MLB Opening Day
Major League Baseball's Opening Day is the first day of the regular season, usually played in late March or early April of each year. Featuring a festive atmosphere and with the nation's sitting president traditionally throwing out the first pitch at one of the day's games, opening day coincides with the beginning of spring and is seen as a time of rebirth by baseball fans harboring World Series hopes for their favorite teams. The Cincinnati Reds, baseball's first professional franchise, had the honor of hosting the first of each season's opening games from the late 1800s through 1989. Recent years have seen some major league teams open their seasons with games in Japan, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Opening day of Major League Baseball's season has always been one of the most anticipated days of the year for sports fans, dating back to the 1800s when professional teams began the season amid pageantry and fresh hopes for a championship title.
As baseball's first professional organization, the Cincinnati Reds were given the honor of hosting the opening game of the major league season beginning in the 1870s. The day's events in Cincinnati included an annual parade and other festivities as city residents considered the early April day an unofficial holiday each year.
While the first pitch (and game) of every major league season traditionally took place in Cincinnati -- from those early days all the way up until 1989 -- other league teams included special events around their own season openers, drawing fans eager to celebrate the start of spring along with their team's prospects for a successful campaign.
Some teams even began their seasons with doubleheaders in the early years of the 20th century. The first of these came when the Boston Americans hosted the Philadelphia Athletics for two games on April of 1903, with Boston winning one of two to satisfy the home fans.
The hometown support turned negative at the New York Giants' first game in 1907, when umpire Bill Klem made history by calling the only forfeit in Opening Day history. With snow from the previous day's storm shoveled into piles along the edges of the field at the Polo Grounds, some rowdy fans got upset when the Giants fell behind and began throwing snowballs onto the field. Once Klem was hit with one, he called the game in favor of the visiting Phillies. A similar event took place five years later when Brooklyn's home fans slowed play by running onto the field after their team had fallen way behind to the rival Giants, and the game was called on account of darkness.
The tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch on Opening Day began with William Howard Taft in April 1910. Since then, 11 more sitting presidents have hurled the ceremonial "first pitch" of the season.
Six years after throwing a three-hitter while pitching for the Red Sox in the 1917 opener, Babe Ruth smashed the first home run at the new Yankee Stadium on its opening day in 1923, leading the Yankees to a 4-1 win over his former team.
In the Washington Senators' opening contest of 1926, pitcher Walter Johnson pitched all 15 innings of a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. Johnson may have produced the greatest numbers among pitchers in opening-day performances by throwing a record 12 complete games and seven shutouts in 14 starts.
The only no-hitter ever thrown in an opening-day game came in the Cleveland Indians' first game of 1940, when young ace Bob Feller outdueled Eddie Smith of the White Sox to complete nine innings without giving up a hit.
At Brooklyn's Ebbets Field in 1947, the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson made history by breaking the color barrier in the team's opening game against the Braves, playing first base in the 5-3 victory.
Hall of Famer Robin Roberts almost matched Feller's feat when he went 8 1/3 innings before giving up a hit to the Giants on opening day of the 1955 season. Roberts stills holds the record for most consecutive opening-day starts for one team, as he started on the mound in each of the Philadelphia Phillies' first games from 1950 to 1961.
When the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, the team's first game in the new city -- on opening day is 1966 -- was a 3-2, extra-inning loss to the Pirates that featured five future Hall of Famers and two brothers (Felipe and Matt Alou) batting leadoff for the opposing teams.
One of those Hall of Famers, Henry Aaron, entered the 1974 season one home run shy of Babe Ruth's all-time record. With his first swing of the bat on opening day against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium, Aaron hit his 714th career home run to tie Ruth before breaking the record four days later.
The following year, Frank Robinson hit the last of his record eight home runs in opening-day games during his career. It came in his first at-bat as a player/manager for the Cleveland Indians -- having become the first African-American manager in major league history. (Ken Griffey Jr. eventually tied Robinson's mark for the most opening-day homers, blasting one for the Seattle Mariners in 2009.)
George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays was the first player in major league history to hit three home runs on opening day when he accomplished the feat against the Kansas City Royals in 1988. The mark was equaled six years later when the Chicago Cubs' Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes connected for three homers off Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets. And in April 2005, Dmitri Young of the Detroit Tigers also hit three home runs in his team's home opener against the Kansas City Royals.
After over 100 years of hosting the "opener" of all major league openers -- apart from a couple rainouts over the years -- the Cincinnati Reds were finally scheduled to play their first game of the season on the road in 1990, at Houston.
The league's Opening Day traditions soon made way to more global concerns with opening contests scheduled in foreign countries. Monterrey, Mexico's Estadio de Beisbol hosted the first MLB opener on foreign soil in 1999, when the San Diego Padres were defeated by the Colorado Rockies, 8-2. And Japan has hosted season openers three times in the new century, including in 2008 when Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka started on the mound for the Boston Red Sox in the first of a two-game opening series against the Oakland A's.
OPENING DAY GAMES ON ESPN NETWORKS
Rangers at Astros
Red Sox at Yankees
Giants at Dodgers
Phillies at Braves
Cardinals at Diamondbacks
OPENING DAY RECORDS - ENTERING 2013