Even for the greatest players baseball has ever known, Opening Day is something special.
"You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through," said Yankees legend and Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio. "You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen."
Other sports have season openers, but baseball's Opening Day marks the ceremonial beginning of spring. Considered by many to be a national holiday, the opening of the baseball season brings with it the hope that this is your team's year.
Whether it's the first pitch or the first ballpark hot dog of the season, Opening Day is a cause for optimism, hope, and for some, even a reason to call in sick to work or school.
And you don’t have to be a diehard fan to appreciate the start of the baseball season. For the winter-weary, Opening Day is a sign that spring has finally sprung. It’s also a day when baseball history is made—perhaps more often than you think. These Opening Day facts will get you in the mood to hear those immortal words for the first time this year: “Play ball!”
On Opening Day in 1907, the New York Giants faced off against the Phillies at New York City’s Polo Grounds after a heavy snowstorm. When the Giants fell behind, disgruntled fans began flinging snowballs onto the field, forcing the umpire to call a forfeit in the Phillies’ favor.
On the first day of the 1910 season, William Howard Taft became the first president to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Since then, every president besides Jimmy Carter has thrown at least one ceremonial first ball for Opening Day, the All-Star Game or the World Series.
Brooklyn’s Washington Park was the scene of an Opening Day riot on April 11, 1912. With the Brooklyn Dodgers down 18-3 to their rival, the New York Giants, fans stormed the field and delayed the game, which was eventually called on account of darkness in the sixth inning.
There has only been one no-hitter in Opening Day history. Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller, then just 21 years old, threw it against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park on April 16, 1940.
Boston Braves fans sat down to an unpleasant surprise on Opening Day in 1946. The outfield stands had recently received a fresh coat of red paint, but cold, damp weather had prevented it from drying. Hundreds of angry, paint-stained spectators marched to the Braves’ offices. The team agreed to pay their cleaning bills and made a public apology in a newspaper ad.
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier on Opening Day in 1947, becoming the first African American to play for a Major League team. The 28-year-old made his debut at Ebbets Field, playing first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Harry Truman was the only president to throw out left-handed and right-handed first pitches on Opening Day. He showcased his ambidextrous talents on April 18, 1950.
Out of the Park
Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 714th home run on Opening Day in 1974, tying Babe Ruth for most career homers. He beat Ruth’s record later that week and reached 755 by the end of this career. Aaron’s record was not eclipsed until Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run in 2007.
On Opening Day in 1974, several naked fans rushed onto the field at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, disrupting the game and inciting violence in the stands.
Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. share the record for most career home runs on the first day of the season, with eight Opening Day homers each.
Hall of Famer Tom Seaver has started the most Opening Day games in history—11 for the Mets, three for the Reds and two for the White Sox.