Opening Day

For over a century, baseball has been hailed above all other sports as America's National Pastime. And no other game during the regular one-hundred sixty-two game season has been as eagerly anticipated as Opening Day. Just look at any die-hard baseball fan's calendar. Vacation? Holidays? Anniversaries? All are often forgotten and pale in comparison with the coveted first game of the season. Ask any fan what the "official" start of Spring is. Chances are their answer will be Opening Day. Much more than just an event, it is an experience.

Major League Baseball's first officially recognized franchise the Cincinnati Reds were historically awarded the privilege of "opening the Openers" and hosted the outings from 1876-1989. Only twice during this time (1877 and 1966) were they forced to debut on the road due to rain. Finally in 1990, the tradition was broken and the Reds were scheduled to appear as the visitors against the Houston Astros. Despite the prestige of being christened as baseball's opening act, Cincinnati has posted an average record of 50-52-1 that has been shadowed by the countless spectacles off the baseline including parades, fireworks, circus performances and the opening of new ballparks in 1884, 1894, 1912 and 2003.

A national event, Opening Day has also become a "political pitcher's" arena for U.S. Presidents to show their "stuff." On April 14, 1910, President, and baseball enthusiast, William Howard Taft attended the home opener in Washington D.C. Since then, eleven sitting U.S. presidents have tossed out the season's ceremonial first pitch. One standout, Harry S. Truman, showcased his ambidextrous talent when he threw out balls with both his right and left arm in 1950. Beyond Presidents, Opening Day has witnessed many other historical performances:

Ted Williams was a .449 hitter in openers, with three home runs and fourteen runs batted in during fourteen games. "Teddy Ballgame" also boasted at least one hit in every Opening Day game he appeared in. Williams' first Opening Day (April 20, 1939) was especially noteworthy as he faced the rival New York Yankees and Lou Gehrig, who was playing in his 2,123rd consecutive game.

Opening Day 1940 witnessed one of the most famous pitching events as Cleveland ace Bob Feller and White Sox hurler Eddie Smith went head-to-head. Smith blinked, but Feller remained in control and tossed the only Opening Day no-hitter in Major League history.

Hammerin' Hank Aaron ignited the crowd at Riverfront Stadium on his first swing of the 1974 season when he tagged Cincinnati Reds for his 714th career home run to tie Babe Ruth on the all-time list.

Unfortunately, Opening Day has also been marred by riots and civil disobedience. At the start of the 1907 season, the New York Giants opened against the Phillies following a heavy snowstorm. In preparation for the game, groundskeepers were forced to shovel large drifts of snow onto the outer edges of the field in foul territory. After falling behind 3-0, the disappointed fans at the Polo Grounds began hurling snowballs onto the playing field, disrupting play. As the melee progressed, chaos ensued and fans began rushing onto the field to continue the snowball fight. After being pelted, Home plate umpire Bill Klem had enough and called a forfeit in favor of the Phillies.

Statistically speaking, how important is Opening Day to a team in regards to a championship season? The answer is not that much. The record for most consecutive Opening Day wins by a team is nine, set by the Cincinnati Red (1983-1991). The Detroit Tigers, who have won every Opening Day game since 2009, tying the Big Red Machine in 2017, will be looking to win number ten in 2018 .

Individual Opening Day stats however, speak volumes on the career accomplishments of a player. On the mound, Greg Maddux was a sure thing with a perfect 6-0 record in seven career starts. Jimmy Key holds the record for most wins on Opening Day without a loss, with seven and other perfect Opening Day hurlers include Wes Ferrell at 6-0, and Lon Warneke and Rip Sewell with 5-0 scorecards.

At the plate, Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson, future Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. and 2x All-Star Adam Dunn each hit eight career / record setting home runs on the first day of the season, while Willie Mays and Eddie Mathews each belted seven Opening Day round-trippers.

Above all others Walter Johnson was perhaps the greatest ballplayer ever to don a uniform on Opening Day. In fourteen season openers for the Washington Senators, Johnson hurled a record nine shutouts with a nine and five (9-5) overall record. His two most famous starts include a 3-0 masterpiece against the A's in 1910 and a 1-0 marathon victory while battling fifteen innings against Philadelphia's Eddie Rommel.

Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn, who played for the Washington Senators, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, summed up the essence of Opening Day when he said, "An opener is not like any other game. There's that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one, you can't lose 'em all."

Regardless of the outcome, Opening Day still remains as the number one date in the hearts, minds (and on the calendars) of baseball fans everywhere. The official countdown begins after the last pitch of the World Series when we can't wait to hear those two magic words again, "Play Ball!"

Baseball Almanac Top Quote

"There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League." - Author George Vecsey in A Year in the Sun (Crown Publishing, 03/04/1989, Page 133)

Opening Day

Team by Team / Previous Franchises Included / Box Scores Inside

On Opening Day (Song, Lyrics & Audio)
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Opening Day by Baseball Almanac
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Author Fred Schwed, Jr. in "How to Watch a Baseball Game" (1957) summed up the feeling of Opening Day in Cincinnati with this line, "However, at Cincinnati the first game is always played there. This is because the Citizens of this Ohio city do not consider Opening Day just as Opening Day. They consider it one small notch below Christmas."

Did you know that on Good Friday, April 10, 1846, Alexander Cartwright umpired the first game played by the Knickerbockers and the score sheet simply said: Commencement of the Season? Did you know that our team rosters have bold faced entries for players who started during the Opening Day game? This is an IN-PROGRESS project and our current data is below:

Historical Team-by-Team Opening Day Line-Ups
Team (Click to Access) League Years %Completed
Anaheim Angels AL 1997-2004 100%
Arizona Diamondbacks NL 1998-2017 100%
Atlanta Braves NL 1966-2017 100%
Baltimore Orioles AL 1954-2017 100%
California Angels AL 1965-1996 100%
Chicago Colts NL 1890-1897 100%
Chicago Cubs NL 1902-2017 100%
Chicago Orphans NL 1898-1901 100%
Chicago White Stockings NL 1876-1889 100%
Colorado Rockies NL 1993-2017 100%
Florida Marlins NL 1993-2017 100%
Houston Astros NL 2013-2017 100%
Houston Astros NL 1965-2012 100%
Houston Colt .45s NL 1962-1964 100%
Kansas City Athletics AL 1955-1967 100%
Kansas City Royals AL 1969-2017 100%
Los Angeles Angels AL 1961-1964 100%
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim AL 2005-2017 100%
Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1958-2017 100%
Milwaukee Brewers NL 1998-2017 100%
Milwaukee Brewers AL 1970-1997 100%
Minnesota Twins AL 1961-2017 100%
Montreal Expos NL 1969-2004 100%
New York Mets NL 1962-2017 100%
Oakland Athletics AL 1968-2017 100%
San Diego Padres NL 1969-2017 100%
San Francisco Giants NL 1958-2017 100%
Seattle Mariners AL 1977-2017 100%
Seattle Pilots AL 1969-1969 100%
Tampa Bay Devil Rays AL 1998-2007 100%
Tampa Bay Rays AL 2008-2017 100%
Texas Rangers AL 1972-2017 100%
Toronto Blue Jays AL 1977-2017 100%
Washington Senators AL 1961-1971 100%
Washington Nationals NL 2005-2017 100%
To View Opening Day line-ups click desired team then desired year / roster.

The record for most consecutive Opening Day honorary pitches thrown is probably held by Detroit Wolverines catcher Charlie Bennett . After both his legs were amputated following an 1894 train accident he threw out the first pitch in Bennett Park until his death in 1927.

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