(This article has 3 pages. Continuation links at bottom of page after Author’s bio)
Opening day is here.
Nerves. Adrenaline. Excitement. Uneasiness. A new beginning.
These are many of the dichotomous feelings that attend players, from Little League through the bigs, on opening day.
It is a tacit American holiday, where employees-employers develop a quick case of the cold, many a student misses a Monday lecture, and the retired folk, battle the truant crowds.
The opening day starter is a compliment and honor that is bestowed on one of its pitchers from the head coach and organization. It is an honor that many pitchers relish. It is a statement, to the fan base, on what the direction of the rotation will be, and more importantly, who is the foundation, the Ace. This 2017 opening day will feature Jhoulys Chacin for the San Diego Padres. This article will focus on many of the stories and highlights from some of the opening day pitchers of the past from our San Diego Padres.
Here’s to a great Padre season.
Obviously, we must start with opening day 2017. Andy Green has opted to give the opening day nod to Jhoulys Chacin. The Venezuelan right-hander has looked pretty good this spring, sporting a 3.86 ERA, while striking out 10 over 9.1 innings. The other option was that of Jeff Weaver, who has looked like anything but opening day material this spring.
Furthermore, Chacin has some opening day experience, having pitched it for the Rockies in 2013. In that outing he showed a great effort but ultimately wound up with a no-decision and the team lost. He struck out six in 6.1 innings, gave up three hits, three walks, and only one run. Chacin began his career as a top prospect in the Rockies’ organization, and made his debut in 2009. After 2014, due to injury, his career hit a snag and he bounced around in the minors with the D’Backs, the Braves, and the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. I think that if during that time period, you were to tell Jhoulys that he’d be an opening day starter in 2017, he would be astonished, and probably wouldn’t believe you.
Now let’s look back at the history of the Padres opening day starter beginning with the birth of the franchise in 1969. After the expansion draft, the Padres gave the nod to starting pitcher, Dick Selma. Selma was a very promising prospect in the Mets’ organization through the 1960’s. He looked to have cemented a job in the middle of that rotation before the draft.
As a Padre, he was their number one starter, albeit only shortly, because after four games he was traded to the Cubs for Joe Niekro, Frankie Libran, and Gary Ross. However, in his first start for the Padres first ever game on opening day, April 8th, 1969, Selma not only threw a shutout after the first inning, but added two hits of his own to the box score. The Padres beat the Houston Astros 2-1. Padres pitcher Johnny Podres stated, “We didn’t look like any expansion team tonight.” (Padres Encyclopedia, Porter/Naiman, pg. 10)
In the inaugural game Selma hurled a complete game, five-hitter win for the Padres, while striking out 12 Astros. To aid in the celebration of the 200th year anniversary for the city of San Diego, the Padres and Dick Selma kicked off the new franchise with not only an opening day win, but an opening series sweep.
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Michael Clark is a Las Vegas historian with a Bachelor’s Degree in U.S. and Nevada history from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is a third generation Padres fan who has “paid attention” ever since his family returned to the states from military service in Germany in the early 1980’s. His grandparents move to Chula Vista in the 30’s where they bought a house on K Street. Both parents graduated Chula Vista H.S. in 1959. During his Dad’s tenure in the Air Force, 26 years, multiple times he, with his Mother, brother, and sister, made their home in that house. His Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother, and Father are all buried at Ft. Rosecrans, Pt Loma where they get to see every Padres home game right across the bay. It is the authors goal to bring many of the great tales from the Padres storied past to light for many of the new fans and to remind those who may have lived through it. Most articles will also feature baseball cards of the players mentioned. This gives an added peek into the past and provides some nostalgia. You can follow me on twitter at gwynn19@wcoastcapper