will look like baseball, but the teams will be wearing different caps today: black caps with the maroon “SD” of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting on February 14.

All teams and umpire crews will wear the caps pre-game, and they have the option to wear the caps during the games. The only two teams not playing today — the Royals and Rangers — will wear them tomorrow.

After the games players will sign the caps and they will be auctioned off to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which benefits the official Stoneman Douglas Victims’ Fund.

Here’s today’s schedule: