The Cubs opened the 2003 season with some hope, despite a 95-loss season the previous year.
A new manager had been hired: Dusty Baker, who’d just taken the San Francisco Giants to the World Series. The team had traded the unpopular Todd Hundley to the Dodgers for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek, and people were looking forward to young star Mark Prior’s first full MLB season after a good last two months of 2002.
They began the year against the Mets at Shea Stadium on a frigid 39-degree afternoon with winds howling at 20 miles per hour.
And the Cubs didn’t waste any time teeing off on Tom Glavine, making his first start for the Mets after signing with them as a free agent following 17 successful years in Atlanta.
The first four Cubs reached base off Glavine, and RBI hits by Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou made it 2-0. Two batters later, Corey Patterson’s two-run single gave the Cubs a four-run lead.
The Mets cut that lead in half with a two-run second off Kerry Wood, but another RBI single by Patterson in the third made it 5-2 Cubs.
Wood himself drove in a run in the fifth to increase the lead to 6-2 and then it was all Patterson. With the bases loaded in the sixth, Mark Bellhorn’s sacrifice fly made it 7-2 Cubs and Patterson then made it a blowout with a three-run homer.
Patterson wasn’t done, either — after a bases-loaded triple by Bellhorn in the seventh made it 13-2 Cubs, he smashed his second home run of the game to give the Cubs a 13-run lead, which is where the game ended in a 15-2 Cubs victory.
Here are all seven of Patterson’s RBI that day in New York:
Patterson had a great first half, hitting .298/.329/.511 with 13 home runs in 83 games before suffering a season-ending injury running the bases. It was that injury that prompted Jim Hendry to trade for Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez, one of the best trades in recent Cubs history. The Cubs probably don’t win the NL Central that year without that deal.
The Cubs’ 15 runs on Opening Day 2003 is not a franchise record for an Opening Day game; they scored 16 on Opening Day against the Diamondbacks in 2005 and matched that the following year against the Reds in the season opener.
Patterson, as you know, eventually left the Cubs and never really fulfilled his first-round draft promise. He wound up playing for six other teams (Orioles, Reds, Nationals, Brewers, Blue Jays and Cardinals) and in a 12-year career hit .252/.290/.400 with 118 home runs in 1,230 MLB games.
But he never again had a day quite like this one, and it happened 20 years ago today, Monday, March 31, 2003.