As we all remember, last year there was no genuine Opening Day. The first games of the Major League Baseball season didn’t take place until July 23rd—and no fans were allowed to see the action. This year, there’s something resembling a true Opening Day! All 30 MLB teams will play on Thursday, April 1st, and all teams will have some fans in the stands.
And who knows? Maybe something remarkable will happen this year.
Here are some historic Opening Day facts to get us excited about our teams taking the field in 2021.
1. Opening Day winners
The New York Mets, a franchise that first joined the National League in 1962, has an Opening Day win/loss record of 36-21. Their Opening Day win percentage of .631 is the best for any team in baseball history. However, the Chicago Cubs have more victories on Opening Day than any other team, with 79.
2. Hank gives the Babe a tie
On April 4, 1974, the visiting Atlanta Braves squared off against the Cincinnati Reds in their home opener. Henry “Hank” Aaron entered the game needing one long ball to tie Babe Ruth’s historic career mark of 714 home runs. Aaron launched one out on his very first swing of the game. He would surpass Ruth four days later in Atlanta.
3. A Major League comeback
The Detroit Tigers hosted their first game as a franchise on April 25, 1901. In their home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, they entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 13-4. The Tigers fought all the way back to within one run, when Frank Dillon laced a two-out, two-run double to walk-off the Brewers, 14-13. This 10-run comeback by the Tigers remains the largest by any team in a ninth inning in baseball history.
4. Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson
Opening Day in 1947 between the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs would become one of the most important days in baseball history. On April 15th, Jackie Robinson manned first base for the Dodgers, becoming the first African-American to play for a Major League club. Robinson walked and scored a run that day, kicking off his National League Rookie of the Year season, an award given to him in its first year of existence. The accolade would be renamed the Jackie Robinson Award 40 years later.
5. The “Heater from Van Meter”
The only no-hitter in Opening Day history belongs to Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians. The 21-year-old Feller faced off against the Chicago White Sox on April 16, 1940, and hurled the first of his three Major League no-hitters, defeating the Sox 1-0. Feller struck out eight and walked five batters.
6. Pitcher in Chief
The first ceremonial first pitch to be thrown by a president took place in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1910. William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, was an avid baseball fan and the first U.S. president to throw out a pitch, which he did from a special box seat (as opposed to the mound). The last president to continue this tradition was Barack Obama, who donned a Washington Nationals jacket along with a White Sox hat, supporting his favorite Chicago team.
7. Marathon men
The longest game in Opening Day history took place at Progressive Field on April 5, 2012. The Cleveland Indians squandered a 4-1 lead to the Toronto Blue Jays, who went on to defeat Cleveland 7-4 in 16 innings.
Blue Jays pitcher Jack Morris started his record-setting 14th consecutive Opening Day on April 6, 1993. What’s notable about this streak is that it spanned three different clubs—the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays.
9. Eager Seaver
The record for the MOST Opening Day starts belongs to Tom Seaver, with 16. Seaver took the mound for the New York Mets’ home opener on April 9, 1968, his first Opening Day nod in just his second season with the club. “Tom Terrific” scattered the remaining 15 Opening Day starts over his next 17 seasons, including stints with the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. His final Opening Day start came on April 6, 1986, with the Sox, when he was 41.
10. Ted and the Field of Dreams
One player of note is Ted Williams, who not only batted .449 in Opening Day games, but also made his Major League debut among some historic talent on the field with him. On April 20, 1939, Williams started in right field for the Boston Red Sox in a game against their rivals, the New York Yankees. The pitching matchup was Lefty Grove and Red Ruffing, two eventual Hall of Famers. The managers were Joe Cronin and Joe McCarthy. And in the ballpark that day were Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon, Jimmie Foxx, Bobby Doerr—who were all on the Opening Day rosters—and Babe Ruth, who was watching from the stands.
Here’s probably the coolest fact about an Opening Day you can impress your friends with, and it has to do with Williams’ debut when Boston played New York.
On that Opening Day on April 20, 1939, Lou Gehrig was on the field for the Yankees, playing in his 2,123rd consecutive game.
It was the only game in which Williams and Gehrig would ever share the field. The next day, April 21st, Boston played Philadelphia as part of a three-game series.
Gehrig would play in only seven more games, ending his streak and career at 2,130 games.
Resources: baseball-almanac.com/opening day; http://archive.nytimes.com; nytimes.com/packages/html/sports/ year_in_sports/04.16.html; mlb.com/tigers/history/timeline; baseballhall.org/discover/short-stops/ted-williams-mlb-debut