The start of any new season, regardless of the sport, brings feelings of joy and optimism for sports fans. However, nothing compares to the magic of MLB’s Opening Day.
You see, the NFL, NBA, and NHL all start in the fall, as the good times of summer fade away and we brace ourselves for winter. The start of Major League Baseball, on the other hand, coincides with the beginning of spring. For that reason, over the years the return of baseball has come to mean more than just the return of home runs and double-plays. In the minds of baseball fans, it has come to mean the end of winter. And I venture to guess that this year, given all those damned polar vortices that swept wreaked havoc across North America, the end of winter and the start of baseball has never sounded better.
So today, as teams around Major League Baseball celebrate the star of another season with ceremonial first pitches, pre game ceremonies, and plenty of patriotic red, white, and blue bunting, we thought we’d celebrate with this list of the most memorable Opening Day moments of all time.
Will Opening Day 2014 produce another one? You never know—and that’s the beauty of it.
Could there be a more officious way to kick off the start of a new baseball season than having the President of the United States of America throw out the ceremonial first pitch? Not really. And in all, twelve different POTUSs have done it, including the last four. However, the very first president to kick off a Major League Baseball season by throwing out the first pitch was good old No. 27, William Howard Taft. The one-term Republican did the honors at the Washington Senators' home opener on April 14, 1910.
11. First Ever Presidential First Pitch
Quite frankly, kicking off the season with a doubleheader seems like a pretty dumb idea. However, it has happened.
The first time came way back on April 20, 1903, when the Boston Americans (i.e. Red Sox) hosted the Philadelphia Philadelphia in a season-opening doubleheader. Boston one the first game; Philadelphia won the second.
The last time two teams opened the season with a doubleheader? That would be 1971, when the White Sox kicked off the season with two home victories against the Athletics.
10. First Opening Day Doubleheader
Most teams today do still keep the tradition of Opening Day by playing day games. However, ever since the Cardinals opened their season by beating the Pirates 4-2 under the lights on April 18, 1950, there have been Opening Day games played at night. This year there will be four: Rockies-Marlins, Giants-Diamondbacks, Mariners-Angels, and Indians-Athletics.
Sorry, Cleveland. Looks like you're staying up late.
9. First Ever Opening Night
And speaking of historic Opening Day moments involving the Cleveland Indians...
On April 5, 2012, the Indians hosted the Toronto Blue Jays on Opening Day, and while the fans and players were all fresh to start the day, they were pretty drained by the end. The reason? The season-opener lasted a record 16 innings, with the visitors eventually prevailing 7-4.
Interestingly, this wasn't the Indians' first experience with record-setting Opening Day games. The previous record for the longest season-opener was set in 1960. It also took place in Cleveland, and the Indians lost that one, too—4-2 to the Tigers.
8. Longest Opener Ever
The Cincinnati Reds are generally considered the firstreal professional baseball team. For that reason, from 1876 to 1989, the Reds were unofficially awarded the privilege of "opening the Openers," meaning they always got to host the very first game of the season. That streak came to an unceremonious end in 1990, however, when a labor difficulties forced the National League to schedule their first game of the season on the road against the Houston Astros.
After that year and every year since, MLB has continued to honor the Reds' special status as the first pro baseball team by allowing them to open every season at home. However, they no longer play the very first game of the year. These days MLB has a game on "Opening Day Eve" on ESPN, plus those pointless games they makes teams play overseas.
7. Cincinnati's Streak Broken
The Washington Senators' legendary Walter Johnson is probably the greatest Opening Day pitcher of all time, starting 14 openers and posting a ridiculous nine Opening Day shutouts. However, Johnson he does not hold the record for most Opening Day starts. That belongs to former Mets great Tom Seaver. He made 16 Opening Day starts with the Mets, Reds, and White Sox, with his last coming in Chicago on April 7, 1986.
6. Seaver's 16th Start
If Walter Johnson and Tom Seaver are the greatest Opening Day pitchers, Ted Williams is the greatest Opening Day hitter. The Splendid Splinter got at least one hit in every Opening Day game he played, batting .449 and with three home runs and 14 runs batted in in 14 games.
Of course, if I told you Ted Williams hit .149 on Opening Day in his career, that wouldn't change the fact that he is one of if not the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. But it certainly adds to the legend, doesn't it?
5. King of Opening Day
Now that games are played outdoors in places like Minneapolis and Denver, it's not terribly uncommon to see baseball games get snowed out early in the season. However, in the history of MLB's Opening Day, there has only been one game stopped early because fans were throwing snowballs on the field.
That game was on April 11, 1907. The New York Giants were hosting the Philadelphia Phillies, and when there weren't enough police officers available to prevent Giants fans from throwing snowballs, the National League commissioner felt there was no choice but to call the game off and forfeit a win to Philadelphia.
4. The Snowball Incident
Three men have hit three home runs on Opening Day, and not one of them has a plaque in Cooperstown.
The first was George Bell, who cracked three long balls in the Blue Jays' opener in 1988. After that it was the Cubs' Tuffy Rhodes in 1994, a prolific power hitter who went on to have a legendary career in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.
The last guy to do it? Dmitri "Heavy D" Young, who launched three bombs in the Tigers' opener in 2005.
3. Three-Homer Club
Walter Johnson may have had nine Opening Day shutouts, but he does not own the only no-hitter in the history of Opening Day. That distinction belongs to Hall of Famer Bob Feller. The legendary Cleveland Indians right-hander never won a Cy Young award, but he was an 8x All-Star with a World Series Championship (1948) and three no-hitters on his resume. And one of those no-hitters came against the White Sox on Opening Day, 1940.
2. The Opening Day No-Hitter
You want Opening Day history? Well, it doesn't get any better than this. On April 4, 1974, the Milwaukee Braves opened the season in Cincinnati against Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, and the rest of the Big Red Machine. Hank Aaron had finished the previous season with 713 career home runs, just one behind Babe Ruth on the career list, and everyone in attendance at Riverfront Stadium that day was hoping to witness history.
That's exactly what they got. Aaron opened the season by cracking career home run 714, tying the Great Bambino.