Best MLB Opening Day Moments in History
Another MLB season is upon us which means 30 fan bases are ready and hopeful for a successful year from their teams. Opening Day is always the best day for fans, because it’s a clean slate and the previous season no longer matters. It’s all about what happens here and now. Opening Day has always provided a lot of exciting moments throughout baseball history, so why don’t we take a quick look back at some of those moments?
April 4, 1974 – Hank Aaron’s 714th
Opening the 1974 season in Cincinnati, Hank Aaron and the Atlanta Braves took on the Reds. With the Reds’ Jack Billingham on the mound, Hammerin’ Hank stepped up to the plate in his first at-bat of the season and smashed his 714th career homer, the one that tied Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Four days later, on April 8, Aaron hit his 715th home run, officially breaking The Babe’s all-time record
April 8, 1975 – Frank Robinson’s Debut as Player/Manager
You likely won’t see a scenario like this in the modern MLB, but back in 1975, Frank Robinson – at age 39 – became the first African-American manager in major league history while he will still on the Cleveland Indians active roster. That’s right. Robinson, as manager, played himself at DB on Opening Day against the New York Yankees. As if the day wasn’t special enough, Robinson homered off righty Doc Medich during his first at-bat. The decision to play himself certainly paid off, as the Indians went on to win 5-3.
April 16, 1940 – Bob Feller’s No-Hitter
It’s no easy feat to throw a no-hitter in an MLB game. It’s especially difficult on Opening Day. To date, there has been only one recorded Opening Day no-no. The honor belongs to Cleveland Indian pitcher Bob Feller, who blanked the Chicago White Sox to start the 1940 season. Despite some self-proclaimed control issues in that game, Feller was able to strike out eight and retire 15 in a row from the fourth through the eighth inning. The only baserunners came from his five walks, but no White Sox player recorded a hit.
April 19, 1923 – Babe Ruth Homers First in Yankee Stadium
What better way to christen a new ballpark than having your best player homer in it during its debut. On Opening Day–April 19, 1923–the Yankees took on the Boston Red Sox in Bronx’s brand-new stadium that housed nearly 65,000 fans. In the third inning, with two men on, Babe stepped up to the plate and cracked a shot deep into the right field bleachers. This at-bat proved to be the decisive one, as New York went on to win the game 4-1. This Yankee Stadium debut would prove to be an omen for the 1923 season, as New York went on to win the World Series that year.
March 28, 2012 – Ichiro Goes Home
Recent Opening Day storylines don’t get much better than this. In 2012, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s opened the season at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. Because of the huge overseas fan base for baseball, it has long been important to the MLB that it engages these fans through games like this one. However, this Seattle-Oakland game had an extra level of importance, as it doubled as a homecoming for the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki.
In front of 44,227 fans – all who applauded his every move – Ichiro started the game 3-for-3 before being thrown out in his fourth at-bat. In the 11th inning, he stepped up to the plate and, once again, hit a single (his fourth) into center field, causing the crowd to go wild. His fantastic play, both offensively and defensively, helped the Mariners win the opener 3-1.
April 1, 2013 – Kershaw Clutch on Both Sides
Who says pitchers can’t hit? Well, most people. But in 2013, starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was out to prove those people wrong. As the Los Angeles Dodgers faced off against the San Francisco Giants, Kershaw showed his usual prowess on the mount, pitching a complete game shutout, striking out seven and allowing just four hits.
However, it was his eighth inning at-bat that proved most noteworthy in this game. Facing George Kontos – on the first pitch of the inning – Kershaw smashed a homer, the first of his career, breaking a scoreless tie. It was the catalyst that the Dodger offense needed, and the team went on to score three more in the inning, leading to a 4-0 win.
April 15, 1947 – Jackie Robinson’s Debut
We saved the most important for last. Opening Day 1947 was an amazing day for Major League Baseball. On April 15th, in front of more than 25,000 fans in Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier as he debuted for the Dodgers. Despite an 0-for-3 showing at the plate, Robinson had a good day at first base, recording the first putout of the game and showing naysayers that he was the real deal. It was a nerve-wracking, awe-inspiring day for people of color, especially Jackie, and still remains one of the most significant events in professional sports. Without Robinson’s courage and talent, who knows how long it would have been before the color barrier was broken.
Cheers to the start of another MLB season, baseball fans. Here’s hoping for another year of unbelievable home run totals, brilliant diving catches, and a White Sox playoff berth (I can dream, can’t I?)
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