Play Ball! 9 Times Baseball's Opening Day Was Truly Awesome

RealClear Staff


"You always get a special kick on Opening Day," Joe DiMaggio once said. "You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen." And often, it does ...

1. The Traditional Opening Day is in Cincinnati Because of These Guys

Above is the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first professional team with salaried players. Major League Baseball wouldn't be officially formed until 1903. When Cincinnati became a charter member of MLB, it had already changed its name to the Cincinnati Reds. In recognition of their status as baseball's first team, the Reds are the only team to open each season at home, and the game played in Cincinnati is considered baseball's official Opening Day.

2. William Howard Taft Started a Presidential Trend

Baseball fan and America's 27th president (1909-1913) William Howard Taft was said to have a mean slider. But on Opening Day in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1910, his fastball was on display when he threw out the first pitch before a Washington Senators game. Since then, 11 U.S. presidents have thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day. Ronald Reagan was the first to throw from the mound in 1984 (instead of from the first row of the stands), and Barack Obama commemorated the 100th anniversary of Taft's pitch in 2010 at the Washington Nationals' Opening Day.

3. Most Historic Opening Day

Baseball's color barrier was broken on April 15, 1947 when rookie Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Although he did not get a hit, he walked and scored a run in a 5-3 victory at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

4. When Hank Aaron Tied Babe Ruth

Not many significant home runs are hit on Opening Day. It is, after all, Game 1 of 162. But one of baseball's most famous numbers was 714 -- the number of home runs Babe Ruth hit. Before the Atlanta Braves' Hank Aaron could break that record, he first had to tie it. He ended the 1973 season just one shy of the Babe. On April 4, 1974, with the Braves in Cincinnati for the traditional Opening Day, Hammerin' Hank wasted no time, hitting No. 714 in his first at-bat. The fans in Cincinnati went wild.

5. The Only Opening Day No-Hitter

Cleveland Indians ace and future Hall of Famer Bob Feller -- widely considered to be the hardest thrower of his time -- beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 without allowing a hit to open the 1940 season. It's an Opening Day feat that has yet to be matched.

6. Opening Day's Biggest Ace

Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has started the most Opening Day games in history, doing the honors 16 times for the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox. It's likely a record that will never be broken.

7. Opening Day's Biggest Bat

Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer is the undisputed king of Opening Day offensively. In 14 Opening Day games, Williams hit .449 with three home runs and fourteen runs batted in (RBIs) and at least one hit in each game. Dude!

8. Opening Day Abroad

In 1999, Major League Baseball went international by holding its first Opening Day outside U.S. borders when the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres opened the season in Monterrey, Mexico. Since then, there have been baseball Opening Days in Tokyo, Puerto Rico and Sydney, Australia.

9. 'The Wizard of Oz' Is Trying to Make It a National Holiday

We're down for that. In 2014, The St. Louis Cardinals' Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, with the support of Anheuser-Busch, began a campaign using the We the People site on to petition the U.S. government to make Opening Day an official national holiday. It hasn't succeeded so far, but Ozzie, keep fighting the good fight.



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