Akron Beacon Journal


April 11, 1998

You call this a home opener?

What a snooze.

Most boring opener in the history of the Akron Aeros.

Well, yeah, last night's 2-1 loss at Canal Park was only the team's second home opener.

And, sure, having international superstar Chrissie Hynde sing the national anthem was _waaaay_ cool.

But where was the madness? The emotional squalor? The limitless venom of 1997?

Where was the surreal stuff that would have made Chrissie proud of her old hometown?

Heck, Chrissie did her part. The Pretenders singer and guitarist nailed a spectator in the arm with a baseball. (It's a long story, and we'll get to it in a minute.)

And, yeah, a flaming ember from the pre-game fireworks display threatened to burn a huge crater in left field.

But that was child's play compared to last year's opener, when a flaming ember from the fireworks display threatened to immolate the world's biggest American flag.

And when the governor showed up to welcome the "Akron Astros."

And when the team's owner was threatened with arrest for erecting an unauthorized advertising sign.

And when the mayor boycotted the game.

What good is a home opener without that kind of stuff?

Heck, this year, Mayor Don Plusquellic tossed out a ceremonial first pitch! After shaking hands with the owner!

So, kids, are we back to normal?

The only real mystery last night, then, was how a minor-league baseballteam managed to induce a London-based superstar to come to Akron to sing a two-minute song.

Actually, it's not terribly complex: All they had to do was ask.

The Aeros wrote a letter to Hynde's parents, Mel and Dolores of Akron, who forwarded it to her agent, who ran it past her.

Why, sure, she said. It was about time for her annual visit home to see the folks. And besides, the trip to Akron would take place the same week she would be in New York to tape a TV show.

The taping took place Thursday, when TNT put together a tribute to Burt Bacharach, expected to air Wednesday.

Chrissie Hynde and Burt Bacharach? Don't ask.

Anyway, Hynde is not a sports fan. And her only previous experience singing 'The Star Spangled Banner' - "except in bars when I've been real drunk" - came at Jacobs Field during the 1995 World Series.

So she's not exactly afraid of getting typecast.

And there is absolutely no danger that she will turn into a baseball prospect. Trust me.

First, she heaves her ceremonial pitch over the catcher's head.

Then - right after a bunch of colorful streamers are shot over the crowd - she tosses a baseball into the stands. 

It was a good-natured act. She was offering up a coveted souvenir. Unfortunately, everybody in the stands was looking at the streamers, including Martha Eggert of Ellet, who caught the ball with her upper arm.

Eggert wasn't exactly in critical condition. She said she expected only a minor bruise. And her husband, Dean, was delighted with the souvenir he picked off the ground after his wife made the initial stop.

Not as delighted as their daughter, who was sitting next to them. Jan Watson had to explain to her 68-year-old father who Chrissie Hynde was. But after that, he was suitably impressed.

Oh, yeah, there was a baseball game, too.

A sellout crowd of 9,084 fans mostly had a good time. A handful of them actually stayed for the whole game. With temperatures in the 30s and gusty winds, you couldn't blame people for bailing out.

Among the early departees was Hynde, who headed for a cold one at Vault 328.

Unlike last year, the game didn't sell out until the last minute, probably because of competition from the north, where the Indians staged their own home opener earlier in the day.

While the parent club was playing, Hynde, 46, was checking out her old haunts with her husband of nine months, Lucho Brieva, 32, a Colombian architect whom she met while he was studying in England.

Also in tow was an old Firestone High pal, Dianne Athey, a graphic designer who lives in New York.

The group planned to fly out this morning.

Hynde's parents were excited because they weren't able to see her sing at the World Series.

"We were in England taking care of the kids," said Mel Hynde, referring to the 15-year-old daughter Chrissie had with Ray Davies of the Kinks and the 13-year-old daughter she had with Jim Kerr of Simple Minds.

Chrissie seemed delighted yesterday as well.

"The downtown area is certainly coming up," said the singer, whose work has included poignant lyrics about the demise of her old downtown.

"We were really impressed. We went to Luigi's, we went to Glendale Cemetery, we went under the High Level bridge, all around through the back streets.

"But the downtown is a surprise because there's so much activity.

"I've never seen it like this. Well, maybe Main Street at Christmas, but that was before written history, I think."

It wasn't that long ago, Chrissie, but you're right.

Who would have expected any of this?

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