Six months of arguing about strikes, strife, free agents, multiyear contracts and life in the pits of the major leagues will be drowned out today by the sound baseball fans have been waiting to hear for six months: the crack of the bat on the ball.
The 1980 season, still under threat of a May 23 strike, will open with traditional inaugurals in Cincinnati and Seattle -- the one dating back to the 1870s, the other to all of three years ago.
There will be nine more openings Thursday, a couple of games Friday, then a weekend on which the schedules in both the National and American leagues will send 26 teams on their way to late October and the World Series.
That threat of strike May 23 could make this season one of the most forgettable in history, but for six weeks at least baseball's million of fans (40 million paid their way into the parks in 1979) can ignore the sound and the fury created by owner and player representatives, lawyers, players, owners and all the rest of the gaggle.
They will begin playing ball for the first time in the 1980s at about 2:30 p.m., EST, today in Cincinnati when Tom Seaver of the Reds throws his first pitch against the leadoff man of the Atlanta Braves. Some eight hours after the National League opener, the American League season will get under way when the Toronto Blue Jays face the Mariners in Seattle.
Seaver, who had a 16-6 record in 1979, will take the mound against Phil Niekro (21-20) with both the Reds and Braves entering the season as question marks.
A crowd of 52,000 is expected in Cincinnati, where the opening day of the baseball season is a traditionally festive occasion.
The Blue Jays and Mariners, expansion teams hoping for .500 seasons, open at night in Seattle.
In Baltimore yesterday, doctors prescribed a few days rest for pitcher Scott McGregor of the Orioles but said no surgery or medication was needed for the inflammation of his left elbow.
The 25-year-old left-hander, sidelined for almost the first two months of last season with elbow tendinitis, was given an exercise program to strengthen the elbow muscles.