Another op’nin’, another show
In Philly, Boston or Baltimo’,
A chance for stage folks to say hello,
Another op’nin’ of another show.
— “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” from the Broadway musical, “Kiss Me Kate”
Opening night. Nothing like it, be it a Broadway opening or a movie premier.
Or the first day of the rest of a baseball player’s life.
It’s an evening when glamor and nerves co-exist, when the past means nothing and the future dissipates into a meaningless mist.
Only the present exists.
And so it was for Gerrit Cole, pitching phenom of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a No. 1 choice with a 100-mile-an-hour fastball.
He had ridden the Major League Express through the minor leagues and then, somewhere around 7:10 on a humid Tuesday evening, the strains of the National Anthem having faded into another night at the ball park for the veterans on the field behind him and in the other dugout, he found himself alone on the hill in the midst of the infield in the best baseball stadium in America, ready to throw his first pitch.
This was Gerrit Cole against the world, but he was hardly alone out there. In truth, every man who had ever pitched in the major leagues had gone through the same thing, perhaps not always with the hype surrounding this debut, but everyone from Hall of Famer to total failures had made a debut.
How would his stack up to the hard-throwing Hall of Famers who had come before him, men whose fastballs were legendary and who would perform feats no one could imagine a pitcher performing.
o June 24, 1955, Brooklyn at Milwaukee, fifth inning, trailing 6-0, a 19-year-old left-handed bonus baby out of the University of Cincinnati would come on in relief.
His name was Sandy Koufax.
The first batter he faced was Johnny Logan, who singled, and now he stood there looking at a pair of Hall of Famers in Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, followed by the home run hero Bobby Thomson and Joe Adcock, a man who would hit four home runs and a double in a game and had broken up Harvey Haddix’s perfect game in the 13th inning.
But not a one of them would get a hit off Koufax, who went on to pitch two scoreless innings allowing only Logan’s hit and walk to Aaron.