Tomase: 5 most memorable Red Sox opening days of my lifetime, including one deep cut

John Tomase
March 28, 2019 - 11:47 am
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The Patriots play just 16 games a year, but we only occasionally remember the first one. The memories they make tend to kick in around November before concentrating in February.

Celtics opening nights? The only two that spring to mind are beating Michael Jordan's Bulls in the first game of the Rick Pitino Era because Tommy Heinsohn screamed, "BULLSH*T!" on the air after the C's didn't get a call, and Kevin Garnett putting up a 20-20 in his Boston debut in 2007.

Bruins? Please. Don't @ me.

Then there are the Red Sox. Baseball may be losing its hold on the casual sports fan, but Opening Day remains an event worth capitalizing. The Red Sox have provided no shortage of memories, and they're the kind that stick.

Here are five that stand out from my lifetime, anyway, in advance of Thursday's opener in Seattle.

2003: Devil Rays 6, Red Sox 4

Closer by committee! What a way to kick off the Theo Epstein Era. The boy wonder GM hadn't even turned 30 yet when the campaign opened with his most audacious gambit backfiring in spectacular fashion.

The Red Sox were cruising to a 4-1 victory when all hell broke loose in the ninth. Mookie Betts' uncle, Terry Shumpert, ripped a two-run homer off of Alan Embree before Carl Crawford golfed a walkoff three-run homer off of Chad Fox.

Those Red Sox regrouped to take the ALCS to extra innings of Game 7 in New York before experiencing their final bout of existential heartbreak. They've won four World Series titles since, and open their current defense . . . without a closer, an idea which no longer feels revolutionary.

1986: Tigers 6, Red Sox 5

Dwight Evans homered on the first pitch! Colleague Rob Bradford delves into this moment in more detail here, but I remember getting off the bus as a kid and someone with a transistor radio (I'm old) yelling, "Dewey went deep!" Evans took Hall of Famer Jack Morris out of the park on the first pitch of the season as part of a four-homer day for the offense, but Kirk Gibson won it late with a two-run homer off Sammy Stewart.

Say, how did that season end, anyway?

2013: Red Sox 8, Yankees 2

Jonny Gomes scored from second! The 2013 Red Sox shocked us right from the jump and never let up. They opened in New York against CC Sabathia with a game that perfectly encapsulated the season to come.

They assaulted New York with four runs in the second in a rally kicked off by rookie Jackie Bradley, who overcame an 0-2 count to work a seven-pitch walk off an enraged Sabathia. The signature moment of the game -- and a harbinger of what was to come -- came in the ninth when Jacoby Ellsbury beat out an infield single and Gomes never stopped running from second, diving in safely behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia to send the message that 2012 was a thing of the past.

Speaking of which . . .

2012: Tigers 3, Red Sox 2

The Bobby V. Era! Trailing 2-0 in the ninth inning of the mercurial manager's Red Sox debut, Boston rallied on a David Ortiz sacrifice fly and Ryan Sweeney triple.

That brought the bottom of the ninth and future All-Star Mark Melancon. He allowed a pair of singles before being yanked -- he wasn't happy about the short leash after the game -- and Alfredo Aceves promptly hit a batter and allowed a walkoff single to Austin Jackson, and just like that, a disaster of a season was off and running.

1997: Red Sox 6, Angels 5

A forgotten gem! We might've expected better things from a team that ended up six games under .500 based on this one. Trailing 4-1 in the ninth with two outs and nobody on, the Red Sox rallied against All-Star closer Troy Percival, who couldn't find the plate. He walked in two runs and forced in another with a hit-by-pitch before Troy O'Leary gave the Red Sox the lead with an infield single.

Heathcliff Slocumb then nearly returned the favor in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases with two outs before Jorge Fabregas flied out to end it.

Slocumb's real contribution came four months later when Dan Duquette shipped his 0-5 record and 5.79 ERA to the Mariners for a couple of nobodies named Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

Honorable mention: In 2008, Brandon Moss tied it in Japan before Manny Ramirez won it in extra innings with Daisuke-mania in full swing. In 2004, Pedro left early after a mediocre outing in Baltimore. Nothing was wilder than a 12-11 loss to the Jays in 2002, with Martinez getting bombed and the Red Sox hitting four homers in defeat.

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