I have been fortunate over the years to have seen some remarkable sporting events.
My first trip to Fenway Park, and my son's first major league game, produced Jim Rice's walk-off grand-slam in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Oakland Athletics.
The A's Dave Kingman hit two monster home runs -- over the Green Monster -- in that game; Rickey Henderson stole one of his MLB-record 1,406 bases; and Davey Lopes crashed into the center-field wall directly in front of us, resulting in what was, for all intents and purposes, a career-ending injury.
I saw Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo's no-hitter in Camden Yards in a game where Cal Ripken reached on an error.
I saw Steve Carlton become baseball's all-time strikeout leader for left-handers the same night that, in the second game of a twi-night doubleheader, Dave Cash hit an inside-the-park homer for the Phillies.
I saw Yankees pitcher Andy Hawkins pitch nine innings of no-hit ball, and lose 4-0 to the White Sox at old Comiskey Park (a rule change later erased Hawkins' no-no from the record books.
I saw an aging Brooks Robinson enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth and deliver a game-winning single against the Kansas City Royals' Paul Splitorff.
I even saw O.J. Simpson play, for the Buffalo Bills, in the former Memorial Stadium, against the Baltimore Colts.
Several years ago, I checked a trip to the Brickyard off my list of things I wanted to do (although it was a NASCAR race and not the Indy 500).
I found myself reflecting on these experiences and more last Thursday as I sat next to the fence on Court 4 at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, watching the No. 1-ranked women's doubles team of Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber competing against a scrappy team of Eleni Daniilidou and Casey Dellacqua.
It was as close to a professional sporting event as I had ever been, not to mention that it is one of the world's premier competitions.
Watching doubles matches on television had never done much for me, but, if you ever get to go to the Open, or another professional tennis tournament, I highly recommend it.
It probably helped that this particular match was one of the most exciting of the day, singles or doubles, at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, singles or doubles, with a second-set tiebreaker that rivaled any I had ever seen.
Ironically, I ended up there sort of by accident. Looking at the schedule, I saw that retiring Kim Clijsters was to play doubles in the second match of the day on that court. I didn't want to pass up a chance to watch a legend, especially that close, so I got a seat early.
The first match was an exciting bonus, after which I saw Clijsters and fellow Belgium player Kristen Flipkens battle hard but lose to Chia Chuang and Zhang Chai, of Taiwan and China, respectively.
The Open is like a carnival, which just happens to offer some great tennis. Except for Arthur Ashe Stadium, where tickets are required and seats are reserved, one can walk into any of the other venues and watch the stars and future stars come out.
The fans are like no other, cheering enthusiastically for all of the competitors, no matter their nationality.
One amusing note, and maybe this is just me, but it seems that, no matter which country the tournament is being held, the chair umpires all sound like British royalty as they announce the scores. Unless they have a separate dialect they can use when announcing tennis, it is a good bet that none of those officiating at the U.S. Open are residents of Queens.
I did get into Ashe in time to catch a comeback by American Mardy Fish, who dropped the first two sets, then battled through the heat for a five-set win. After that, Serena Williams came in and dispatched Marie Jose Martinez Sanchez in two.
By then, it was time to head back to Pennsylvania and reality, with a ton of great memories (although the so-called grilled chicken sandwich from the stadium was not one of them).
Nevertheless, it is an experience I would recommend to anyone, even the most casual tennis fan.
My thanks to Joe Weisser and his wife, Maria, of Montoursville (Joe is the co-op coordinator at SUN Area Career and Technology Center in new Berlin) for making the day possible.
n Harold Raker is assistant sports editor at The Daily item. Email comments to hraker@daily item.