Despite the freezing cold temperatures and constant drizzle, it was only fitting that the 2005 Major League Baseball regular season kicked off at Yankee Stadium in a game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night.

More than an hour before the first pitch, hordes of Boston fans stood cheering outside the stadium. The local fans laid low, but not for long.

By 7:45 p.m., the pre-game ceremonies had begun and the Red Sox players and coaches each received their share of boos. Last season’s playoff heroes, Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and, of course, Curt Schilling, were all booed more loudly than the rest of the team. The most vocal opposition, however, came when former Yankee David Wells was introduced.

There were even several signs showing the disdain of Yankee fans toward their former pitcher. One simply said, “Big Fat Traitor.” No further explanation was necessary.

When it was time to introduce the home team, the crowd uniformly rose to its feet. Among the starters, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui always seem to receive extra support from the female and Japanese spectators, respectively.

But it was Jason Giambi who got the loudest applause. Most Yankee fans are apparently willing to forgive Giambi for his past transgressions – at least for now.

Despite the presence of a star at every position in the starting lineup, Tino Martinez, who rejoins the Yankees after three years elsewhere, received the loudest and longest applause of the pre-game introductions.

Even though his skills have diminished in recent years, Tino’s professionalism has certainly won him a permanent place in the hearts of all Yankee fans.

After the players were introduced, the ceremonial opening pitch was thrown by Yogi Berra, the man with the most World Series rings in MLB history.

Given George Steinbrenner’s competitiveness, I do not believe that the choice of Berra was merely coincidental.

With Schilling unable to start, Boston and New York fans both wondered who would replace him. After all, Yankee fans have been seeking revenge since last October, and if they couldn’t face Schilling, they would need a worthy replacement.

Boston Manager Terry Francona did not disappoint, naming David Wells the Opening Day starter. Even though we didn’t get the Schilling-Randy Johnson match-up we’d hoped for, the chance to beat up on the former Yankee was an opportunity relished by all New York fans.

Wells, who is usually at his best on the big stage, must have thought he was still in spring training. When he was pulled after 4 1/3 innings he had given up ten hits, four runs, two stolen bases, a walk and a balk. He also hit Giambi twice.

Johnson, on the other hand, was outstanding. He struck out two in the first inning, setting the tone for the game and hopefully the whole season.

Although Boston had not yet scored, the game turned when Kevin Millar hit a bomb to left with David Ortiz on second.

The ball looked gone, but Matsui made a leaping catch to steal a home run. The inning ended with Boston up 1-0.

The Yankees tied it in the second with a sacrifice fly from Bernie Williams. They took the lead for good with three runs in the third.

They added two more in the sixth and opened the floodgates in the eighth, making it 9-1. It ended 9-2.

The series continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the teams splitting the last two games.

In both cases, the Yankees took leads into the ninth, only to have closer Mariano Rivera blow it.

It was an exciting start to what looks to be another great season for the New York-Boston rivalry.

Now, they just need Schilling to return for next week’s series so Boston fans won’t use the pitching mismatch as an excuse for losing.

Swidler can be reached at dswidler@campustimes.org.



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