The 122nd season of the modern era is underway. This post takes a look at opening day games of the past, and some of the more memorable accomplishments in those games.
Let’s start with the batters.
Twelve players have recorded 5 hits in an opening day game, including Hall of Famers Eddie Collins (1913), Babe Ruth (1921), Billy Herman (1936), Nellie Fox (1959) and Craig Biggio (2001). Nine of those games were recorded from 1901 to 1959, and the last three since 1998. Seven of the twelve games were posted by second basemen, including the most recent four occurrences.
Four of Billy Herman’s five hits in 1936 went for extra-bases, tying him with Pop Dillon (1901), Jim Greengrass (1954) and Don Baylor (1973) for the most on opening day. In Dillon’s game, his Tigers posted a 10 spot in the 9th inning for a comeback 14-13 walk-off win over the Brewers.
Four players have clubbed 3 home runs on opening day; they are George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994), Dmitri Young (2005) and Matt Davidson (2018). Rhodes’s big game came in a losing cause; the other thee went deep playing DH, all against the Royals.
No fewer than 29 players have recorded 4 runs on opening day, including Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby (1927), Frankie Frisch (1928), Billy Herman (1936) and Carlton Fisk (1973), as well as future HOFer Albert Pujols (2010). Wid Conroy of the 1901 Brewers is the only player to do this in a losing cause (that 9th inning collapse noted above against the Tigers).
Runs Batted In
Only two players have recorded 7 RBI on opening day: Brant Alyea for the Twins in 1970; and Corey Patterson for the Cubs in 2003. Alyea’s 4-2-4-7 box score line is one of only nine such games.
Only two players have recorded 13 total bases on opening day. Not surprisingly, they are Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005), two of the players with an opening day 3 HR game.
Fourteen players have recorded 4 walks on opening day, including Paul Goldschmidt in 2022. Goldschmidt is one of only four of those players to also record a hit, led by Eddie Robinson with a pair of knocks for the White Sox in 1951. Buddy Myer in 1927 was the first player with a 4 walk game and is still the only one without an official AB in the same game.
Nine players have recorded 3 stolen bases on opening day, including Rickey Henderson (1989) and Emilio Bonifacio (2009), who both added a home run to their ledgers. Bonifacio’s game is one of only six with 4+ runs, 4+ hits, 3+ stolen bases and one or more HR.
Ron Karkovice in 1996 stands alone as the only player to whiff 5 times on opening day. Three of those K’s came against Mariner starter Randy Johnson, who whiffed 14 White Sox batters in only 7 IP.
Win Probability Added
The best opening day WPA games are led by Raul Mondesi (1999) and Pete Rose (1974), the only players to top 1.000 WPA. Of the top 10 WPA scores, only one was delivered by a substitute; Willie Smith‘s 11th inning one out, 2 run, pinch-HR in 1969 erased a one-run deficit for the Cubs to give them a walk-off win over the Phillies.
Moving to the pitchers.
Walter Johnson in 1926 (at age 38) leads all pitchers with 15 IP on opening day. Johnson twirled a six hit shutout, whiffing nine and walking only three. There are 15 opening day games of 13+ IP, all of them complete games, including Tony Cloninger‘s 13 IP losing effort in 1966, the longest of the integration era. Orlie Weaver‘s 11 IP in 1911 is the longest opening day relief appearance, while Bill Duggleby‘s 8.2 IP in 1901 is the longest relief stint in a 9 inning game.
There have been 135 complete game 9+ IP opening day shutouts since 1901, the most recent by Kyle Hendricks in 2020. Walter Johnson recorded 7 of those 135 games (in 1910, ’14, ’15, ’17, ’19, ’24 and ’26), more than twice as many as the next highest total of three games recorded by Bob Feller (1940, ’46, ’48), Rip Sewell (1943, ’47, ’49), Chris Short (1965, ’68, ’70) and Rick Mahler (1982, ’86, ’87). Eddie Rommel‘s 7.2 IP in 1929 is the longest shutout relief appearance.
Bob Feller in 1940 has the only opening day no-hitter. There have been nine opening day one-hitters, the most recent by Feller’s teammate Bob Lemon in 1953.
Camilo Pascual‘s 15 strikeouts in 1960 leads all opening day pitchers. Fourteen strikeouts by Randy Johnson (in 1993 and 1996) and Shane Bieber (2020) are the most when pitching fewer than 9 innings. Don Drysdale (1960) also recorded 14 strikeouts, the most when pitching more than 9 innings. Pitchers with 13+ strikeouts on opening day have posted an 8-0 record with 1 ND in those games, far better than the 4-6 record with 2 ND posted by pitchers with exactly 12 opening day strikeouts.
Walter Johnson’s 111 game score in 15 IP in 1926 is easily the best among the highest opening day game scores. Lon Warneke‘s 96 total in 1934 is the highest in a 9 inning game, Mel Harder‘s 95 mark in 1935 is the best in a non-shutout performance, Jean Dubuc‘s 92 in 1914 the best in a non-CG effort, Ron Guidry‘s 87 in 1980 tops the field in non-CG games of 9 IP or less, and Eddie Rommel’s 86 in 1926 is the highest by a pitcher taking the loss.
Win Probability Added
Walter Johnson’s 1.552 WPA in his 15 IP game in 1926 tops the list of best opening day WPA games. The top 10 on that list are either shutouts or extra-inning CG. At no. 11 with 0.876 WPA is the A’s Al Williams in 1937, pitching 7.1 scoreless IP in relief to close out a 4-3 win against the Senators. Opposing starters Ron Guidry and Jon Matlack (1980) jointly share the best WPA by a starter in a non-CG effort, and Jack Kramer (1944) has the best starter WPA in less than 9 IP.
To close, here are the opening day team records, for one team and for both teams.
Opening Day Records (One Team) Record Date Tm Opp Rslt Batting Records 21 Runs 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 23 Hits 2005-04-04 CHC ARI W 16-6 12 Extra-Base Hits 1912-04-11 NYG BRO W 18-3 8 Home Runs 2019-03-28 LAD ARI W 12-5 37 Total Bases 2019-03-28 LAD ARI W 12-5 1996-04-02 MIL CAL W 15-9 7 Stolen Bases 1914-04-14 NYY PHA W 8-2 Pitching Records 16 Innings Pitched 2012-04-05 TOR CLE W 7-4 2012-04-05 CLE TOR L 4-7 66 Batters Faced (most) 1959-04-10 DET CHW L 7-9 28 Batters Faced (fewest in 9 IP) 2005-04-04 CHW CLE W 1-0 1944-04-18 STL PIT W 2-0 1942-04-14 SLB CHW W 3-0 1910-04-14 CHW SLB W 3-0 1909-04-14 DET CHW W 2-0 34 Baserunners Allowed (most) 1925-04-14 SLB CLE L 14-21 2 Baserunners Allowed (fewest in 9 IP) 2007-04-02 MIL LAD W 7-1 1935-04-16 BOS NYY W 1-0 1915-04-14 PHA BOS W 2-0 1909-04-14 DET CHW W 2-0 1906-04-12 BSN BRO W 2-0 17 Earned Runs Allowed 1951-04-17 SLB CHW L 3-17 13 Unearned Runs Allowed 1925-04-14 SLB CLE L 14-21 0 Hits Allowed (fewest in 9 IP) 1940-04-16 CLE CHW W 1-0 21 Strikeouts 1996-03-31 SEA CHW W 3-2 14 Walks Allowed 1951-04-17 SLB CHW L 3-17 9 Pitchers Used 2018-03-29 KCR CHW L 7-14 8 Pitchers Used (in Win) 2022-04-08 TOR TEX W 10-8 2022-04-08 NYY BOS W 6-5 2018-03-30 PIT DET W 13-10 2012-04-05 TOR CLE W 7-4 Defensive Records 10 Errors Made 1925-04-14 SLB CLE L 14-21Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Opening Day Records (Both Teams) Record Date Tm Opp Rslt Batting Records 35 Runs 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 18 Runs Winning Margin 1955-04-13 NYY WSH W 19-1 39 Hits 1937-04-21 SLB CHW W 15-10 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 16 Extra-Base Hits 2006-04-03 STL PHI W 13-5 2005-04-04 COL SDP W 12-10 1936-04-14 CHC STL W 12-7 1929-04-18 BSN BRO W 13-12 1912-04-11 NYG BRO W 18-3 10 Home Runs 2019-03-28 LAD ARI W 12-5 64 Total Bases 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 8 Stolen Bases 1914-04-14 NYY PHA W 8-2 Pitching Records 32 Innings Pitched 2012-04-05 TOR CLE W 7-4 127 Batters Faced (most) 2012-04-05 TOR CLE W 7-4 57 Batters Faced (fewest in 9 inning game) 2005-04-04 CHW CLE W 1-0 62 Baserunners Allowed (most) 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 6 Baserunners Allowed (fewest in 9 inning game) 1909-04-14 DET CHW W 2-0 25 Earned Runs Allowed 2011-04-01 CHW CLE W 15-10 1950-04-18 NYY BOS W 15-10 1937-04-21 SLB CHW W 15-10 17 Unearned Runs Allowed 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14 4 Hits Allowed (fewest in 9 inning game) 1918-04-16 CIN PIT W 2-0 30 Strikeouts 2013-04-01 LAA CIN W 3-1 18 Walks Allowed 2012-04-05 TOR CLE W 7-4 1950-04-18 NYY BOS W 15-10 1937-04-19 PHA WSH W 4-3 1934-04-17 PHA NYY W 6-5 15 Pitchers Used 2022-04-08 NYY BOS W 6-5 2021-04-01 PIT CHC W 5-3 2020-07-24 OAK LAA W 7-3 2018-03-30 PIT DET W 13-10 Defensive Records 12 Errors Made 1925-04-14 CLE SLB W 21-14
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So, what are your favorite opening day memories?Subscribe35 CommentsInline FeedbacksView all comments
I attended the game with the biggest opening day margin of victory. On 4-13-55 the Yankees beat the Senators 19-1. The weather was awful, cold, raw and drizzling. Only 11,251 fans attended. It was so cold that my friends and I ran up and down the bleacher steps between innings to keep warm. Starting pitcher Whitey Ford outhit the Senators 3-2. He also drove in 4 runs, tied for second best as a pitcher on opening day.
For those wondering, Van Mungo’s 5 RBI for Brooklyn against the Phillies in 1935 is the opening day record for a pitcher.
Richard, can you tell us if Detroit’s 9th inning comeback from 9 runs down in 1901 is the biggest on opening day? (the Yankees came back from 9 runs down to beat Boston in 1950, but that was after 5 innings)Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
This is the 100th season since Gehrig’s debut. You can span those seasons in only four steps. Gehrig played against Williams Williams played against Jim Kaat Kaat played against Julio Franco Franco played against Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina Wainwright is the first pitcher aged 40+ to start for the Cardinals on opening day since Pete Alexander in 1929. Molina turns 40 on July 13th. If he and Wainwright start a game on or after that date, they would be just the fifth starting battery both aged 40+, after Orlando Hernandez/Sandy Alomar (2007), Tom Glavine/Sandy Alomar (2007), Jamie Moyer/Pat Borders… Read more »Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
Cap Anson died 100 years ago today (the 14th), three days before his 70th birthday. I wonder if there’s a way to get from Anson to today in only 6 linkages. This chain gets to within 10 years of today.
1. Cap Anson (1871-1897) played against Honus Wagner (1897-1917)
2. Wagner played with Burleigh Grimes (1916-1934)
3. Grimes played against Dutch Leonard (1933-1953)
4. Leonard played against Willie Mays (1951-1973)
5. Mays played against Dave Winfield (1973-1995)
6. Winfield played against Andy Pettitte (1995-2013)
Winfield also played against A-Rod….who played thru 2016.
Going in the other direction, Cobb may have played against Deacon McGuire – who started in 1884. What’s really odd is that Cy Young, in 1905, was the only AL pitcher over age 35. And, at age 38, only takes us back to 1890 for his debut at the ripe old age of 23.
I found the 6 steps. Kind of. Anson played against Bobby Wallace Wallace played against Waite Hoyt* Hoyt played against Enos Slaughter Slaughter played against Jim Kaat* Kaat played against Julio Franco Franco played against Molina, Pujols, Cabrera and Cano, and batted against Wainwright and Oliver Perez I put an asterisk beside pairs that didn’t play in the same game, but possibly or probably were on the same lineup card for one or more games. Wallace played for the Cardinals against the Giants in the game preceding Hoyt’s big league debut for the Giants against the Cardinals. Those two games… Read more »
Per B_R:. Cap Anson played with George Decker on the 1897 Colts. Decker played with Frank McManus on the 1899 Senators. McManus played with Charley O’Leary on the 1904 Tigers. O’Leary played with Rollie Helmsley on the 1934 Browns. Helmsley played with Curt Simmons on the1947 Phillies. Simmons play with Steve Carlton on the 1965 Cardinals. Carlton played with Bobby Bonilla on the 1986 White Sox. Bonillà played with Albert Pujols on the 2001 Cardinals. Seven steps.
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B3BHRRBI BBSO BA OBP SLG OPS
COL-Coors Fld 79 76 317 276 55 91 23 1 24 81 30 62 .330.407 .681 1.088
CJ Cron’s career split at Coors…..double it and you have a heck of a full season. Can we re-think/recalibrate/recalculate the Coors effect? This guy was a career 111OPS+ before Coors. He’s hitting like a prime Manny on steroids….just sayin’
Cron’s 5 HR in his team’s first 8 games of the season marks the 66th time that’s happened, by 64 players (Nelson Cruz has done it thrice).
Cron is the fifth Rockie to turn that trick, trailing only the Giants with 7 players (but only two of those since the Rockies were born).Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
This season is still looking for its first CG, but Kevin Gausman on Thursday became the first starter to throw a pitch in the 9th inning.
2019 is the only season without a CG in a 9 inning game in every team’s first 15 games of the season. Last season with:
5 CG (across all teams) in first 15 games – 2018
10 – 2011
15 – 2005
20 – 1994
25 – 1993
50 – 1988
75 – 1981
100 – 1975Last edited 11 months ago by Doug
April 25th is the day, as Walker Buehler records the season’s first CG, a 3-hit shutout of the D-Backs. It was the Dodger’s 16th game, and Arizona’s 17th.
Also on April 25th was the season’s first game with both starters going 7 innings, between the Mets (game 18) & Cardinals (game 15), and between the Red Sox (game 17) & Blue Jays (game 17).
It’s been 6 years since the last time both starters recorded a CG in a 9-inning game. There were two such games that year (2016), and at least two in every prior season.Last edited 11 months ago by Doug