Saturday, February 12, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1968

As we are coming upon the beginning of the baseball season, I thought it would be fun to look back at Opening Day for each season since 1966- the Braves' first season in Atlanta. If you're like me, you would like to see Opening Day made into a national holiday. Federal employees get their umpteen days each year for holidays that a lot of us don't get off; all I'm asking for is one special day per calendar year!

The 1968 season's Opening Day took place on April 10 in St. Louis-against the defending World Series Champion Cardinals. Pat Jarvis took the mound for the Braves against Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. With two runners on in the top of the second, Felix Millan hit what should have been an out, but LF Lou Brock committed an error- which allowed Clete Boyer to score from third and gave the Braves a 1-0 lead. The score would remain at 1-0 until the bottom of the eighth, when Curtis Flood scored on a double to center by future Brave Orlando Cepeda (whom the Braves would trade Joe Torre for in the Spring of 1969). Starter Pat Jarvis would come back out for the Braves in the bottom of the ninth, and after recording an out, gave up a double to Dal Maxvill-who would then leave the game for pinch runner Dick Simpson. Ken Johnson replaced Jarvis, and then gave up a run scoring single to pinch-hitter Dave Ricketts, as the Braves lost 2-1.

Player of the Game-Dave Ricketts
Ricketts, a little-used catcher who had all of 213 at-bats during his 6 year major league career, made the most of his one at bat in this game.

The hit would be one of only three that Ricketts would collect that year, and the RBI his only one that season. Ricketts eventually joined the Cardinals coaching staff, where he spent fifteen seasons. During his long career, Dave won World Series rings in 1967 with the Cardinals as a back-up catcher, 1971 as a bullpen coach with the Pirates, and in 1982 as the Cardinals bullpen coach.

Pitcher of the Game-Bob Gibson
Losing to Gibson in 1968 was a common theme for N.L. teams, so there was no shame in this defeat. The win was the first of 22 that Gibson would collect in '68- which is the year that Bob would go on to win the N.L. MVP award, as well as the N.L. Cy Young award. His ERA of 1.12 in 1968 was also the record for the "live ball era", and his unbelievable 13 shutouts were just three short of the MLB record. On this night, Gibby would throw three-hit ball over the course of seven innings while allowing only one unearned run.

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