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It’s one of the longest home runs in the 13-year history of PNC Park, and the longest home run of Rizzo’s career. His previous high was a 432′ blast off the Pirates’ Jared Hughes on Sept. 16, 2012.
Rizzo’s opening day smash is the second longest in the big leagues this season, behind Braves outfielder Justin Upton, who hammered a 460′ shot off Cole Hamels at Turner Field on Monday. (video here)
Meanwhile, three former Cubs have registered some of the longest tape measure shots in PNC Park’s history (which, unfortunately, I was unable to locate an up to date list of the park’s longest home runs as of 2012). To the best of my knowledge, Sammy Sosa remains atop the list with his 484′ smash that landed near the base of the flag poles in deep left-center field on April 12, 2002.
Three months later, Daryl Ward, then playing for Houston, crushed one 479′ on July 6, 2002. It remains the only home run to reach the Allegheny River on the fly.
Matt Stairs, as a member of the Pirates, cleared the right-center field seats with a 461′ blast that rolled into the Allegheny on July 21, 2003.
Name the Cubs opening day first baseman last year. Anthony Rizzo? Bryan LaHair? Nope, try Jeff Baker.
LaHair was a late scratch with a tight back (if I remember correctly). Baker stepped in nicely going 1-for-3 with a walk in the Cubs 2-1 loss vs. Washington.
Thankfully, however, LaHair was back playing the next game, albeit off the bench, and returned to the starting lineup by the third game of the season.
LaHair went 2-for-4 with two doubles in his first start to began his tear of batting .390, 5 HRs, 14 RBI during the month of April (a hot streak that essentially made LaHair an NL All-Star).
It appeared whatever back troubles LaHair suffered on opening day were minor, if that, and may have simply been the result of the cool weather at Wrigley Field during pregame warmups. Ultimately, it was no biggie.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Darwin Barney this year, who’s looking at a possible 15-day DL stint after suffering a knee injury during the Cubs final exhibition game on Saturday.
Barney, chasing down a popup, gashed his left knee to the bone after colliding with a concrete slab in foul territory. The cut required five stitches, and likely has Darwin out of game action for the next several days–at best.
So yeah, losing your Gold Glove second baseman right before opening day is definitely a biggie.
In the meantime, newcomer Brent Lillibridge will make today’s opening day start at second base in place of Barney. And if Darwin does, in fact, get placed on the DL, another journeyman, Alberto Gonzalez, 30, could also see playing time at second.
If we’re lucky Barney will be back soon, and possibly soon enough for us to forget 12 months from now he ever missed the 2013 lid lifter. Chances are, though, we won’t forget if Mr. Gold Glover starts the season on the DL.
One of the special treats about being a Cubs fan is the beauty and charm of Wrigley Field. It’s one of the most cherished ballparks in baseball, and especially to those rooting for the Cubs.
Of course not all baseball fans have the privilege to grow up enjoying the gem of a ball yard at Clark and Addison. Instead, for many youngsters the greenest grass on earth may have resided at one of the rinky-dink stadiums of the 1950-60s, or in other cases, there wasn’t any green grass at all, but the shine of green Astroturf in the multi-purpose, cookie cutter parks from the 1970-80s.
At any rate, they’re all cathedrals to budding baseball fans dreaming of playing in the major leagues. It’s where heroes play and where hearts jump out of chests the moment the field comes into view after passing through a turnstile.
This season I’ll be writing about the many cathedrals of major league baseball; young and old, good and not so good, and all those in between. Particularly, I’ll look at some (not all) of the best performances in each stadium. Who had the most career hits? Who stole the most bases in a single game? Which pitcher collected the most strikeouts? etc.
With the opening of the 2013 season in Houston, I begin this series with the Astrodome, the former home of the former National League Astros.
-"The Eight Wonder of the World"
-Opened April 24, 1965
-Closed October 9, 1999
-Key Feature: Air conditioning
-Originally the park was to have natural grass growing beneath the more than 4,000 clear plastic panels on the roof. When that didn’t work, it lead to the birth of Astro Turf.
Top Individual Performances Single Game