Well we finally made it through a long and tough winter which can mean only one thing…it’s time for the MLB season to kick-off!
Given that this also means that Opening Days from around the country will be taking place beginning in early April. Therefore what could be more appropriate than to take a look back at some of the most significant Opening Day moments from history.
Helping to accomplish this is legendary sportscaster and New York Times Best Selling author Len Berman who has provided…
10. Play Ball!
Lots of U.S. Presidents have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch, but someone had to be the first. On April 14, 1910, President William Howard Taft went to the Washington Senators home opener and tossed out the first pitch, not to a catcher, but to a young star pitcher named Walter Johnson—more on Johnson later. Hint: He pitched a 1-hit shutout to beat the Philadelphia A’s 3-0 that day.
9. Parade Day
Nothing said Opening Day better than the yearly parade in Cincinnati. Being the first official baseball franchise, the Reds got to open the season before everyone else. They did it every year from 1876 to 1989. (Two of those years they were forced to open on the road because of rain.) Major League Baseball made the dumb decision to end the tradition. They should reconsider.
8. Not So Rosy
Not every Opening Day has had feel-good moments. The New York Giants opened the 1907 season against the Phillies on April 11. A major snowstorm had hit the city, and most of the snow was removed from the Polo Grounds—just not all of it. When the home team fell behind, disgruntled Giants fans started a snowball fight that spilled over onto the field. Home plate umpire Bill Klem had no choice but to declare the Phillies the winner.
It remains the only Opening Day forfeit in Major League history.
7. John McSherry
On Opening Day in Cincinnati in 1996, the Reds hosted the Montreal Expos. Seven pitches into the game, veteran home plate umpire John McSherry collapsed and died of a massive heart attack. Reds owner Marge Schott seemed more concerned about the game being called off than the death of the umpire.
6. It’s Not Over ‘Til …
On April 25, 1901, the Detroit Tigers hosted their first-ever opening day against the Milwaukee Brewers at Bennett Park. Detroit trailed 13-4 entering the bottom of the 9th. They scored 10 runs to win the game, and to this day, it remains the greatest Opening Day rally in Major League history.
5. Big Train
Now, back to Walter Johnson, who pitched a shutout in the first presidential opener in 1910. Fast forward 16 years, and the Senators again faced the A’s on Opening Day. The game went 15 innings, and Johnson outdueled Eddie Rommel in a 1-0 Senators win. Both pitchers went the distance! In Johnson’s 14 Opening Day starts, he had nine wins—seven of them were shut outs.
4. The Bambino
On April 18, 1923, the Yankees opened up their new stadium in the Bronx, “The House That Ruth Built.” Of course the Babe hit the first homer in Yankee Stadium history, and of course the Yankees went on to win the first of their 17 World Championships that year. Everything he did was Ruthian.
3. Hammerin’ Hank
Since we’re discussing the Babe, let’s throw in the man who beat him out in the home run parade, Hank Aaron. On April 4, 1974, Aaron belted his 714th homer in Cincinnati to tie Ruth. Four days later in Atlanta, he surpassed the Babe.
2. Rapid Robert
There’s only been one no-hitter thrown on Opening Day. That would be April 16, 1940. The Cleveland Indians were visiting the Chicago White Sox, and 22-year-old Indians pitcher Bob Feller did the trick. Cleveland won the game 1-0. Feller would go on to throw two more no-nos in his Hall of Fame career.
There was no more historic Opening Day than April 15, 1947, at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. All Jackie Robinson did was take the field, as Brooklyn beat Milwaukee 5-3. He became the first black man to play Major League Baseball, and as a result, the game has never been the same—nor has America.
Michael Haltman, President of Hallmark Abstract Service, New York.
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