Editorial: Opening Day: A Pitch for a National Holiday

In the spirit of crusading journalism, we hereby renew our urgent call for Opening Day of the major league baseball season to be declared a national holiday.

You may remember, but probably not, that we first advocated this important measure a couple of years ago. This winter and spring, Budweiser got into the act with an advertising campaign and a petition drive that garnered 101,000 signatures on the White House website.

We’re not exactly thrilled to be declaring solidarity with a beer company — especially one now owned by a Belgian corporation — in seeking appropriate recognition for America’s national pastime. But upon reflection, even the Koch brothers, and especially their billions, would be welcome allies in this fight. And that’s probably what it would take, given that an act of Congress would be required for Opening Day to become the 12th officially recognized federal holiday.

Yes, we know that the business community will decry the economic productivity that would be lost with the designation of yet another national holiday. This ignores the fact that happy workers are productive workers and that, according to a recent survey by Major League Baseball, more than 20 million American adults have played hooky from work or other commitments to attend Opening Day games. That is almost certainly far lower than the actual number who have called in sick with baseball fever and confined themselves to watching their team’s opener on television. Anyway, productivity be damned. American machines are already the most productive in the world, and sometimes they still have actual workers attached to them.

Moreover, this designation would address a pressing issue, which is that nobody can say with accuracy anymore when Opening Day occurs. This year, for example, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks played two games that count in the standings last weekend in Australia, but when the Dodgers and the Padres play this evening, it’s officially Opening Night. Monday is official Opening Day, with nearly a full slate of games scheduled, although the Yankees and Astros don’t actually open up until Tuesday.

This ambiguity must cease. Even if we can’t return to the days when the season opener was played each year in Cincinnati, home of baseball’s first recognized franchise, can we at least agree that the first game of every season ought to be played in America, and that the ceremonial first pitch of the season ought to be thrown out by the president of the United States in Washington, before the Nationals’ first game? Remember, Harry Truman made a strong show of bipartisanship in 1950, when he threw out first pitches both left-handed and right-handed. (President Obama is strictly a southpaw.)

Besides bringing order out of chaos, making Opening Day a holiday would recognize an essential component of the American character, optimism. On Opening Day, all 30 teams are created equal and have a (theoretically) equal chance of making it to the World Series, so all fans are entitled to dream the long-shot dream.

Marking the end of winter and the unofficial beginning of spring, Opening Day of baseball season resets the clock as no other sport’s does. (One of our favorite baseball books is Thomas Boswell’s Why Time Begins on Opening Day.) The season stretches out before us over the next seven months as a beautiful thing to behold, knowing as we do that it will inevitably have its ups and downs. Early Wynn, the Hall of Fame pitcher with one of baseball’s most resonant names, neatly captured the ethos of a game where failing two times out of three at bat constitutes high achievement: “An opener is not like any other game,” Wynn once said. “There’s that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one, you can’t lose ’em all.”