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March 13, 2014

EXTRA INNINGS: Ozzie is no wizard when it comes to calendarology

OPINION — HALL OF FAME shortstop Ozzie Smith was without peer during his playing days. He even was known as the "Wizard of Oz."

Born Osborne Earl Smith, he often ran onto the field to start each game’s defensive inning with a flip as he approached his position.

After four years with the Padres, Smith was traded to St. Louis, where during his 15 seasons with the Cards, he also developed a strong bat. A 13-time Gold Glove winner, Ozzie owns major-league shortstop records for assists, double plays, and total chances. He collected 2,460 hits and 580 stolen bases and played in 15 All-Star games.

No wonder he was named on 91.7 percent of Hall of Fame ballots in his first year of eligibility.

However, while he was a Wizard on the field, he is off-base on his recent proposal to alter our holiday calendar.

A couple of weeks ago, Ozzie announced plans to collect 100,000 signatures by March 31 to make opening day of the major-league baseball season a national holiday.

If successful, a minimum of 100,000 signatures from fans 21 or older for the "We the People" petitioning program would require a review by President Obama. The petition garnered about 7,000 signatures the first day.

Fans can sign the petition by visiting WhiteHouse.gov or St. Louis-based business partner Budweiser at www.Budweiser.com/OpeningDay.

"I don’t know exactly what the odds of success are," Smith said, adding, "...I'm sure that we’ll get the 100,000 signatures.

"There are 22 million people who have, at some point in time, played hooky from work or school, so it's already an unofficial holiday," Smith told Jenifer Langosch at MLB.com. "We're just trying to make it an official holiday by getting those 100,000 signatures so I can march them up to the front of the White House."

Smith's campaign plans include an online video series throughout March highlighting the historical significance of Opening Day.

Unlike during his playing days, Ozzie has really flubbed this one.

First off, the whole thing smacks of nothing but free, cheap PR for a beer company. If not, why involve the Anheuser-Busch company after which the baseball stadium in St. Louis is named.

Besides, unlike the Super Bowl which involves just one game, major-league baseball in fact has 30 opening days each season, one for each team playing its first game on its home field.

Then there is another problem created by one of many Bud Selig’s "brilliant" ideas — playing games all over the world to start the season. This year, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks open the regular season in 10 days (March 22) in SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA! Previously, openers have been played four times in Japan and once each in Monterrey, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

So is this year’s opener on March 22? Or perhaps it is on Sunday, March 30 when those same Dodgers play the Padres. Or is it on March 31, when 28 teams play 14 games? Or is it only after all 30 teams have played their first home game of the season?

Second, although Budweiser may be the exception, can you sense much support for a day off for workers throughout the country?

Me neither.

In addition, there’s something unique to baseball that its fans often come down with (baseball) fever to attend their team’s first game of the season, usually as a family or circle of friends following a tradition as old as the game itself. It’s almost more about bonding than it is about the game.

Baseball is our national pastime, and no artificial holiday is going to add to its lore any more than not adding a made-up event will detract from it.

However, if this is such a wonderful idea, Selig could solve all of the fuss very easily and at no cost, which ensures that it won’t happen.

Let every baseball team play its first game on a Saturday or Sunday each year—baseball’s Opening Day!

With all the problems facing our nation, making opening day a national holiday surely is not one of them.

 

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