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The List: Ranking D.C.'s Opening Days

There have been five Opening Days now since baseball's return to the nation's capital, which just so happens to be the same number of entries in The List. So today, we'll rank the Nationals' five home openers from worst to best (with links to the box scores, to refresh your memories). Was Monday's 9-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies the worst of the five? Which was better -- the very first Opening Day, in 2005, or the dramatic 2008 opener (in the debut of Nationals Park) that ended in Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off homer? Below is our ranking. Agree? Disagree?

5. 2009 (Phillies 9, Nationals 8): The day set up to be a lousy one -- thanks to the Nationals' 0-6 start on the road, slow ticket sales, and the presence of the defending world champs in the visiting dugout (and many of their newly emboldened fans in the stands) -- and that's exactly what it was. Ugly defense and even uglier relief pitching conspired to keep the Nats winless for the season. (Ceremonial first pitch: Representatives of the five U.S. armed services.)

4. 2006 (Mets 7, Nationals 1): The RFK Stadium crowd was some 6,000 fans shy of a sellout, and the Nationals managed just three hits in a loss that dropped them to 2-6 for the season. The lone highlights: Gorgeous weather, and a home run from Alfonso Soriano in his home debut for the Nats. (Ceremonial first pitch: Vice President Dick Cheney.)

3. 2007 (Marlins 9, Nationals 2): It was the first opener under the Nationals' new ownership, the managerial debut of Manny Acta and the final opener at RFK, but milestones aside it was a forgettable day for the Nats. In front of another sub-sellout crowd, starter John Patterson was shelled (he would essentially be done as a big league pitcher by the end of the month), and center fielder Nook Logan and shortstop Cristian Guzman both limped off the field with injuries. (Ceremonial first pitch: Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.)

2. 2005 (Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 3): After 34 long years, baseball was back in the District, and no one who witnessed it will soon forget it: The sight of Frank Howard and other ex-Senators striding out to their old positions in a pregame ceremony. The combined three-hitter by Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero. The way the stands down the third-base line bounced and shook after Vinny Castilla's two-run triple brought in the Nationals' first two runs. (Ceremonial first pitch: President George W. Bush.)

1. 2008 (Nationals 3, Braves 2): It would take something special and unforgettable to bump the 2005 opener to the No. 2 spot, but that's exactly what this one was. A gleaming new stadium on South Capitol Street. The U.S. Capitol dome lit up against the night sky. A national television audience. A solid, five-inning start from Odalis Perez. And, at precisely 10:43 p.m., a rocket off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman, who smoked a pitch from Braves reliever Peter Moylan over the wall in center field to break a 2-2 ninth-inning tie and send the Nationals spilling out of their dugout to celebrate at home plate. (Ceremonial first pitch: President George W. Bush.)

By Dave Sheinin  |  April 15, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
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Last year was great, no doubt, but there is no way baseball's return to DC can be anything but #1. How about a 1a-2005 and 1b-2008?

Posted by: iishoagie07 | April 15, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Don't forget Lance Cormier plunking Vinny Castilla in the bottom of the 8th when he was a single away from hitting for the cycle.

I still think that first one was still #1 on the list.

Posted by: ilikeike | April 15, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

And maybe the Nats should invite W to throw out the first pitch more often...

Posted by: iishoagie07 | April 15, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

RFK was the loudest. Ever. I thought my head would explode during some of their rallies in '05. Reminded me of when I was a little kid. Which, of course, is priceless.

Posted by: Brue | April 15, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

1) 2005 - Baseball returns + a win
2) 2008 - Nationals Park opens + Mr. Walk-off does it again
3) 2009 - A packed house at Nationals Park with a tight game and 3 homers, despite Saul's effort
4) 2006 - Empty seats in Year 2 was a bummer
5) 2007 - HIDEOUS

Posted by: WebberDC | April 15, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I see it as:

1. 2005 Baseball is finally back!
2. 2008 New park! Walk-off HR win!!
3. 2006 Surprise 05 club made the Opener feel improtant. Killer day.
4. 2009 9-8 loss is tough, but a lot of long balls and a bit of everything.
5. 2007 Ho hum. Nats get smoked, Patterson shleed, players injured.

Posted by: dfh21 | April 15, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

1) 2005 Stadium shook like a Redskin Game
2) 2008 New Park - 2nd of only 2 team highlights.
3) 2009 Great crowd.
4) 2006 It wasn't 2007.
5) 2007 It wasn't 2006.

Posted by: 6thandD | April 15, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

1. 2005 Baseball returns after 33 years. This will always be number 1.
2. 2008 - New home, Zimm walkoff.
The others fade into obscurity.

Posted by: mojo6 | April 15, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

2008 was great and all, but 2005 was an entirely different experience. There was a buzz, excitement, and energy about that day and the game. 2005 has to be #1.

Posted by: Rhino20 | April 15, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

1 2005
2 2008
3 2009
4 2006
5 2007

Posted by: ridgely1 | April 15, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

1. 2005--ah, it is back! And the stadium rocks!
2. 2008--wonderful night and the walk off homer was the capper. Little did we know then it was the season highlight.
3. 2009--almost wonderful
2007 and 2007--the other two tie for last place. Not much to recommend either, other than the fact that the season opened.

Posted by: NatsFly | April 15, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Dave, your problem is that you have totally unrealistic expectations as to how having a team in DC should be playing out. Boswell has the same problem. You both cut your teeth as Orioles beat writers back in a time when the Orioles had not one but two cities behind them. Washington fans provided a significant albeit minority portion of Baltimore's support, and the Post - led by you and Boswell - went over the top in coverage. You treated the Orioles as if they were the equivalent of the Redskins, never realizing that the fan love for the O's came from two cities while the fan love for the Redskins came from only one. Then, after your days covering the O's, both you and Boswell moved on to so-called "national baseball coverage." This allowed you to cherry-pick the games you attended or covered, so that you never had to go to a game that didn't matter for SOMETHING. This left you with a skewed perspective. You have absolutely no idea what a normal opening day for a normal team should be like. Under normal standards, Monday's opener would have to be considered an unqualified success - except that the home team ended up losing and we had the sadness of Harry Kalas's death to put a damper on things. By yours and Boswell's unnaturally elevated standards, though, it was a failure. It left you cold. For shame!

For what it's worth, many DC area fans who have had the opportunity to cherry-pick which teams they want to root for over the years suffer from the same malady as you and Boswell.

Posted by: AnBrioscaMor | April 15, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

1) 2005- I'm not sure you can top baseball returning to DC (Just wish I could have been there). The poetry of the ex-senators was great even though I wasn't alive to see the Senators.
2) 2008- Walkoff = perfect. GWB getting booed just made it better.
3) 2006- Cheney getting booed was priceless
4) 2007- Nothing memorable here
5) 2009- Big crowd, close game, but the death of Harry Kalas really dampened the mood. Bad errors, bad hitting with runners on, bad pitching and bad defense and bad managing decisions made it worse as the Nats dropped a sloppy game that was theirs to win.

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | April 15, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I've got to go out of the box and vote for the 1971 home opener when the Senators beat the eventual AL West champions Oakland A's, and the '71 Cy Young Award winner Vida Blue, 8-0.

I was there. Dick Bosman pitched the opener even though Denny McLain was on the team. Why? Bob Short (may he rot in hell) figured if he pitched Bosman in the 1st game and then McLain, he could get two very good box-office draws. They played at Baltimore in the 2nd game of the season before returning home for game 3, McLain's start. He pitched all 10 innings in a 5-4 win over the Yankees. The attendance? Almost 26,000, a great number for that team that year. The following game drew barely 6,000 when Jim Shellenback pitched.

Curt Flood was in center for Opening Day, and went 1-4 as I remember, getting on via a bunt.

Joe Foy, who had an incredible spring, hit two balls that came within a foot or so each of getting out. Sadly, that was as good as he got for the Senators in '71.

Sorry. Memories. You know.

Posted by: rushfari | April 15, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

How can the 2009 home opener with ugly defense, but three home runs and a rally that fell just short be worse than 9-2 and 7-1 drubbings? 2009 has to be ranked #3.

Posted by: BrantAlyea | April 15, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

1. 2005 - Far and away the best home opener. After more than three decades, how could anything else even come close?

2. 2008 - (For I'm sure all the already mentioned reasons ...) great drama.

3. 2006
4. 2007

5. 2009 - Poor weather and far too many mistakes. On the positive side, this opener will be memorable as the day the Nats ended their experiment with Mr. Milledge in center field.

Posted by: mgilham | April 15, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Not even close-
1. 2005
2. 2008

I can't imagine how anyone who was at both of these games would rank 2008 above 2005.

Posted by: erobw | April 15, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

#1: 2008 for sure. My Braves fan brother got to join me from Atlanta, there was so much hope for the year, and of course the Zimm homerun can not be topped.

#2: 2005. I loved it and was so excited, but I'm ashamed to say I was still only a baseball fan in name in 2005. I had no idea at the time what true love for baseball meant. (that came in 07. thanks Barry)

#3: 2009. Not the worst by a long shot. Day game away from work, weather wasn't arctic, stadium was full, and loss and errors aside, I still saw good baseball.

#4: 2006. Meh

#5: 2007 for sure. Got our butts kicked and we had no hope for the season because of all the 120-loss predictions.

2007 turned out to be my BEST BASEBALL YEAR EVER, but opening day was bad.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 15, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

You guys were here in 2005 and don't rank that night #1? I have been to the World Series, the World Cup in several countries, playoffs in all sports, golf majors, the Ryder Cup, but that night on April 14, 2005, will probably be the most electric, exciting evening I will ever spend as a sports fan.

The great thing about Cormier's plunking Castilla was the entire stadium was on its feet when Castilla came to bat. And they all screamed bloody murder when Castilla got hit.

The losses to the Marlins and the Mets, too, were more pathetic than the 9-8 game. Having some offense makes this year's game the best loss we've had on Opening Day.

And by the way, did you forget we made 24 outs in a row in 2008? Talk about a harbinger. . . .

Posted by: paulkp | April 16, 2009 5:01 PM | Report abuse

2005 is #1.

I'm still booing Cormier.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 16, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

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