1911 The Most Valuable Player award is introduced and sponsored by Hugh Chalmers, an auto manufacturer. The first winners of the MVP, selected by a vote of one baseball writer representing each franchise in the league, will be Tigers’ outfielder Ty Cobb and Frank Schulte of the Cubs.
1918 The Phillies trade infielder Bert Niehoff (.255, 2, 42) and send cash to the Cardinals for rookie right-hander Mule Watson. Niehoff will play just one more season before retiring, while Watson will pitch two seasons with Philadelphia, posting a 7-11 record, before being traded to the Braves.
1948 Prior to an exhibition game in Orlando, A’s manager Connie Mack, who is 84 years old, challenges Clark Griffith, the 78 year-old owner of the Senators, to a foot race from third base to home plate. The participants enter the Florida field in an ambulance before starting their contest, which ends in a photo-finish tie.
1963 The first reported use of the familiar refrain “Let’s Go Mets” is heard at the Polo Grounds in the bottom of the ninth inning during a rout by San Francisco. With the Amazins’ trailing by 13 runs and down to their last out with no one on base, the rally cry begins to be chanted by some of the ‘New Breed’, the affectionate name given the fans of the National League expansion team.
1966 On the nationally-televised Hullabalo, a program which showcases rock and roll groups, host Soupy Sales is joined by his two sons, Tony and Hunt, to perform Meet the Mets, with the unlikely tune being accompanied by the show’s go-go dancers halfway through the song. The Sales’ children were on the show as guests musicians, featuring their rock and roll band, Tony and the Tigers.
1968 Due to today’s assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, most of the major league teams will decide to postpone their Opening Day games until the reverend’s funeral takes place in five days. Surprisingly, the Dodgers, at first, are the notable exception, even though the Phillies, their opponents on April 9th, say they will forfeit rather than play on the national day of mourning.
1974 In front of a crowd of 52,000 at Riverfront Stadium on Opening Day in Cincinnati, Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record of 714 by hitting a first-inning two-run homer off Jack Billingham. The Atlanta front office had considered keeping ‘Hammerin’ Hank’ on the bench during road games so the slugger could try to equal the mark in front of the hometown fans, but commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered the Braves to put the outfielder into the lineup for at least two of the three games against the Reds.
1978 The Expos reveal their new mascot named Souki, an odd looking character wearing an Expos uniform below a giant baseball head that has antennae. The Mr. Met-like figure, whose rights will be sold for $50.00, will be released after one season, after proving to be unpopular with the fans due to his strange looks and quirky behavior.
1988 In a 10-6 victory over the Expos, Kevin McReynolds and Darryl Strawberry each hit a pair of home runs, helping the Mets to establish an Opening Day record with six homers. The ‘Strawman’s’ second shot, estimated at 525 feet, hits above the dome’s light rim, and is believed to be the longest dinger ever stroked at Olympic Stadium.
1988 Blue Jay designated hitter George Bell becomes the first player to hit three home runs on Opening Day, helping Toronto defeat Kansas City at Royals Stadium, 5-3. The second, fourth, and eighth inning round-trippers are all given up by Bret Saberhagen.
1989 On Opening Day, Tommy John ties a record by playing in 26 seasons. The Yankee veteran hurler beats the Twins, 4-2, for his 287th win, putting him 19th overall in career wins.
1989 Barbara Bush, wife of the 41st president of the United States becomes the first First Lady to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at a major league game. George’s spouse and the mother of George W., the managing general partner of the Rangers, does the honors on Opening Day at Arlington Stadium prior to Texas’ 4-0 victory over Detroit.
1994 A total of 56,706 fans attend Opening Day, making it the largest crowd ever at new Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers do not disappoint the big throng, when Jimmy Key beats Kevin Brown and the Rangers, 5-3.
1994 In the inaugural game played at Jacobs Field, President Clinton throws out the first ball, and ‘El Presidente’ Dennis Martinez throws the first pitch when the Indians defeat the Mariners in 11 innings, 4-3. With Bob Feller, the author of the only Opening Day no-hitter game in major league history in attendance, Mariner southpaw Randy Johnson holds the Tribe hitless for the first seven innings.
1994 Eddie Murray becomes baseball’s all-time leader in games played at first base, manning the position in 2,369 major league contests to surpass the mark set by Jake Beckley, a Hall of Famer whose career spanned from 1888 to 1907. After the top of the first inning, the 38 year-old Indians infielder carries the bag off the field to keep as a souvenir.
1994 On Opening Day at Wrigley Field in the Cubs’ 12-8 loss to New York, Tuffy Rhodes, who has hit only five round-trippers in his first 280 major league at-bats, becomes the first player to homer in his first three at-bats of the season. The three solo home runs, all off Mets right-hander Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden, will account for nearly half of the outfielder’s total for the year when he finishes the campaign with only eight round-trippers.
1994 In the very first game played at Jacobs Field, a 4-3 extra-inning victory for the Tribe over Seattle, the Indians retire Larry Doby’s uniform number 14. A usually reserved Doby becomes emotional speaking to the Opening Day crowd.
1994 Prior to the Cubs’ 12-8 Opening Day loss to the Mets at Wrigley Field, Hillary Clinton becomes the second first lady to throw out the ceremonial first pitch of the baseball season. Bill’s wife then joins Harry Caray in the broadcast booth and sings “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” with the beloved announcer during the seventh inning stretch.
1998 Mark McGwire begins what will be a historic season, homering in the fourth consecutive game to tie Willie Mays’ National League record for most homers to start a season. Big Mac’s three-run blast in the sixth inning helps the Cardinals beat the Padres, 8-6.
1999 Opening Day starts in Mexico, making it the first time baseball’s first pitch comes outside the U.S. or Canada as the Rockies defeat the National League’s defending champs Padres, 8-2.
2000 At Safeco Field, Darren Lewis plays right field in Boston’s 2-0 victory over Seattle. The 32 year-old outfielder is the 13th different Red Sox player to start in that position on Opening Day for the past thirteen years.
2001 For the first time since June 7, 1995, the Indians do not have a sellout crowd at Jacobs Field. The streak of 455 games of consecutive full houses, a major league record, will be broken by the Boston Red Sox in 2008.
2001 Throwing the earliest no-hitter in major league history, Hideo Nomo blanks the Orioles, 3-0 at Camden Yards in his first start in a Red Sox uniform. Second baseman Mike Lansing makes an outstanding play with one out in the ninth to preserve the Japanese-born hurler’s second career no-hitter.
2003 At Cincinnati’s new Great American Ball Park, Sammy Sosa becomes the first Latin American player and 18th overall to hit 500 career home runs. The milestone is reached in the seventh inning as ‘Slammin’ Sammy’ drives a Scott Sullivan 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats.
2003 The Coneheads stage a reunion at Shea Stadium as David Cone returns to the mound after taking a year off and hurls an impressive five innings of shutout ball in the Mets’ 4-0 victory over the Expos. In memory of one of the founders of this unique idea which started in 1988, the group hangs a banner featuring a picture of Scott Saber, who was killed during the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, smiling in his Conehead.
2006 Kansas City voters approve a $250 million proposal to renovate Kauffman Stadium. The facelift of the 35 year-old home of the Royals will include the addition of dugout suites, new clubhouses, an exclusive restaurant, and the replacement of the orange seats throughout the stadium with new blue ones.
2006 The Padres are rained out at home for the first time since May 12, 1998, a span of 635 consecutive home games played, mostly played at Qualcomm Stadium. The postponement, just the 16th rainout in the franchise’s 38-year history, is the first washout at the club’s new home, Petco Park, which opened two seasons ago.
2007 Tuffy Rhodes becomes the first non-japanese player in Nippon Pro Baseball history to drive in a thousand runs. Only two players of the 28 players who have reached the milestone have accomplished the feat in fewer games.
2008 Carried by his momentum avoiding the pitch, J.R. Towels does a hand stand at home plate after getting hit above the knee during the second inning in Houston’s 4-3 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Astros catcher’s fourth inning two-run homer is accomplished with the backstop standing on his feet.
2008 Before their home opener, the Blue Jays announce reaching agreements with outfielder Alex Rios (.297, 24, 85) and second baseman Aaron Hill (.291, 17, 78). The 26 year-old Toronto fly-catcher will earn nearly $70 million over the next seven years, the second richest deal in franchise history, and the club’s newly signed infielder, also 26, inks a four-year contract worth $12 million.
2008 With fans chanting “Robbie, Robbie” prior to the home opener against Boston, the Blue Jays honor Roberto Alomar by inducting their former All-Star second baseman into Toronto’s Level of Excellence. The dramatic pregame ceremony features the honoree being revealed at second base with a spotlight after a video montage of his career highlights is played in a darkened Rogers Centre.
2012 Joey Votto and the Reds agree to the longest guaranteed contract in major league history, a $251.5 million, 12-year deal. The dollar amount, second only to A-Rod’s $275 million and $252 million pacts with the Rangers and Yankees, easily surpasses Ken Griffey Jr.’s $116.5 million, nine-year signing in 2000 as the richest in franchise history.
2014 Charlie Blackmon ties a team record established by Andres Galarraga in 1995, collecting six hits in the Rockies’ 12-2 rout of Arizona in the team’s home opener at Coors Field. The 27 year-old platoon outfielder is the first major leaguer to collect three doubles, two singles, and a home run in a major league game.
2016 The Dodgers hand the Padres the worst Opening Day shutout loss since at least 1913, and most likely in the history of the game, blanking the Friars at PetCo Park, 15-0. The contest marked the managerial debut of both skippers with LA’s Dave Roberts and San Diego’s Padres Andy Green both piloting their first major league game.
2016 Although he limits the Rangers to just one hit, Mariner right-hander Felix Hernandez loses for the first time on Opening Day, snapping a streak of six victories to start his team’s season. Seattle had the opportunity to become the first franchise in modern baseball history to win ten consecutive season openers, but sloppy defense allows three runs in the fifth inning of the club’s 3-2 defeat to Texas at Globe Life Park.
2016 Trevor Story becomes the first player to hit two home runs in his first regular season game on Opening Day, and the fifth rookie to accomplish the feat in his major league debut. The 23 year-old Rockies shortstop hit both round-trippers off Diamondbacks’ ace Zack Greinke, a three-run home run in the third and a solo shot in the following frame of the team’s 10-5 victory over Arizona at Chase Field.
2017 Stephen Piscotty’s dangerous journey around the base paths ends when he crosses the plate in the bottom of fifth inning, scoring the Cardinals’ only run in the team’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs at Busch Stadium. After reaching first base as the result of being hit by a pitch from Jake Arrieta, the Redbird outfielder, attempting to take second on a wild pitch, is nailed in the elbow with the ball thrown from catcher Wilson Contreras, and then sliding into home plate he is struck on the helmet with an errant throw by second baseman Javier Baez.