Four Weeks Until Mets Opening Day!
This week’s flashback – 1998
Tuesday, March 31st vs. Philadelphia Phillies – Game 1 of regular season (Win).
I went to a lot of games in 1998. I had a Saturday plan, and digging through my old “boxes of junk” I found no less than 11 ticket stubs from the ’98 season, but I couldn’t find my Opening Day stub to prove I “Showed Up At Shea” on Opening Day 1998.
I did find this magnetic schedule though – one of the last versions to be die-cut. It featured a representation of the NYC skyline, was sponsored by Kahn’s hot dogs, and implored fans to “Show Up At Shea,” a directive I followed with great number in 1998. This magnet was given away the first six games of the season, so possession of this artifact doesn’t serve as proof of my attendance on Game 1.
This was a rather exciting time to be a Mets fan. 1997 had been a truly fun season – we’d had little expectations going into it and came out of it with 88 wins and lots of memories, including a pennant race and beating the Yankees in the first regular season Subway Series game. 1998 would be the year the Mets would shock their fans by trading for borderline Hall Of Fame candidate Mike Piazza, but that wouldn’t happen until May, so on Opening Day Piazza wasn’t here yet. Incumbent All-Star catcher Todd Hundley wasn’t here either. He had reconstructive elbow surgery, so future trivia question answer Tim Spehr completed the battery with Bobby Jones on the mound. Bobby Valentine’s Mets also featured newly acquired John Olerud at first base.
The buzz around Shea was that its days were numbered, as a proposed replacement was planned for the 2002 season, replete with an “Ebbets Field style facade” as well as “modern features like a retractable roof and a removable grass playing field“.
Although predictions of Shea’s demise were seven years premature, this Opening Day would be notable. The Mets played in the longest scoreless Opening Day in National League history. Pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo’s single in the 14th inning with two outs and the bases loaded gave the Mets a 1-0 victory.