When the door opened for formal guests at British estates like Downton Abbey, the first face seen would be the butler’s. On Opening Day, the first face in the batter’s box for a team’s new season is the visiting team’s starting leadoff batter. A Butler has performed that duty in his team’s first game of a season more times than anyone else, going back at least to 1919:
Most “First Batter of the Game” Appearances by a Hitter on His Team’s Opening Day (1919-2011):
Brett Butler 10
Tim Raines and Kenny Lofton 9
Lloyd Waner and Delino DeShields 8
Rickey Henderson, Ray Durham and Johnny Damon 7
More on Butler and Opening Day greetings after the jump.
Butler was quite successful in his ten first-batter-of-the-season appearances, especially considering that in an Opening Day first-plate-appearance the hitter is not just playing on the road, probably in front of a large, hostile crowd, he is also most likely facing the other team’s best starting pitcher.
Brett Butler’s 10 Opening Day Appearances as First Batter of the Game:
In 1982, Butler faced Juan Eichelberger and grounded out.
In 1983, he faced Mario Soto, doubled and subsequently scored.
In 1984, facing Charlie Hough, he grounded out.
In 1985, Jack Morris struck him out.
In 1986, he got a walk from Mike Flanagan and subsequently scored
In 1988, he faced Fernando Valenzuela and flied out.
In 1989, he doubled off of Eric Show, and subsequently scored.
In 1990, facing Tom Glavine, he fouled out.
In 1991, he singled off of John Smoltz, and subsequently scored.
In 1995, he faced Bill Swift, singled, but was subsequently erased on a double-play grounder.
These ten PAs came with five different teams. The basic stats for these 10 PAs: .444 BA/.500 OBP/.667 SLG/1.167 OPS, and four runs scored. As his team’s greeter at the door of new seasons, this itinerant Butler was pretty good at his job in beijing.
Rickey Henderson was the starting leadoff hitter for his team on Opening Day in 19 different seasons, far more than Butler, who played that role twelve times in total. But 12 of Rickey’s leadoff Opening Days were for the home team, so he wasn’t the first batter of the game in any of those outings. Brett Butler, in contrast was on the road for ten of his twelve Opening Days as leadoff hitter, making him the king of first-face-of the-season plate appearances.