MLB Opening Day is like New Years Day for baseball. Significant events, memorable events, and bizarre events have all occurred on baseball’s annual rebirth. For instance, the 1923 New York Yankees season was a special one. Not only did they open the original Yankee Stadium, but it ended with the Yankees winning the first of 27 World Series championships. It’s one of those moments that has been a part of some memorable Opening Day moments. Whether another one of those memories will unfold on April 1, here are some other unforgettable events that happened on Opening Day.
Cincinnati Hosted Almost Every Opener
The Cincinnati Reds is the game’s first fully professional club. And for that reason, the Reds were awarded the right to begin every NL season at home and hosted the earliest openers. From 1876-1989, every Reds opener was schedule at home, but twice in their history were they forced to play their first tilt on the road (1877 and 1966). In 1990, the streak finally came to a close when the Reds opened their season on the road against the Houston Astros. Cincinnati was so protective of their traditional opener status that in 1988, the city council voted to turn back the clocks to ensure that the Reds played the “first” game of the new season.
The First Ceremonial Pitch
President William Howard Taft made history on April 14, 1910. The 27th president of the United States first threw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics squared off. Opening Day would become an even more special day in Washington D.C., following that April day. Other presidents would follow suit including Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, who have taken part in the ceremonial first pitch.
When MLB Played Outside the U.S.
MLB first branched outside of the United States when the Montreal Expos held their first home opener on April 14, 1969. The Expos hosted the St. Louis Cardinals at Jarry Park Stadium in Montreal, Quebec. Pitcher Dan McGinn, who hit the first home run in Expos history a week prior, won the home opener. McGinn became the first pitcher to win a major league game outside of the United States. The Expos spent 36 years in Montreal before relocating to Washington and became the Nationals before the 2005 season.
International Opening Day 1999
MLB never played a regular-season game outside of the U.S. and Canada. That all changed in 1999 when the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres played their opening series in Monterrey, Mexico. The following season, the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets opened the season in Tokyo, Japan. In 2001, the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers played in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Most recently, MLB began the 2019 season with the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners playing at the Tokyo Dome.
Longest Opening Day Game, Ever
The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians played the longest Opening Day Game ever. MLB Opening Day is like New Years Day for baseball. Great events, memorable events, and bizarre events have all occurred on baseball’s annual rebirth. For instance, the 1923 New York Yankees season was a special one. Not only did they open the original Yankee Stadium, but it ended with the Yankees winning the first of 27 World Series championships. It’s one of those moments that has been a part of some memorable Opening Day moments. Whether another one of those memories will unfold on April 1, here are some other unforgettable events that happened on Opening Day.
George Bell’s Monster Opening Day
George Bell was the reigning AL MVP who was coming off a 47 home run season in 1987. Bell was in the Blue Jays Opening Day lineup as the designated hitter in Kansas City. Manager Jimmy Williams decided to move Bell out of the outfield, and one the player publicly disagreed with. On Opening Day, Bell unleashed his frustration as he hit three home runs off the Royals two-time Cy Young Award winner, Bret Saberhagen. Bell did drive in four of the Blue Jays’ runs in a 5-3 victory. It’s the most dominant Opening Day performance in Blue Jays history.
Frank Robinson Becomes A Household Name
Frank Robinson made his career as memorable as possible. Robinson made his debut as baseball’s first African-American manager, but that’s not all. The 14-time All-Star hit a home run in his at-bat as player/manager. His Cleveland Indians would defeat the New York Yankees 5-3, giving Robinson his first of 1,065 wins. He would manage for 15 more seasons. While he was the first to accomplish the feat, his eighth career Opening Day home run is tied for the most in history, one that includes another Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr.
Hank Ties Babe
Hank Aaron was sitting at 713 career home runs when Opening Day 1974 arrived. In his first at-bat of the season, “Hammerin’ Hank” hit a three-run homer off Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jack Billingham. However, Aaron did not break the record in the series. The Braves went home to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game set starting April 8. Aaron hit No. 715 on April 8 in front of a packed crowd at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. This time, Aaron only needed two bat-bats, homering in the third inning off Al Downing to surpass Ruth. When Aaron retired at the end of the 1976 season, he finished with 755 career home runs, 3,771 hits, and 2,297 RBI.
Bob Feller’s No-no
On April 16, 1940, Bob Feller threw the first-ever no-hitter on Opening Day. The 21-year old was able to shut down the Chicago White Sox at the old Comiskey Park with a final score of 1-0. Feller did face a challenge in the game when he went up against future Hall of Famer, Luke Appling. The shortstop fouled off 15 pitches in one-at-bat, and he never reached base. Has any other pitcher accomplished the feat? Nope, Feller remains the only pitcher to achieve the rare feat on Opening Day.
Breaking the Color Barrier
April 15, 1947, is the day Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s racial barrier. Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers signaled a leap forward for both the sport and society. Baseball was segregated for more than 50 years, and Robinson was the one who paved the way for other players for years to come. 50 years later, on April 15, 1997, Robinson’s groundbreaking career was honored, and his number 42 was retired from the MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Robinson’s number was the first-ever one retired by all teams in the league.
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