For Carole Lombard (were she here today) and fellow baseball fanatics such as myself, this should've been a happy day in North America. This was scheduled to be Opening Day in the major leagues, where all 30 teams were to begin the regular season.
My beloved Washington Nationals were to begin defense of their World Series title -- the first such crown won by a D.C. team in 95 years -- in New York against the Mets. The team they beat in the World Series, the now scandal-ridden Houston Astros, were to open at home versus the Los Angeles Angels. L.A.'s other team, the Dodgers (who the Nats upset in the National League Division Series), were to open a series in Chavez Ravine against arch-rival San Francisco.
But the coronavirus crisis put a halt to spring training two weeks ago, and no one is certain when Opening Day will take place...or even if it will happen at all. The Nats had planned to raise their championship pennant next week when the Mets came to Washington. On Tuesday, the Texas Rangers were going to play the inaugural game at their new ballpark, a retractable-roof facility that can protect Dallas-Fort Worth residents from the torrid Metroplex heat. It now may not open until summer if restrictions on crowds remain.
If and when the season begins, it likely will be severely curtailed. While previous World Series have gone into early November, extending play to late autumn could expose fans to chilly conditions ill-suited for the game. For 2020, the postseason might be shifted to neutral fields, either warm-weather sites or domed facilities. No one knows.
Amid this frustrating uncertainty, fans are making do with alternatives. The site mlb.com has 30 classic games -- one for each team -- while the MLB Network is airing several notable season openers. Watch and imagine what might have been.
Lombard can help you imagine, too. We've run that photo of her throwing out the first pitch at Los Angeles Wrigley Field numerous times...but now we've come across a pic of her follow through mere seconds later (thank you, David Trimboli!), as said pitch heads for its catcher:
Even better, the pic has a snipe from the incomparable publicist Russell Birdwell:
A larger version of the snipe, as Carole becomes a '30s version of Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw:
Trimboli believes the pic is from 1937; I tend to think it from 1938 for two reasons:
* Lombard joined Selznick International (where Birdwell worked) in 1938. The previous April, she was at Paramount.
* L.A. Wrigley hosted two Pacific Coast League teams in '38 -- the Angels and the Hollywood Stars, owned by Brown Derby owner Robert Cobb and husband of Carole's pal Gail Patrick. (The Stars were formerly the PCL Mission team of San Francisco. They replaced an earlier version of the Stars, who shared Wrigley with the Angels before moving to San Diego in 1936 and becoming the Padres.) In 1939, the second Stars moved into their own ballpark, Gilmore Field, built on the site of the current shopping center The Grove.
Anyway, play ball! (Even the imaginary version.)