MLB Opening Day 2011: 20 Memories, Stats and Facts from Baseball's First Day

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IMarch 31, 2011

MLB Opening Day 2011: 20 Memories, Stats and Facts from Baseball's First Day

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    A dozen aces from 12 different teams will walk out to the mound today as Major League Baseball gets underway in six different cities across America.

    Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia match up at Yankee Stadium in the best pitching duels of the early starts, while the Brewers-Reds game highlights the three 2pm starts.

    Later, Tim Lincecum gets the ball for the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants as they start the defense of their crown against the LA Dodgers in the first night game of the 2011 season.

    What history will be made on the first day of baseball's latest season? How will it compare to seasons past? We'll just have to wait and find out.

    To whet your appetite, here are 20 moments, facts, statistics and figures from 20 different Opening Days from previous years.

April 15, 1958

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    In San Francisco's Seals Stadium, the transplanted New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers played the first Major League game in California.

    The Giants' Ruben Gomez bested Don Drysdale, 8-0.

    San Francisco went on to finish the season six games above .500 (80-74) while the Los Angeles Dodgers went 71-83, finishing second to last in the National League above of only Philadelphia.

April 5, 1993

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Greg Maddux, signed as a free agent by the Braves after the 1992 season, allows no runs and scatters five hits over 8.1 innings to beat his former team, the Chicago Cubs, 1-0.

    In two other ballparks across the country, Major League Baseball's two newest expansion teams, the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies begin their inaugural season of play.

    The Marlins beat the Dodgers, 6-3, behind the pitching of Charlie Hough, and the Rockies fell to the Mets, 3-0, at Shea Stadium.

April 16, 1935

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    At Boston's Braves Field, Babe Ruth homered off Carl Hubbell in his first ever National League appearance.

    The game also represented Ruth's first home game in Boston in over 16 years, after leaving the Red Sox for the Yankees in 1920.

    The hapless Braves, who went on to win only 37 more games that year, clipped the Giants, 4-2.

April 4, 1999

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    The Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres, 8-2, in the season-opening game at Monterrey Stadium in Mexico.

    It was the first time in history that Major League Baseball opened its season outside the United States or Canada.

April 16, 1940

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    At Comiskey Park, Cleveland's Bob Feller became the only pitcher ever to pitch an Opening Day no-hitter, beating the White Sox, 1-0.

    Feller, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962, was an eight-time All-Star and 1948 World Champion with the Indians.

    Feller, who died last December at age 92, threw two more no-hitters in his 18-year career, and he went on to become the winningest pitcher in Cleveland history.

April 11, 1961

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    Rookie Carl Yastrzemski banged the first of his 3,318 career hits off Kansas City's Ray Herbert at Fenway Park.

    The left fielder went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts, and he was caught stealing in his debut in front of 10,277 fans.

    Yaz played more than 3,300 games over 23 seasons—all in Boston—and he was later elected to Cooperstown in 1989. That first game in Boston was where it all began.

April 8, 1985

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    Tom Seaver, pitching for the White Sox, starts against the Milwaukee Brewers to establish a major league record with his 15th Opening Day start.

    The previous record was 14, held by Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators.

    Earlier this week, I ranked Seaver as the greatest Mets Opening Day starter of all time, but there's no doubt he would also fit in pretty well in any Chicago list.

April 6, 1973

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    A Pittsburgh Opening Day crowd of 51, 695 gathered to retire the late Roberto Clemente's uniform No. 21 as the Pirates downed St. Louis, 7-5.

    While those ceremonies were going on in Pittsburgh, the Yankees were opening in Boston, and the occasion made Ron Blomberg the first designated hitter as he drew a first-inning walk from Luis Tiant. The Bosox won, 15-5.

April 5, 1993

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    Late-inning defensive replacement Eric Fox hits a grand slam home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off Detroit's Tom Bolton to give the Oakland Athletics a 9-4 victory before a home crowd of 43,370.

    It would be Fox's only homer of the season.

April 8, 1975

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    At Cleveland, Frank Robinson, debuting as the first black manager in major league history, powered a first-inning homer as the Indians defeated the Yankees, 5-3.

    The Indians finished 79-80, 15.5 games behind the Red Sox. The 39-year-old Robinson played in 49 games that season and went on to manage for another season-and-a-half.

    There's so many great things you can say about Robinson, but the numbers speak for themselves...14 All-Star appearances, two World Series rings and an 89 percent entry into the Hall of Fame.

April 4, 1988

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    Toronto's George Bell becomes the first player to smack three home runs on Opening Day as he lifts the Blue Jays past the Royals before 40,648 at Kaufman Stadium.

    Meanwhile, Darryl Strawberry and Kevin McReynolds each hit two of the New York Mets' Opening Day record six home runs in their 10-6 victory over the Montreal Expos. Kevin Elster and Lenny Dykstra hit the other two for the Mets.

April 26, 1995

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    The Rockies and Mets open Coors Field with an offensive barrage of 20 runs and 33 hits as Colorado won, 11-9, in 14 innings.

    Colorado outfielder Dante Bichette won the game with a one out home run in the 14th.

    Elsewhere, Toronto scores 11 runs in the second inning and goes on to defeat the Oakland Athletics, 13-1.

April 14, 1910

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    William Howard Taft became the first president to throw out the ceremonial first ball, and Walter Johnson followed by one-hitting the A's, 3-0.

April 1, 1996

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The New York Mets rallied from a 6-0 deficit to post a 7-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the biggest Opening Day comeback this century.

    The Mets were down by six runs after the top of the fourth inning, but Todd Hundley chipped into the lead with a two-run blast in the bottom of the frame.

    Bernard Gilkey made it 6-3 with a solo homer in the sixth, and the club rallied to grab the lead in the seventh.

    Chris Jones had a oneout RBI single, Lance Johnson made it 6-5 with an infield knock to third base, and Gilkey tied it up with a single to right. Rico Brogna completed the rally with a sac fly.

April 1, 1997

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    San Diego, sparked by back-to-back-to-back home runs by Chris Gomez, Rickey Henderson and Quilvio Veras, scored 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on its way to a 12-5 victory over the New York Mets.

    The 11 runs were the most scored in one inning of an Opening Day game this century.

April 15, 1947

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    At Ebbets Field, Jackie Robinson, hitless in three official at bats, became the first black to play in the majors as his Dodgers beat the Braves, 5-3.

    Batting second and playing first base, Robinson also scored a run, recorded a sacrifice hit and ground into a double play.

March 31, 1998

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks, Major League Baseball's two newest expansion franchises, were both defeated in the inaugural games.

    The Devil Rays lost to Detroit 11-6 at Tropicana Field while the Diamondbacks fell to the Colorado Rockies 9-6 at Bank One Ballpark.

    In Atlanta, the Milwaukee Brewers—who became the first team since the inception of the American League in 1901 to switch leagues—lost their first game in the National League to the Atlanta Braves, 2-1 at Turner Field.

April 1, 2001

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Major League Baseball opened its regular season outside the United States and Canada for the third consecutive year as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers, 8-1, at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    In 1999, the Colorado Rockies defeated the San Diego Padres in Mexico. The following year, the Chicago Cubs defeated the New York Mets at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.

April 2, 2001

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    M. David Leeds/Getty Images

    When baseball opened in America the following day, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens struck out five batters in a 7-3 win over Kansas City at Yankee Stadium, surpassing Walter Johnson's American League record of 3,508 career strikeouts.

    Later that day, Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos pinch-hit in an Opening Day victory over the Chicago Cubs and became the 24th player to appear in four different decades during his major league career.

April 18, 1925

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    The Giants downed the Dodgers 7-1, in a Brooklyn opener that was saddened by the death of Dodgers' owner Charles H. Ebbets, who had succumbed to a heart attack that morning at his Waldorf-Astoria apartment.

    Ebbets was born in New York City and started with the Dodgers as a bookkeeper in 1883, according to Wikipedia.

    Ebbets owned the Brooklyn Dodgers for 23 years, beginning in 1902.