Jackie Robinson and the 7 Most Memorable Major League Debuts in HIstory
Prospects inspire imagination. Fantasy owners overpay annually to own the best rookies-to-be, anxiously waiting for news of their call to the majors.
There isn't room in this list for all of the truly special debuts, partially because every single major-league debut is unique and notable in its own way, if only to the player and his family.
Two of these seven I've chosen happened in 2010, and stand out in my mind because I watched them live. I was able to partake in the childish wonderment of unproven men with seemingly limitless potential first hand.
7. Satchel Paige Debuts at 42 Years Old
With the St. Louis Browns leading the Cleveland Indians 4-1 in the fourth inning, Bob Lemon was pulled from the game and Satchel Paige made his major-league debut.
At 42 years old, Paige had not yet grown comfortable with the signals. He delivered his first pitch carefully, and Chuck Stevens lined it for a single.
Paige did not allow a run in the game, went on to make two MLB All-Star appearances, and eventually was the first Negro League player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
6. Jason Heyward Homers in First At-Bat
On April 5, 2010, Jason Heyward was already "The Next Hank Aaron." He stepped to the plate against Carlos Zambrano and unleashed a beautiful swing, lacing the offering into the right-field seats.
In an instant, Braves' fans around the world had images of World Series trophies, MVPs and were beginning construction on his Hall of Fame bust.
Slow down, Atlanta. He is still just 21 years old. But that single swing was one of the more unforgettable rookie moments I've had the privilege to see.
5. Zach Duke Starts 6-0
Pitchers have gotten off to better starts (Jered Weaver, 2006), but Duke's 6-0 start to his career in 2005 will stand out because he was a Pirate.
Pittsburgh Pirates fans have seldom had reasons to watch their beloved Bucs over the last two decades, but for a matter of weeks, their imaginations were collectively captured by the rookie ace.
Duke has since disappeared into relative irrelevance, but for those magical moments, he made the Pirates worth watching.
4. Tim Wakefield Complete Game, 10 K, 0 ER
What are the odds that two Pittsburgh Pirates' pitchers made this list?
Tim Wakefield, the face of the knuckleball, has baffled hitters for almost 20 years. The journey began on July 31, 1992 when Wakefield dominated the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 win.
The Cardinals could only manage six hits and two unearned runs while whiffing 10 times, often looking silly while waving at the dancing knuckler.
3. Stephen Strasburg K's 14 Pirates
Stephen Strasburg got as much media coverage prior to his June 8 debut as any major leaguer over the same stretch. Every outing in which he made minor leaguers look like little leaguers was followed by another outcry in Washington to see their wunderkind in the bigs.
When the day came, the stadium was stuffed to the rafters with fans brandishing their new No. 37 jerseys.
He promptly went out and threw seven innings, striking out 14 Pirates. Many times he made the helpless Bucs look as bad as the minor leaguers he had tormented to that point.
The energy and media frenzy surrounding Washington D.C. on that night could have rivaled that of election week.
2. Bob Feller K's 15 at 17 Years Old
In 1936, Bob Feller was just 17 years old. On August 23 of that year, however, he had already earned his first major-league start against the St. Louis Browns.
The kid sprinkled six hits over nine innings, allowed one earned run and whiffed 15 in the win. Weeks later he would record his famous game of 17 strikeouts to match his age.
He finished the season with an 11.0 K/9 and is now in the MLB Hall of Fame.
1. Jackie Robinson Breaks the Color Barrier
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson stepped to the plate and changed baseball forever.
Amidst the jeers and threats of the crowd and even opposing players, Robinson would go on to bat .297, score 125 runs and steal 29 bases. He justifiably won the MLB Rookie of the Year in 1947.
Robinson's number is now retired by all 30 teams of Major League Baseball, and his debut will go down as the single most remarkable debut in baseball history.