Chester A. Arthur brings the Forest Cities ball club, a recently defunct franchise of the National Association, to the White House, making it the first professional team to visit with a president in Washington, D.C. Later in the season, the country’s Commander-in-Chief will also host the new National League’s New York Gothams, who will become better known as the Giants in 1885.
1914 Major league baseball returns to Baltimore as the first Federal League game is played with approximately 27,000 patrons on hand to watch the Terrapins beat the Buffalo Blues at Terrapin Park, 3-2. After the hometown Orioles were eliminated from the National League at the end of the 1899 season, first-year player/manager John McGraw’s club joins the new rival American League, beginning in 1901, but the newly formed team stayed in the Charm City for only two seasons before being moved to New York, becoming the Yankees after briefly known as the Highlanders.
1921 After President Warren Harding, an avid baseball fan, throws the ceremonial first pitch at Griffith Stadium, Washington loses to the Red Sox, 6-3. It is the first time in six Opening Days contests the Senators have lost with the President of the United States throwing out the first pitch.
1926 On Opening Day, 38 year-old Senators’ hurler Walter Johnson strikes out a dozen A’s batter when he outduels Eddie Rommel for 15 innings, beating Philadelphia at Washington’s Griffith Stadium, 1-0. The ‘Big Train’, in his next-to-last season, will finish the campaign with a 15-16 record (.484) along with an ERA of 3.63 for the fourth-place club.
1939 In a spring training game played in Norfolk, Virginia, Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig, with apparent muscle loss, especially around his shoulders, goes deep twice in a 14-12 exhibition loss against the Dodgers. The second and ninth-inning home runs will be the last round-trippers the ‘Iron Horse’ will ever hit.
1953 On Opening Day, thanks to the three-hit pitching of Max Surkont, the former Boston Braves win their first game representing the city of Milwaukee by beating the Reds, 2-0 at Crosley Field. It is the first time since Baltimore shifted to New York to become the Highlanders (Yankees) fifty years ago that a franchise has moved to a different city.
1954 Seven years after the team had threatened to strike because of the integration of baseball by Jackie Robinson, North Carolina A&T graduate Tom Alston becomes the first black player to appear in a Cardinals uniform. The highly-touted first baseman, acquired from the PCL’s San Diego club in exchange for veteran infielder Dick Sisler and $100,000, pops out to first base in his first major league at-bat.
1954 Making his major league debut during the first season opener at Forbes Field in 61 years, second baseman Curt Roberts becomes the first black to play for the Pirates. The former Kansas City Monarch, signed by 72 year-old general manager Branch Rickey, triples off Robin Roberts in the first inning as the Bucs beat the Phillies, 4-2.
1954 In a 9-8 victory over the Braves, Reds’ outfielder Jim Greengrass hits four doubles, tying a 1901 Opening Day record set by Tigers first baseman Pop Dillon. In the same game, Hank Aaron goes hitless in five attempts in his first major league game with the Braves.
1954 Philadelphia A’s second baseman ‘Spook’ Forrest Jacobs becomes the first major league rookie to collect four hits in an Opening Day debut. The feat will not be accomplished again until Delino DeShields of the Expos goes 4-for-6 on Opening Day in 1990.
1954 On Opening Day off Chicago hurler Paul Milner, Wally Moon hits a home run in his first major league at-bat. The 24 year-old Cardinal center fielder, who will be selected as the National League’s Rookie of the Year, will also homer in the last at-bat of his freshman season.
1954 Cincinnati, in an effort to not be associated with Communists, plays its first game as the Redlegs. The new moniker, which is widely accepted, will be employed for six seasons, before the club reverts back to being known as the Reds, which was a shortened version of the Red Stockings, the team’s original name from 1882 to 1899.
1954 Willie Mays, who missed nearly two seasons due to military service, homers in his first game back, a sixth-inning blast off Carl Erskine that will prove to be the difference in the Giants’ 4-3 Opening Day victory over Brooklyn. The 22 year-old center fielder’s prodigious poke may have traveled over 600 feet if it had not been impeded by the upper left-field stands at the Polo Grounds.
1962 On a wintry day, the Mets play their first home game ever when only 12,000 fans show up at the Polo Grounds to see the return of National League baseball to the Big Apple. On Friday the 13th, the Pirates score the decisive run on two eighth-inning wild pitches thrown by Ray Diavault, beating the New York expansion team, 4-3.
1962 On Opening Day, Detroit’s starting pitcher Frank Lary pulls a muscle legging out a seventh-inning triple in the team’s 5-3 victory over New York at Tiger Stadium. ‘The Yankee Killer’s’ career will be shortened when the righty suffers subsequent arm problems as a result of compensating for the injury.
1963 Reds’ second baseman Pete Rose triples off Pirates’ pitcher Bob Friend to collect his first major league hit. The future all-time hit leader, who will amass 4256 hits during his 24-year career, had gone hitless in his first 11 major league at bats.
1964 After beating the Reds, 6-3, in the traditional Opening Day game in Cincinnati, Houston is in first place for the first and only time as the Colt .45’s. Next season, the team will be renamed the Astros, reflecting Houston’s role in the nation’s space program.
1969 When the Cubs rally, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth, to beat the Expos, 7-6, twenty-seven-thousand fans spontaneously swarm Wrigley Field in an early season frenzy. The enthusiastic display of affection for the team had not been witnessed in the ballpark since 1960, when Don Cardwell threw his no-hitter on the north side of Chicago.
1970 In their home opener at the Oakland Coliseum, a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee, the A’s use gold-colored bases. This colorful innovation introduced by team owner Charlie O. Finley will quickly be banned by the MLB’s Rules Committee.
1975 The Astros retire Don Wilson’s number 40 posthumously in tribute to the right-hander, who was found dead of asphyxiation by carbon monoxide in the garage of his family’s home in January. The 29 year-old fireballer, the author of an 18 strikeout game that tied a major league record, spent nine seasons with Houston, compiling a record of 104-92 along with an ERA of 3.15.
1978 In New York’s Opening Day 4-2 victory over Chicago, Reggie Jackson hits a three-run homer in the first inning, his fourth consecutive round-tripper at Yankee Stadium, after going deep three times in last year’s Fall Classic finale. The game is delayed as the crowd celebrates by showering the field with Reggie! Bars, a chocolate and peanut candy bar with a picture of the slugger swinging a bat, that was given to every fan entering the game.
1978 On Opening Day, Roger Maris returns to Yankee Stadium for the first time since being traded to the Cardinals in 1966. The prodigal son, who has shunned many previous invitations, returns to help Mickey Mantle hoist the club’s World Champion flag due to the promise of team owner George Steinbrenner to install sod and lights for the baseball field at his children’s school in Gainesville, Florida.
1983 The Phillies, trailing by five runs entering the final frame, beat the Mets, 10-9, when Bo Diaz hits a walk-off bases-loaded home run. The Philadelphia catcher’s ‘ultimate grand slam’, a home run which wins a game when a team is down by three runs in the bottom of the final inning, is tossed by Neil Allen, who faces only the final batter.
1984 On the same date he got his first major league hit 21-years earlier, Pete Rose, as a member of the Expos, doubles off Phillies hurler Jerry Koosman for his 4000th hit, becoming the first player in the National League to reach the milestone. Montreal beats Philadelphia in the Friday the 13th contest at Olympic Stadium, 5-1.
1985 With his team down 7-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mariners’ left fielder Phil Bradley erases the three-run deficit with a walk-off grand slam. The game-ending round-tripper comes off Twins’ closer Ron Davis, who had given up a hit and two walks before surrendering the ‘sayonara slam’.
1987 In San Diego’s home opener, the Padres waste no time making up a two-run first inning deficit when the first three batters up in the bottom of the first homer off of Giant starter Roger Mason. Marvell Wynne, Tony Gwynn, and John Kruk all go deep to establish a major league record.
1990 The first sellout in Mariners history occurs when 54,874 fans attend the season home opener at the Kingdome. The Friday the 13th crowd leaves disappointed after Seattle is routed by Oakland, 15-7.
1993 Lee Smith passes Jeff Reardon to become the all-time major league saves leader when the Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 9-7. The right-hander reliever tosses a scoreless ninth inning at Chavez Ravine to record his 358th career save.
1998 Prior to tonight’s game against the Angels, a 500-pound concrete and steel beam falls into the empty loge boxes between third base and left field at Yankee Stadium. The next two games scheduled to played at the Bronx ballpark will be postponed with the team scheduling one of the games to be played across the river at Shea Stadium.
1999 At the Kingdome, Rangers’ starter Mike Morgan beats the Mariners for the first time since 1980 when he hurled for the A’s. The interval of 19 years, eight months, and nine days is the longest span of time a hurler has gone between victories over one team.
2002 After striking out three batters on nine pitches in the top of the ninth inning, Cardinal closer Jason Isringhausen gets the win when the Redbirds score a run in the bottom of the frame for a 2-1 walk-off victory over Houston. The right-handed reliever’s victims during his immaculate inning include Daryle Ward, Jose Vizcaino, and Julio Lugo, who all go down swinging.
2004 At SBC Park in San Francisco, Barry Bonds hits his 661st career homer off Brewers hurler Ben Ford to move up to third on the all-time home run career list, passing his godfather, Willie Mays, and leaving the 39 year-old Giant left fielder 53 behind Babe Ruth (714) and needing 94 to tie Hank Aaron (755). The historic blast, a 468-foot seventh inning splash hit which lands in McCovey Cove, is fished out by Larry Ellison, a Giant fan who also caught also No. 660 last night in a kayak and gave it to a grateful Bonds, but the California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonator will keep this wet souvenir.
2005 A near-by pedestrian saves eight year-old Patrick McCarthy from getting run down by a truck when the boy starts to run into Boston’s Newbury Street traffic. The hero, who prevents the tragic accident by putting out his arm and saying `Whoa, watch out, buddy,’ turns out to be the boy’s favorite player, Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez.
2007 The Red Sox purchase right-hander Russ Meyer (1-6, 6.21) from the Reds. The ‘Mad Monk’ will appear in only two games for Boston, posting a 5.40 ERA in five innings of work that includes a start.
2008 Workers at the new Yankee Stadium site dig up a Boston jersey buried in concrete from the ballpark scheduled to be completed in 2009. The tattered David Ortiz jersey, which will be auctioned off to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, was buried by a Bronx construction worker, a Red Sox fan, who had hoped to put a hex on the Bombers.
2008 Reds hurler Johnny Cueto walks his first batter of the season, ending a string of 22 strikeouts without issuing a base-on-balls. The rookie right-hander is the only post-1900 pitcher to fan as many 18 batters without throwing a ball four in his first two starts.
2009 In a somber pregame meeting, Philadelphia president David Montgomery informs the players that Harry Kalas, who arrived at Nationals Park with the players on the team bus, collapsed in the broadcast booth and died shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital. In tribute to the 73 year-old Hall of Fame voice of the Phillies, center fielder Shane Victorino, first baseman Ryan Howard and reliever Scott Eyre, prior to their 9-8 victory over Washington, light up a cigarette and pass it around in honor of the broadcaster, whose smoking habit was legendary.
2009 In the LA home opener, Orlando Hudson completes his cycle with a sixth inning triple down the right-field line in the team’s 11-1 rout of the Giants. The second baseman becomes the first Dodger to hit for the cycle at Dodger Stadium, and the first franchise player to accomplish the feat in a nine-inning game since Gil Hodges did it in 1949.
2009 Nick Swisher, who throws 22 pitches, allowing just one hit and one walk before retiring the next three consecutive batters, including a swinging strikeout of Gabe Kapler, becomes the first position player to pitch for the Yankees since Wade Boggs took the mound in 1997. During the 15-5 rout by the Rays at Tampa’s Tropicana Field, the fun-loving first baseman volunteered to pitch the eighth inning to help save the bullpen after starter Chien-Ming Wang lasts only one inning.
2010 The ‘Bring Back Orbit’ Facebook group is created with the hopes of convincing the Astros to reinstate the mascot, who was replaced with Junction Jack beginning in the 2000 season, coinciding with the team’s move from the Astrodome to Enron Field. The social media effort pays off when the franchise reveals the lovable lime-green outer-space creature with antennae extending into baseballs, after a 12-year absence, will be returning to continue his role in 2013, the team’s first season in the American League.
2011 Chipper Jones spoils Florida’s bid for a shutout when he homers in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Braves’ 5-1 loss at Turner Field. The Atlanta third baseman joins Eddie Murray (1,917) and Mickey Mantle (1,509) in becoming only the third switch hitter in major league history to compile 1,500 RBIs.
2012 Josh Thole’s bizarre base running blunder leads to a very odd double play in the second inning of the Mets’ 5-2 victory at Citizens Bank Park. After successfully reaching second base on R.A. Dickey’s sacrifice bunt, the 25 year-old Mets’ catcher shocks everyone, including the Philadelphia defense, by trying to return to first base, where he is tagged out to complete the unusual 3-1-6-4 twin killing.
2012 Aaron Harang, after surrendering a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin to start the game, strikes out the next nine consecutive Padres in L.A.’s 9-8 victory at Dodger Stadium. The 34 year-old right-hander’s performance is one more than Johnny Podres’ franchise mark of 8, but falls one short of the major league record held by Tom Seaver, who fanned 10 straight Friars for the Mets in 1970.
2015 Jon Lester finally attempts a pickoff at first base, ending a streak that covered a span of 66 appearances. The Cubs southpaw, who signed a six-year free-agent deal worth $155 million to start for Chicago this season, last threw over to first base on April 30, 2013 while pitching for the Red Sox.