At Ebbets Field No. 2, the Dodgers play their first exhibition game at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, which will remain the team’s home for 61 years. Amidst much fanfare, including Governor Millard Caldwell throwing the ceremonial first pitch, Jackie Robinson homers in the first inning as Brooklyn beats its top farm club, the Montreal Royals, 5-4.
The Pacific Coast League proposal to use a designated hitter is voted down 8-1 by the Professional Baseball Rules Committee. Prompted by the Cubs’ college of coaches, the committee also rules each team must name a manager 30 minutes prior to the game. The DH will not come into major league use until 1973, when it is adopted by the American League.
1969 – Veteran utility player Chico Salmon is traded from the expansion Seattle Pilots to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for pitcher Gene Brabender and infielder Gordy Lund. Salmon will play for three consecutive pennant winners in Baltimore from 1969 to 1971, while Brabender will be the Pilots’ top winner in their only season in Seattle.
On a televised episode of ABC’s Sports Beat, Howard Cosell informs interviewee Roger Maris of the Yankees’ plan to retire the slugger’s number 9 at the Old Timers’ Game ceremonies in July. The former Bronx Bombers’ reaction is at first is disbelief, followed by a genuine pleasure for being recognized for his achievements during his seven years with the team.
1995 – The longest strike action in sports history ends – in a courtroom. A U.S. District court order forbids owners from implementing new financial working conditions in the wake of the impasse in negotiations. The court decides that conditions will revert to the old rules from the previous season. Because of the timing of the court order, 18 games will have to be trimmed from the major league schedule.
1996 – For the first time in major league history, the regular season opens in March with the Seattle Mariners beating the Chicago White Sox in 12 innings, 3 – 2, at the Kingdome. Five Mariners pitchers strike out 21 batters, with Randy Johnson collecting 14 Sox in seven innings. The American League unveils its new colorful red polo shirts for the umpires, part of the “What a Game” campaign to lure fans back to the parks. The last sartorial change was in the 1970s when AL umps wore red blazers for several years. National League umpires will stick with traditional blue.
In the longest scoreless opener in National League history, pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo’s single with two outs and the bases loaded gives the Mets a 1-0, 14-inning victory over the Phillies. The most extended Opening Day game in major league history occurred in 1926 when the Senators blanked the Philadelphia A’s in 15 innings, 1-0.
The Tigers spoil the Devil Rays’ major league debut, beating the American League’s newest team, 6-2 at Tropicana Field in Tampa. After Hall-of-Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Al Lopez, and Monte Irvin throw out ceremonial first pitches, Wilson Alvarez, the losing pitcher, hurls the first pitch in franchise history – a ball to Detroit’s center fielder Brian Hunter.
With a rare on-the-field appearance, Hank Aaron helps to mark Milwaukee’s historic return to the Senior Circuit as the Brewers play their inaugural game as a National League team, losing to the Braves at Turner Field, 2-1. Milwaukee is the first team since the inception of the American League in 1901 to switch leagues.
Florida Marlins catcher Charles Johnson, who had not committed an error in a record 172 consecutive regular season games, is charged with one on a wild throw in the 1st inning of Florida’s opening day 11 – 6 victory over the Cubs. Johnson hits a three-run home run in Florida’s six-run 1st inning to atone for his miscue. The defending champs will lose their next 10 games.
St. Louis Cardinals rookie pitcher Braden Looper makes an auspicious major league debut in St. Louis’ 6 – 0 victory over the Dodgers. Looper enters the game in the 9th inning and strikes out all three batters he faces – Todd Zeile, Raúl Mondesi, and Paul Konerko. The Dodgers are held to three hits by four St. Louis pitchers.
The Milwaukee Brewers play their inaugural game as a National League team and lose to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, 2 – 1. Milwaukee is the first team since the inception of the American League in 1901 to switch leagues. All-time home run leader and fan favorite Hank Aaron helps to mark Milwaukee’s historic return to the NL with a rare on-the-field appearance.
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies tie the National League mark for the longest Opening Day game, with New York coming out on top with a 1 – 0 victory in 14 innings on pinch-hitter Alberto Castillo’s single. Curt Schilling shuts out the Mets for the first eight innings on only two hits, while striking out nine.
The San Francisco Giants win their opener against the Houston Astros, 9 – 4, as Jeff Kent gets five hits, including a double and home run, and collects four RBI. Houston second baseman Craig Biggio, who last year became only the third player in major league history to go an entire season without grounding into a double play, hits into a twin-killing in his second at-bat this year.
Substituting for his son, a former lefty first baseman at Yale named George Bush throws the Great American Ball Park’s ceremonial first pitch when the Reds make their debut in their new ballpark. The former president and the sell-out crowd of 42,263 flag-waving fans enjoy the patriotic pregame ceremonies and then watch the Pirates rout Cincinnati, 10-1.
The Orioles and MLB agree on a deal which will allow the televising Nationals games. A joint venture backed by MLB will let fans in the Baltimore-Washington area to enjoy telecasts of both franchises and will ensure the Orioles fans in the nation’s capital will still have an opportunity to watch their ‘Birds’.
2005 – The Orioles and Major League Baseball agree on a deal which will allow Nationals games to be televised. A joint venture backed by MLB will allow fans in the Baltimore-Washington area to enjoy telecasts of both franchises and will ensure the Orioles fans in the nation’s capital will still have an opportunity to watch their “Birds”.
3/31/2008: It is opening day in St. Louis and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals hit a 385 foot solo shot to left center in the second off of the Rockies’ Jeff Francis to give his team a 5-1 lead. In the bottom of the third with the same score, the rains came washing the game out and postponing the opener until the following evening.
In one of the wildest Opening Days in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history, Pittsburgh beats the Braves, 12 – 11, in 12 innings. They lead 9 – 4 entering the bottom of the 9th but their top two relief pitchers, Damaso Marte and Matt Capps, blow the lead with a fly ball falling between LF Jason Bay and CF Nate McLouth with two outs. Pittsburgh scores three in the 12th on a Xavier Nady home run, but Atlanta almost ties it again with two runs in the bottom of the frame.
2009 – The Detroit Tigers surprisingly cut slugger Gary Sheffield, who is one home run shy of 500 for his career. Sheffield, a 9-time All-Star, is 25th on the all-time home run list and 27th in RBI (1,633). He only hit .178 in spring training, but went deep in 5 of 45 at-bats. He says he is not shocked, but is surprised. Marcus Thames will replace Sheffield as Detroit’s starting DH.
In a Grapefruit League game in Tampa, FL, Twins OF Denard Span proves to be a bad son, fouling a pitch straight at his mother, sitting in the third base stands, in the 1st inning against the Yankees. Span rushes to the stands to his mom’s aid, but Wanda Wilson is all right after being checked over by medical staff. Span, playing in his hometown, leaves the game two innings later to be at his mother’s side for the rest of the contest.
The Industriales win their record 12th Cuban Serie Nacional title, topping Villa Clara, 7 – 5, in 10 innings in Game 7 of the 2009-2010 Serie Nacional finals. It is their second straight back-to-the-wall win on the road in the series. Raiko Olivares drives in the winner, Rudy Reyes gets 3 hits (including a homer) and youngster Joan Socarrás fans 5 in 2 1/3 hitless relief innings for the win. In a losing cause, Yandy Canto hits a 3-run homer.
With spring training coming to an end, the disabled list is getting crowded. Among those who will miss the beginning of the season are Mets SS Jose Reyes, who missed most of 2009 with injuries and joins teammates Daniel Murphy, Carlos Beltran and Kelvim Escobar on the list; Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler, suffering from a sprained ankle; Astros 1B Lance Berkman, recovering from knee surgery, and two Houston pitchers, Alberto Arias and Yorman Bazardo; Rockies closer Huston Street, shelved by shoulder stiffness; and Toronto P Mark Rzepczynski, out with a broken finger, the result of being struck on his pitching hand by a ball batted by the Yankees’ Ramiro Pena a day earlier.
It’s Opening Day in Major League Baseball and the Reds win in dramatic fashion in Cincinnati to start off the National League’s schedule. Trailing 6 – 3 in the bottom of the 9th, they rally for four runs against Brewers closer John Axford when Ramon Hernandez slugs a three-run walk-off homer with two outs for a 7 – 6 win. Milwaukee starts the game with a bang as Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez open the contest with back-to-back homers off Edinson Volquez; Ryan Braun, Drew Stubbs and Joey Votto also go yard in the wild contest.
The day is marred by a tragic incident at Dodger Stadium after the opener between the Giants and Dodgers. Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old paramedic and father of two, is assaulted by Dodger fans for nothing more than wearing a Giants cap and suffers injuries that leave him in a coma. His family will later sue Dodgers owner Frank McCourt for cutting back on security and lighting in the parking lot where the assault occured. After an intensive investigation, Los Angeles Police will arrest a suspect on May 22nd.
The Yankees are successful on opening day, beating Detroit, 6 – 3, at home. Curtis Granderson, whose health was a concern before the start of the game because of a strained right oblique muscle, makes a diving catch of a line drive hit by Will Rhymes in the 1st, then breaks a 3 – 3 tie with a solo homer off Phil Coke in the 7th. Mark Teixeira had earlier hit a three-run blast to tie the score in the 3rd. New Yankee starting C Russell Martin scores twice in his debut in pinstripes as Joba Chamberlain picks up the win and Mariano Rivera the save.
The Athletics’ Tom Milone pitches 6 perfect innings in a Cactus League game against the A’s AAA affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. Reliever Andrew Carignan walks a pair of batters in the 7th, but gives up no hits, and the game is then called on account of rain, giving Oakland a 9 – 0 no-hit victory. Sacramento’s Jarrod Parker, who is auditioning for the A’s fifth starter job, is a lot less impressive than his counterpart, giving up 6 runs in 2 innings.
2013 – Houston wins its first game as an American League team, overpowering cross-state rivals Texas, 8 – 2, in the opening game of the season. Justin Maxwell hits a pair of triples, only the sixth player to do so on Opening Day, and Rick Ankiel pinch-hits a three-run homer in the 6th. Bud Norris is the winner and Erik Bedard records his first career save with 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. This will be a rare highlight in a season in which the Astros set a franchise record for losses for the third straight year.
A new attendance record is set at Marlins Park when 37,116 show up to watch the Marlins manhandle the Rockies, 10 – 1. No doubt many of the fans are there to watch Jose Fernandez, the youngest opening day starter since Dwight Gooden started the Mets’ 1996 season. Fernandez doesn’t disappoint, striking out 9 in 6 innings to earn the win, while Casey McGehee, back in the majors after a season in Japan, drives in 4 runs with a pair of doubles and Marcell Ozuna has three hits including a homer.
Coach Don Baylor suffers a freak injury catching the ceremonial first pitch before the Angels’ opener. Vladimir Guerrero is back in Anaheim to throw the pitch after signing a one-day contract to retire as an Angel, but Baylor twists his leg catching the soft toss and suffers a broken femur. The pair are the only two players to win the MVP award in franchise history.
With the majority of teams opening their season today, expanded instant replay is used for the first time in a major league game. Manager Rich Renteria of the Cubs is the first to challenge an umpire’s decision on calling Jeff Samardzija out on a close play at first base, but the replay confirms the call. Shortly thereafter, the Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez issues the first successful challenge, as umpire Greg Gibson’s safe call at first base on Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun is overturned after a quick review. And Mike Winters is the first umpire to ask for a review himself, making sure that A’s catcher John Jaso correctly blocked the plate in tagging out the Indians’ Michael Brantley at home.
2016 – In a 6-6 tie between the Hanshin Tigers and Yakult Swallows, Hanshin rookie Shun Takayama goes 4 for 6. He leads off the game with a homer, becoming only the second NPB rookie to hit their first career homer on the first pitch of the game, following Yoshito Fujino way back in 1944. He takes Kyle Davies deep for the historic hit.
SunTrust Park, located in Cobb County, GA, is inaugurated with an exhibition game between the Braves and Yankees. The contest is held in spite of the collapse of a span of Interstate 85, which bisects downtown Atlanta, GA, creating huge traffic problems. The new suburban ballpark will get its official opening in two weeks.
Tim Raines, recently elected to the Hall of Fame is honored before a huge crowd gathered for a pre-season exhibition game featuring the Blue Jays and Pirates at Stade Olympique. Stephen Bronfman, former Montreal Expos minority owner and spokesman for the “Montreal Baseball Group” tells the media the group has assembled the needed capital and has plans for building a ballpark in Montreal, QC, adding that when Commissioner Rob Manfred calls on them to ether relocate a team or proceed with expansion, the group will be ready.
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who goes 3-for-4 in the team’s 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field, becomes the first American Leaguer to have multiple extra-base hits in the first three games of the season. In 2015, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also accomplished the feat, collecting at least two hits in each of LA’s first three contests when he compiled ten hits his first 14 at-bats of the season.
19-year-old Elvis Luciano becomes the first player born in the 21st century to appear in a major league game when he makes his debut for the Blue Jays against the Tigers. Never having pitched above Rookie-class before this season, he allows just 1 hit in 1 1/3 inning in a successful outing. This coincides with the last two players who were active in the previous century, Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon, both being out of the majors as a page has clearly turned.
2004 – Lefthander Jeriome Robertson is dealt to the Cleveland Indians for two minor league outfielders, Willy Taveras and Luke Scott. Taveras had been claimed by Houston in the Rule V draft but had been waived and returned to Cleveland before the trade. Robertson had a 15-9 rookie season in Houston but found himself out of the rotation after the Astros snared Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens in free agency.