During the long, dreary winter months, fans wait eagerly for the new baseball season to begin. While they wait, some like to talk about the history or fun facts of baseball. Who can discuss all the fun things about baseball history without mentioning Opening Day? We recognize that Opening Day is a day which signifies that spring is upon us—and after this cold, snowy winter, that’s music to everyone’s ears!
But even those that aren’t avid baseball fans know that baseball history can be made on this important day—possibly more frequently than one might think!The Hall of Famer, Early Wynn who pitched for Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox, said it best, “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."
Who was the very first President of the U.S. to throw the official first pitch in baseball? That would be William Howard Taft in 1910. It has been a tradition since that game to toss the first ball and all the Presidents, except Jimmy Carter, have done so on Opening Day, at the All-Star game or the World Series.
From 1876-1989 it was tradition for MLB’s first formally acknowledged team, the Cincinnati Reds, to “open the Openers”. During that time, there was only two years—1877 and 1966—that they made their first appearance on the road because of rain. This tradition was broken in 1990 when the Houston Astros hosted the first game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Has there ever been an Opening Day that a no-hitter game was pitched? Yes, but just one. The Comiskey Park game was in April, 1940 with the Cleveland Indians going against the Chicago White Sox. Bob Feller, only 22 years old at the time, was the pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. Despite the 47˚ temperature, Bob led the Cleveland Indians to win the no-hitter, 1-0.
Following an intense snowstorm in 1907, the Phillies went head to head with the New York Giants at New York City’s Polo Grounds. Prior to the game, the groundskeepers had no choice but to push large mounds of snow out into the outer field’s foul area. As the game progressed, the New York Giants were losing, 3-0, and the fans became so irritated that they started to throw snowballs upon the field! The umpire was driven to call the game after being hit with a snowball, thus, providing the Phillies with the win.Rival Violence
Opening Day of April 11, 1912 at Washington Park in Brooklyn was the scene in which 30,000 fans gathered for a game. The New York Giants were winning 18-3 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sadly, the game had to be delayed due to fans attacking the field. In the end, the game was halted in the sixth inning because of darkness.
Out of the Park
In 1974 on Opening Day, Atlanta Braves Hank Aaron knocked the ball out of the park for home run number 714! He was tied for most career homers with Babe Ruth and, later during the week, he surpassed Babe’s record. By the end of Hank’s career, he had hit 755 home runs. Hank’s record wasn’t overshadowed until 2007 when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run.
The very first African-American broke color-barriers by coming to Major League Baseball on 1947’s Opening Day. Who was it? A 28 year old, first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers named Jackie Robinson that went on to become the National League’s Rookie of the Year.
At Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1974, Opening Day was a bit more than some fans bargained for. In the middle of the ball game, a few naked fans streaked onto the ball field. Not only did this postpone gameplay, but it also started a riot within the stands.
It’s been a custom for many years for U.S. Presidents to throw the first pitch on Opening Day of every new season. But on April 18, 1950, President Harry S. Truman pitched the ball twice. You see, President Truman was ambidextrous—that is, he could pitch a baseball with his left hand as well as his right hand and he decided to show off his skills to all the fans on Opening Day.
In all of baseball history, there is only one man that has been a starting pitcher for the most number of games on Opening Day. He’s Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Tom has pitched three games for the Cincinnati Reds, eleven games for the New York Mets and two games for the Chicago White Sox.
There are only two baseball players that hold the record for the highest number of home runs hit during their career on Opening Day. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Robinson are those men and they each hit eight home runs during their illustrious career on the first day of the season.
In 1946, the spectator’s outfield stands needed to be painted; so they were supplied with a new coat of green paint. However, the damp, cold weather kept the paint from drying properly. As Boston Braves fans filed in for the game, they were met with an awful surprise. The Boston Braves’ offices were overrun with furious Braves fans. The team’s administration consented to pay all cleaning bills and even placed an ad in the local newspaper with an apology to the fans.
It really doesn’t matter who wins or loses the game because Opening Day is a very special date. It’s in the minds and hearts of baseball fans all over the country—and on their calendars. When the final pitch ends the World Series, the countdown begins again for the next season when we all long to hear that magical phrase, “Play ball!”