1867 – Denton True “Cy” Young is born in Gilmore, a tiny village near Newcomerstown, Ohio. Young will earn his nickname for his cyclone-like pitching motion and he will win (and lose) more games than any pitcher in major league history with a 511-316 record and a 2.63 ERA over 22 seasons. Young will win 20 or more games 15 times, and top the 30-win mark five times. He will be elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1937, with 153 votes on 201 ballots.
1954 – Chicago Cubs manager Phil Cavarretta gives team owner Phil Wrigley an honest assessment of the Cubs’ chances, and is fired for his defeatist attitude, becoming the first manager ever to be given the gate during spring training. Stan Hack replaces him. Cavarretta is right: the Cubs will drop to seventh place this year.
1956 – “The Catch”, Part 2. A year and a half after one of baseball’s most celebrated moments, Willie Mays again robs Vic Wertz. New York Times beat writer Louis Effrat reports: “Those who saw Willie Mays of the Giants rob Vic Wertz of the Indians in the first game of the 1954 World Series should have seen what the Say Hey Kid did to the same man today. The occasion was a Cactus League expedition, which the Tribe won, 10 – 5. With the Giants five runs behind in the 5th inning, Willie ran from center to right center and reached a spot 400 feet away from home plate a fraction of a second before the ball would have hit the wall. Mays caught the ball in his gloved hand and cushioned his crash against the fence with his other hand. He lost his cap but held tightly to the ball for the third out. There were two Indians aboard, so Mays’ catch blocked a couple of runs.”
1973 – The “Alert Orange Baseball” is used for the first time in major league history. The unique baseball, an invention of Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley, is used in an exhibition game between Oakland and the Cleveland Indians. Finley contends the ball, painted the color of a construction worker’s hat, will be easier for both players and fans to see. But pitchers complain that the ball is slippery and hard to grip, while batters are unable to pick up the spin of the ball without seeing the seams. Although Finley pushes for the use of colored baseballs during the regular season, the idea will never come to fruition.
1983 – While some clubs are concerned about low attendance at the start of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers become the first team in major league history to cut off season ticket sales before the start of the season. The Dodgers, with 27,000 season tickets already sold, implement the cutoff so that group sales won’t be impeded and fans will be able to buy tickets for individual games.
1984 – The New York Yankees trade one of the key members of their last World Championship teams when they dispatch Graig Nettles to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Dennis Rasmussen and a player to be named. Nettles, who had angered Yankees owner George Steinbrenner by criticizing him in a book, will hit 20 home runs and help the Padres reach the 1984 World Series.
The Expos and Labatt announce the C$100M sponsorship deal, negotiated two years ago, will go forward as planned. The Brewery has committed to pay C$40M over the next twenty years for the naming rights to Montreal’s proposed downtown ballpark, and approximately another C$60M to be the team’s main sponsor, a role the company has played for the past 15 years.
2000 – In Japan, the Chicago Cubs open the major league season at the Tokyo Dome by defeating the New York Mets, 5 – 3, in the first major league opening day ever played outside of the United States, Canada or Mexico. Jon Lieber gets the victory and Mike Hampton takes the loss. Shane Andrews, Mark Grace and Mike Piazza hit home runs in the game.
After the team purchases Rickey Henderson’s contract from Pawtucket, the Red Sox, places future Hall of Fame outfielder on their Opening Day roster. The ‘Man of Steal,’ who joined the exclusive 3,000-hit club on the final day of last season, will begin his 24th year in the majors, appearing with his eighth different club.
The night before the exhibition game scheduled to be played at Miller Park, team officials announce that the stadium’s retractable roof will be used only on a limited basis at the start of the season as engineers try to eliminate persistent noise coming from the year-old roof. The problem in the pivot system, located behind and above home plate in the so-called Uecker seats, is not a hazard, according to the engineers who designed the structure.
Lenny Harris, the career leader in pinch hits, is released from the Florida Marlins after being told he would not make the team. Harris, 41, has 212 career pinch hits, 62 more than second-place Manny Mota. Last year, Harris batted .314 with one home run and 13 RBI, as he set Marlins franchise records with 19 pinch hits and 13 pinch-hit RBI.
Outfielder Marquis Grissom announces his retirement after a 17-year major league career that saw him play with six teams. A two-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, he finished with 429 stolen bases, including a career-high 78 in 1992. Grissom leaves as one of seven players with 2,000 hits, 200 home runs and 400 stolen bases.
In an exhibition game celebrating the club’s 50th anniversary of their move west from Brooklyn, the Dodgers lose to the Red Sox in front of 115,300 fans at the LA Coliseum. The crowd is the largest ever to watch a baseball game, surpassing the previous record when approximately 114,000 patrons attended an exhibition contest between the Australian national team and an American services team during the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
2008 – The Dodgers celebrate the 50th anniversary of their move to Los Angeles, CA by playing an exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox in their original home, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A crowd of 115,300 is present, the largest ever assembled at a baseball game anywhere. The previous record of 93,103 had been set in the Dodgers’ second season in L.A., for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees in honor of paralyzed catcher Roy Campanella on May 7, 1959.
The Yankees dedicate a permanent September 11 memorial at the entrance of George M. Steinbrenner Field, the team’s Spring Training home in Tampa, Florida. The tribute to the victims and their families of the terrorist attacks of 2001 features a foundation in the shape of the Pentagon, which supports two towers made from steel from the World Trade Center placed on a grassy spot representing the heroes of United Flight 93, who perished in a field in Pennsylvania.
In the first baseball game ever played at Citi Field, John Franco throws out the ceremonial first pitch to a standing ovation from the crowd attending the collegiate matchup between St. John’s and Georgetown. Before tossing his signature pitch, a breaking ball in the dirt, the former Mets reliever goes to the mound wearing a familiar blue and orange jacket, but takes it off, revealing the colors of his alma mater, a Red Storm jersey with his number 45.
On a damp and chilly afternoon, 22,397 patrons become the first fans to attend a baseball game at Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, when St. John’s University hosts Georgetown in a collegiate contest. The weather dampened the schools’ hope of breaking the NCAA attendance record of 40,106, set during a game between San Diego State and Houston played at Petco Park in 2004.
2010 – The Nationals announce that President Barack Obama will throw the ceremonial first pitch on opening day, April 5th, against the Phillies at Nationals Park. It will mark the 100th anniversary of the first presidential first pitch, by William Howard Taft, at the Washington Senators’ home opener on April 14, 1910.
Major League Baseball creates a new 7-day disabled list for players who have suffered concussions, following a number of serious incidents last season, and controversy about concussions in professional football and hockey. Players will need to be evaluated by a medical specialist before they are allowed to return to action.
One of last season’s concussion victims, Mets OF Jason Bay, is sidelined again, but for a different reason. He suffers a strained muscle in his rib cage and will likely start the season on the disabled list. Other prominent players who will miss the start of the season with injuries include Phillies closer Brad Lidge, Mariners CF Franklin Gutierrez, Astros P J.A. Happ and Giants closer Brian Wilson.
The A’s secure a split of their season-opening series with the Mariners with a 4 – 1 win at the Tokyo Dome. Among the A’s 3 homers is the first one in the major leagues by Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes; Josh Reddick and Jonny Gomes, both also acquired over the winter, hit the other two, while Justin Smoak hits a solo shot for Seattle’s only run. Bartolo Colon earns the win with 8 solid innings of work.
The Italian Baseball League season begins. Bologna beats Parma, 7 – 2, with veteran Jesus Matos getting the win. Parma makes 5 errors while getting only 3 hits; one bright spot for them is Stefano De Simoni homering to lead off the bottom of the 1st. Alessandro Vaglio and Marco Sabbatani each score twice for Bologna, while Juan Carlos Infante drives in two.
The Giants and Buster Posey, last season’s National League MVP, come to terms on an eight-year, $159 million contract extension that includes a full no-trade clause. The deal, which will keep the 26 year-old backstop in a Giants’ uniform through 2021, is the second-richest contract ever given to a catcher, surpassed only by the Twins’ signing of Joe Mauer two seasons ago to an eight-year, $184 million pact.
2013 – With Opening Day just around the corner, a few teams ink star players to long-term deals. In Detroit, P Justin Verlander agrees to a $120 million extension for 5 years, with an option for a sixth at $22 million; the Giants lock up C Buster Posey for 8 years at $159 million; and the Diamondbacks sign 1B Paul Goldschmidt for five years at $32 million – which seems like mere pennies compared to the other deals.
2018 – The Major League Baseball season starts today with all 30 teams being scheduled to play, although a couple of games are rained out. Ian Happ of the Cubs launches the season by homering off Jose Urena of the Marlins on the very first pitch thrown in the earliest of the 15 games. For his part, Giancarlo Stanton, acquired by the Yankees in a major off-season trade, also has a memorable day as he starts his career in pinstripes with two long balls in a 6 – 1 win over the Blue Jays.
2019 – In his second game as a member of the Cardinals, Paul Goldschmidt has 4 hits including 3 homers, and drives in 5 runs to lead his team to a 9 – 5 win over the Brewers. He comes up to bat again with a chance at a four-homer game in the 9th, but the Brewers walk him intentionally with one out and a runner on second base.
2018 – Houston opens their first title defense with a 4-1 win over the Rangers in Arlington. George Springer led off the game with a home run, just as he did the year before. Justin Verlander tossed six shutout innings for the victory. Before the game, a moment of silence was held in memory of former Astros All-Star Rusty Staub who passed away that morning at the age of 73.
2002 – Lance Berkman drills two home runs and Roy Oswalt scatters seven hits as Houston tops the Boston Red Sox, 5-1, in an exhibition at the newly-renamed Astros Field. Scrubbed are virtually all signs of Enron, whose naming-rights deal for the ballpark fell into bankruptcy court. The win is also a little sweeter for manager Jimy Williams who was fired by the Sox midway through the 2001 season.
1978 – Eric Bruntlett is born in Lafayette, IN. The utilityman bats .250 with nine homers during his five seasons with Houston (2003-2007). His turn of a double play in Game 4 of the 2005 N.L.C.S. seals a pivotal 2-1 victory. He later would make an unassisted triple play as a member of the Phillies in 2009.