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MLB Opening Day 2021: Ranking the 21 best Opening Day performances in the past 100 years

There is one thing magical about Opening Day, isn’t there? 

It’s the begin of a brand new season. Hope is springing everlasting. The pleasure of what may occur is intoxicating. We are ready to be wowed, and if we aren’t laser centered on anybody explicit staff, we’re hardly ever dissatisfied. 

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So, to kick off the 2021 season, let’s have a look at the 21 most spectacular particular person performances over the past 100 years of baseball’s Opening Day.

One fast observe: This listing is about total performances, not simply moments. If it was about moments, the place historic significance was the main issue, the listing would begin with these three …

1. Jackie Robinson breaking MLB’s colour barrier in 1947
2. Hank Aaron tying Babe Ruth together with his 714th homer in 1974
3. Babe Ruth opening Yankee Stadium with a homer in 1923

But that’s for an additional listing. 

For this one, two homers are higher than one, and 13 strikeouts are higher than 10. We did give a bit of added weight for performances that helped a participant’s staff win an in depth ballgame, particularly when drama was concerned in late innings. I imply, we needed to have some solution to separate the 16 gamers who’ve had six RBIs on Opening Day. Speaking of that, apologies to Eric Hosmer for not making this listing after his six-RBI day to kick off 2020; his Padres received by 5 runs. 

21. Randy Johnson, Mariners, 1993

Why he’s right here: Here’s a stunning/not stunning statistic: Only 5 occasions in MLB historical past has a beginning pitcher struck out a minimum of 14 batters on Opening Day, and Randy Johnson has two of these 5 14K video games. He did it for the first time in 1993, whiffing 14 in eight innings, whereas permitting seven hits and one run. In ’96, Johnson struck out 14 in seven innings, permitting three hits and two runs. 

20. Matt Davidson, White Sox, 2018

Why he’s right here: Because of the three house runs he hit in opposition to the Royals. Davidson was the fourth participant in MLB historical past to pop three homers on Opening Day. We received’t spoil the listing by naming the others right here. 

19. Carlton Fisk, Red Sox, 1973

Why he’s right here: In his first three at-bats after being named the AL Rookie of the Year in 1972, Fisk hit a homer, a double and a homer, in that order. The first round-tripper was a two-run shot, and the second was a grand slam, serving to the Red Sox run away from the Yankees in what wound up as a 15-5 win for Boston. 

18. Brant Alyea, Twins, 1970

Why he’s right here: This, people, is the way you make a great first impression. Alyea was traded from the Senators to the Twins on March 21, 1970. Less than three weeks later, in his first regular-season recreation with the membership, Alyea grew to become the first participant in MLB historical past to report seven RBIs on Opening Day. He had an RBI single in the first, a three-run homer in the fifth and one other three-run homer in the seventh. 

17. Sam Horn, Orioles, 1990

Why he’s right here: Remember how Sam Horn was the nice prospect hope all Red Sox followers believed would blast 50 house runs a yr into the stands at Fenway? That by no means materialized, and Boston lower him free after the 1989 season. His begin to the 1990 marketing campaign, with AL East rival Baltimore, needed to make Red Sox followers wonder if their staff had made an enormous mistake. In that first recreation as an Oriole, Horn went 4-for-5 with two homers — together with a three-run shot in his very first AB — and 6 RBIs. His second three-run homer of the recreation, in the eighth inning, tied the contest at 6-6. Baltimore ultimately received, 7-6, in 11 innings.

16. Tom Glavine, Braves, 1992

Why he’s right here: Glavine received the 1991 Cy Young award for the NL and began the 1992 season like he was decided to win one other (spoiler: he completed second to future teammate Greg Maddux). In the ’92 opener, Glavine gave up a single in the first and one other in the second after which didn’t enable one other hit the remainder of the recreation. Glavine allowed a pair of walks and struck out 9 in his 103-pitch effort. 

15. Dmitri Young, Tigers, 2005

Why he’s right here: Young had 5 plate appearances on Opening Day and he reached base safely all 5 occasions. He hit house runs in the second and third innings, then was hit by a pitch in the fifth. In the seventh, he singled and in the eighth, he popped his third house run of the recreation. Final numbers in the field rating: 4 AB, 4 R, 4 H, 5 RBI. Not too shabby.

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14. Sixto Lezcano, Brewers, 1980

Why he’s right here: Lezcano was coming off an excellent yr for the Brewers; he hit .321 with 28 homers, 101 RBI and a 5.6 bWAR, all career-best numbers. And after this Opening Day efficiency, he was on tempo for an excellent higher yr. Lezcano tied the recreation in the fourth with a two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley. Milwaukee constructed a 5-3 lead heading into the ninth, when the Red Sox tied the recreation on solo homers by Carl Yastrzemski and Butch (*100*). With two outs and the bases loaded in the backside of the ninth, Lezcano stepped up and hit a grand slam down the right-field line, the first walk-off grand slam on Opening Day in MLB historical past.

13. George Bell, Blue Jays, 1988

Why he’s right here: Ding, ding, ding! Nobody had ever hit three homers on Opening Day till Bell completed the feat, in the first recreation after he was named the 1987 AL MVP. Even extra spectacular: All three got here off Bret Saberhagen, the Okay.C. righthander who received the AL Cy Young award in 1985 and would accomplish that once more in 1989. The third homer, in the eighth inning, broke a 3-3 tie in a recreation the Blue Jays wound up successful by a rating of 5-3. 

12. Don Drysdale, Dodgers, 1960

Why he’s right here: Drysdale was simply 23 coming into the 1960 season, however this was already his third consecutive Opening Day begin for the Dodgers. The first two didn’t go so nicely; he allowed 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 mixed innings. In this one, although, he allowed simply two runs in 11 innings. The huge quantity, although? He fanned 14 Cubs that day. 

11. Minnie Minoso, White Sox, 1960

Why he’s right here: Minoso did his half to maintain the White Sox from enjoying any dramatic late innings, plating a run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning after which smashing a grand slam in the fourth. That one put Chicago up, 9-2, however the A’s rallied all the means again, tying the recreation with two runs in the high of the ninth. Minoso led off the backside half of that body and swatted the first pitch he noticed over the fence to offer the ChiSox a 10-9 win. 

10. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 2013

Why he’s right here: Kershaw pulled off a Maddux and a MadBum in the similar recreation, and he did it on Opening Day! He wanted simply 94 pitches to close out the Giants on 4 hits and 7 strikeouts (any sub-100-pitch shutout is “A Maddux”), and he popped a house run (like MadBum) in the eighth inning, for the first run of the ballgame. Bravo. 

9. Camilo Pascual, Senators, 1960

Why he’s right here: There was simply one thing about the opening of the 1960 season, I suppose. We’ve already talked about Drysdale and Minoso, and now this one: Pascual struck out a minimum of one batter each inning. He fanned two hitters in the sixth and eighth innings and three in the second and fourth innings. Every Boston starter struck out a minimum of as soon as, with the exception of Pete Runnels (who led the AL with a .320 common that yr) and Ted Williams, who went 1-for-2 with a house run. If Pascual would have struck out Williams even as soon as, he may be No. 1 on this listing. 

8. Raul Mondesi, Dodgers, 1999

Why he’s right here: Mondesi makes the listing due to his late-inning heroics, however let’s not overlook an RBI single off Randy Johnson in his first AB of the season. When Mondesi stepped to the plate in the backside of the ninth, there have been two outs and two on, together with his Dodgers trailing, 6-3. With the depend 3-0, Mondesi swung at a Gregg Olson providing and parked it over the wall down the left subject line. Tie recreation. Extra innings. In the eleventh, Mondesi’s flip once more got here with two outs, and once more he delivered, with a two-run homer to offer the Dodgers an 8-6 victory. Final depend: 4 hits, two homers, six RBIs.

7. Shane Bieber, Indians, 2020

Why he’s right here: After the coronavirus pandemic pressured a protracted delay to the begin of the 2020 season, all of us wanted to observe one thing superb occur as quickly as baseball began once more, and Bieber delivered. He “only” went six innings, throwing 97 pitches, however he struck out 14 of the 23 Kansas City batters he confronted that day, July 24. 

6. Tuffy Rhodes, Cubs, 1994

Why he’s right here: Maybe there’s a bit of non-public bias influencing this rating. I used to be 18 when this occurred and simply dumbstruck {that a} man named Tuffy Rhodes might hit three house runs on Opening Day in opposition to Dwight Gooden. Not that my love for baseball wanted any cementing by that time in my life, however the concept that one thing like that would occur on any random day in this nice sport was simply one thing that I beloved. 

5. Bob Gibson, Cardinals, 1967

Why he’s right here: Five batters into his 1967 season, Gibson had 5 strikeouts. Pretty darn spectacular, much more so when you think about that two of these 5 had been Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Willie McCovey (sure, younger Giants followers, the man the cove in San Francisco was named after). Gibson ultimately allowed contact and even a number of hits, however wound up placing out 13 batters in a five-hit shutout, outpitching fellow Hall of Famer Juan Marichal. 

4. Jim Presley, Mariners, 1986

Why he’s right here: All of Mondesi’s drama, however with a darn spectacular cherry on high. Like Mondesi, Presley tied the recreation with a ninth-inning house run — a two-run shot — to ship the recreation to extras. And like Mondesi, Presley received the recreation with a walk-off house run. This one, although? It was a walk-off grand slam, capping a two-homer, six-RBI Opening Day. 

3. Gee Walker, Tigers, 1937

Why he’s right here: I struggled with the place to place this feat. It’s a cycle, so it’s cool, however not essentially uncommon (330 in MLB historical past, although none in the shortened 2020 season). And the cycle mattered — his Tigers beat Cleveland, 4-3. So how about this nugget: It’s one among solely 10 reverse pure cycles in MLB historical past. What’s that? Walker hit a homer his first AB, a triple his second time up, a double his third journey to the plate and closed his day with a single in the seventh inning. And that’s why it’s high 5. 

2. Walter Johnson, Senators, 1926

Why he’s right here: For only a second, think about how Baseball Twitter would react to a pitcher throwing 15 innings of shutout baseball on Opening Day. That could be nearly as enjoyable to observe as The Big Train dominating opposing hitters. Almost. 

(AP Photo)

1. Bob Feller, Indians, 1940

Why he’s right here: I imply, it’s a no-hitter. I’ve checked out a few different comparable lists and none of them had Feller’s no-hitter at No. 1. It’s a no-hitter, on Opening Day. The April 25, 1940, problem of The Sporting News ran an image of Feller together with his mother and father and sister, consuming dinner in a restaurant after the accomplishment. TSN additionally ran a narrative, which included this passage: 

“Three times before, the youthful pitching pride of Iowa had come within one hit of this goal, and he finally accomplished the feat with a flourish in an opening game to become the first pitcher since the opening of the present century and only the second in the history of the two major leagues to achieve the distinction. There was an added touch of drama to the performance, as his parents and sister were present to witness the achievement.”

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