1914 Rube Waddell, who once struck out a record 349 batters in one season, dies of tuberculosis at the age of 37. The eccentric Hall of Fame right-hander compiled a 193-143 (.574) record along with an ERA of 2.16 during his 13 seasons with the Colonels, A’s, Pirates, and Browns.
1937 The Reds sell Babe Herman to the Tigers. The 34 year-old outfielder, batting .300 for his new team, will appear in only 17 contests with Detroit before effectively retiring from the game, although he will return to play briefly for the war-time Dodgers in 1945.
1938 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, not a fan of Branch Rickey’s farm system, grants free agency to a group of nine Cardinal minor leaguers that includes Pete Reiser. A reported gentlemen’s agreement that has Brooklyn signing and hiding the 19 year-old outfielder in the low minors to be traded back to St. Louis at a later date, doesn’t work when Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher disobeys orders, allowing the phenom to display his incredible ability in spring training exhibition games.
1950 Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars wear shorts and rayon shirts as their Opening Day uniform. In 1976, the White Sox will also don shorts in the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City.
1962 Dave DeBusschere, a hoop star at the University of Detroit, signs with the White Sox as a pitcher. The 21 year-old right-hander will compile a 3-4 record in 36 appearances with Chicago before moving to the National Basketball Association, becoming one of the 50 named greatest players in the history of the league.
1963 Former Brooklyn Dodger Duke Snider returns to New York when the Mets purchase him from LA for $40,000. The 36 year-old outfielder, who will represent New York in the All-Star game, will be told at the end of the season by Buzzi Bavasi, his former GM, that the Yankees had asked for him to back up Mickey Mantle before he was dealt to the team the across the river.
1964 Cleveland’s manager Birdie Tebbetts suffers a heart attack. George Strickland will fill in for three months until the 51 year-old skipper returns to the Indians dugout with limited duties.
1968 The Braves purchase Stu Miller from the Orioles. The 40 year-old right-hander will throw only 1.2 innings in two appearances for Atlanta before retiring from baseball.
1969 After acquiring Lou Piniella from the Indians in the expansion draft, the Seattle Pilots trade him to the Royals in exchange for Steve Whitaker and John Gelna. The 25 year-old outfielder will have a stellar season in Kansas City, being named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
1970 Federal Bankruptcy Referee Sidney Volinn, after ruling the team is insolvent, orders the Seattle Pilots be sold to a group headed by mid-western businessman Bud Selig. The American League expansion team’s tenure in the Northwest is over after just one season when the club is hastily moved to Milwaukee to start the new season as the Brewers.
1976 After being released by the Padres, Bobby Tolan (.255, 5, 48), signs as a free-agent with the Phillies. The outfielder-first baseman, who plays only 15 games for Philadelphia, will ink a deal with the Pirates in June.
1982 The Mets send outfielder Lee Mazzilli to Texas for rookie starters Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. This deal isn’t well-received at the time, but the trade turns out to be a steal for New York when the two right-handers combine for 118 victories during their tenure with the team.
1987 The Pirates trade Tony Pena, three-time Gold Glove catcher, to the Cardinals in exchange for three youngsters, Mike LaValliere, Mike Dunne, and Andy Van Slyke, who thinks the deal is an April Fool’s Day joke. The former Pittsburgh backstop cries at a news conference with Bucs’ skipper Jim Leyland announces the swap with the Redbirds.
1987 Mets phenom pitcher Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden avoids suspension for substance abuse by agreeing to enter a drug rehab facility. The talented 22 year-old right-hander will make his first start on June 5 and will win 15 games for the team despite missing the first two months of the season.
1989 Former Yale University and National League president Bart Giamatti becomes the seventh commissioner of major league baseball. Baseball’s new leader, a lifelong Red Sox fan, is the author of The Green Fields of the Mind, an essay which laments the end of a season in Boston.
1996 Nationalpastime.com appears for the first time on the internet. The popular website is the first to feature baseball history on a daily basis.
1996 The Opening Day game in Cincinnati is postponed when home plate ump John McSherry, who is noticeably overweight, suffers a fatal heart attack after calling the first seven pitches of the contest. The respected veteran arbitrator’s death prompts Major League Baseball to compel its umpires to be more physically fit.
1996 The Mets rally to overcome a 6-0 deficit, beating the Cardinals at Shea Stadium, 7-6, The decisive run in the biggest Opening Day comeback of the century scores as a result of an unusual double play when Bernard Gilkey, the base runner on first, is doubled up on Rico Brogna’s short sac fly to right field (RF-1B-SS-1B-SS), allowing Lance Johnson to cross home plate on the play.
1996 Only 7,296 fans show up at Cashman Field to watch the A’s lose their season opener to the Blue Jays, 9-6. Due to renovations in the Oakland Coliseum, the team plays their first six home games in the Las Vegas minor league ballpark, making it the first time a “neutral” venue has been used in Major League Baseball since 1969, when the White Sox played a few of their home games in County Stadium in nearby Milwaukee.
1997 Setting a record for the most runs scored in one inning of an Opening Day contest this century, the Padres score 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning en route to a 12-5 rout of the Mets. Chris Gomez, Rickey Henderson, and Quilvio Veras lead the attack with back-to-back-to-back home runs.
1998 At Camden Yards, the Orioles rock the Royals, 10-1, as Scott Erickson records his 100th major league victory. O’s skipper Ray Miller, who hadn’t won a game since managing the Twins in 1986, enjoys his first win with Baltimore.
2001 In the first major league game ever played in Puerto Rico, the Blue Jays defeat the Rangers, 8-1, in the major league season opener. Making his Texas debut, $252 million shortstop Alex Rodriguez gets the season’s first hit and scores the first run, but also makes a throwing error on his first chance.
2002 Cinci Freedom, who evaded capture for ten days after jumping a six-foot fence to avoid slaughter, is excused from her scheduled appearance in the Reds’ traditional Opening Day parade. Before the Reds’ 5-4 walk-off victory over the Cubs at Cinergy Field, the Charolais cow, after receiving a key to the city, is deemed too jumpy to participate in the Findlay Market activities.
2002 The Mets, with a 6-2 victory over the Bucs at Shea Stadium, improve their mark for Opening Day victories to 26-15 (.634), a major league record. The New York expansion team didn’t win their first season opener until the ninth year of the franchise’s existence.
2005 Albert Pujols does not strike out in any of the 21 Cardinals spring training games. In his 68 plate appearances, the St. Louis first baseman finishes the exhibition season with a .458 batting average, six homers, and 20 RBI.
2006 A day prior to the start of the season, the White Sox ink Jose Contreras (15-7, 3.61) to a $29 million, three-year contract extension. The 34 year-old Cuban native was the World Champs’ most effective pitcher during the team’s stretch run to the AL pennant, posting an 11-2 mark following the All-Star game.
2008 With two outs in the 10th inning, Robert Andino’s first career round-tripper is a memorable one as his walk-off homer to deep left off Matt Wise gives the Marlins a 5-4 victory over the Mets at Dolphin Stadium. The post-game celebration is short-lived when the Miami native takes off for home to meet police after getting a text message from his wife informing him their house may have an intruder.
2008 On Opening Day in Los Angeles, Juan Pierre’s 434 consecutive game streak, the longest current one in the major leagues, comes to an end, when the Dodger outfielder does not play in the 3-2 victory over the Giants. New skipper Joe Torre plays Andre Ethier in left field in place of the highly paid, but light-hitting fly chaser.
2009 The Kentucky State baseball team, after tallying a run in the top of the first, finds themselves on the short end of a 22-1 score at the end of the inning. After the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky University score 27 more times in the next three frames, the teams decide to halt the contest in the middle of the fifth, giving EKU a 49-1 triumph over the Thorobreds.
2011 Doug Glanville becomes a baseball color analyst for ESPN, the network where he has contributed to the Baseball Tonight television show, ESPN.com, and ESPN – The Magazine. The former major league outfielder, best known for his playing days with the Phillies, also is a guest columnist for the New York Times, where he writes about the culture of sports.
2013 Bryce Harper, providing all of the offense the Nationals will need, becomes the youngest player to homer twice on Opening Day. The 20 year-old outfielder, playing in his first Opening Day as a major leaguer, hits solo shots in the first and fourth frame in Washington’s 2-0 victory over Miami.
2013 On Opening Day, Jackie Bradley Jr. has a memorable major league debut when he walks three times, scores twice, and robs Robinson Cano of an extra-base hit with an outstanding defensive play in the Red Sox’ 8-2 victory over New York at Yankee Stadium. The 22 year-old Boston rookie outfielder also makes uniform history, becoming the first major leaguer to wear “Jr.” on the back of his jersey.
2013 Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino, who will end the day with an 0-1 record when he gives up a walk-off sac fly in an Opening Day loss to Milwaukee, becomes the first big league pitcher to wear the number 0, joining position players Oddibe McDowell (1985-88), Junior Ortiz (1989-2004), and Al Oliver (1978-85). Several players, including hurlers including Bobo Newsome (1943), Curtis Leskanic (2000-01), Rick White (2005-06), and Brian Wilson (2003-14), have donned a double-zero.
2015 Auction items featured in Sotheby’s “New York Sale” include the 1967 Mets’ bullpen cart, which is shaped like a baseball wearing a cap. The electric-powered vehicle, valued between $20,000 and $30,000, fetches an astounding mazing high bid of $125,000.