Opening Day Notes

The Bambino

Babe Ruth, ever rising to the occasion, often shined on Opening Day. In fact, the Babe's Opening Day batting average was .422. In 18 career Opening Day games, the Bambino slugged five doubles, one triple and seven home runs, while consuming every hot dog in sight. 

In 1921, Ruth went 5-for-5 against the Athletics. In 1932, also against the Athletics, Ruth crushed two homers and added a single. In his 1935 National League debut with the Boston Braves, an aging Ruth faced the New York Giants' ace, Carl Hubbell. No problemo for the Sultan of Swat, Ruth nailed Hubbell's first offering for a long home run and later added a single. 

On April 18, 1923, a crowd of over 74,000 showed up for the very first Opening Day game at Yankee Stadium -- The House That Ruth Built. The Babe, of course, stole the show. Ruth's prodigious 3-run blast in the third inning provided the Yankees with all the runs they needed to defeat the rival Boston Red Sox, 4-1. 

Rumors persist that Ruth was pretty good on the mound too. In his earlier (and slimmer) days as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth made three Opening Day starts (1916, 1917, 1918). The Babe's Opening Day record: a perfect 3-0. 

Ted Williams was no slouch on Opening Day either. The Splendid Splinter played in 14 Opening Day games and hit safely in all of them (oooo, that's a shocker). Williams compiled a .449 average as he ripped 22 hits in 49 at bats. No idea as to how many fans Williams spit on in those games. (Editor's note to Roberto Alomar: Choose your victim wisely. Spitting on fans was, and always will be, allowed. Umpires are a no-no.) 

The Big Train

Walter Johnson spent his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators. The Big Train was the Senators' Opening Day starter 14 times and, responding to the challenge, pitched 7 Opening Day shutouts. Considering that he tossed 7 shutouts in 14 starts, it is surprising that Johnson was only 9-5 in Opening Day games. Put another way, in Opening Day starts in which he did not throw a shutout, Johnson was only 2-5. The truth of the matter is, Johnson pitched for some awful teams and it's really surprising that he never shot his teammates. How many more games could he have won had he played for, oh say, the Athletics dynasty of 1905-1914. 

Johnson celebrated his first Opening Day assignment (1904) by tossing a one-hitter against the Philadelphia Athletics. Johnson again held the Athletics to one hit on Opening Day in 1910, with Philadelphia's Home Run Baker lashing a double off of Johnson for the Athletics' lone hit in the Senators 3-0 win. This was the Opening Day game at which President Taft began the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Darling Don Mossi's
Rookie Year Statistics

It wasn't just good looks that kept Dandy Don in the majors. Even if hordes of (allegedly) female fans hadn't threatened to tear down the stadium should Delicious Dan be sent to the minors, the Tribe had to keep him on the roster -- he was just too good. 
Year Team Won Lost Saved ERA
1954 Clev 6 1 7 1.94

The Grand Salami

Sixto Lezcano is the only player in the major leagues to hit grand slams in two Opening Day games. The feared 168-pound slugger only hit one other slam during his 12-year career. Lezcano's slams came on Opening Day 1978 and 1980. 

Lou Gehrig, who holds the career record of 23 grand slams, never hit one in April, let alone on Opening Day. Therefore, Lezcano actually leads Gehrig in at least one career offensive category. Just imagine some very distant future Opening Day at a ballpark in Heaven, "now pinch hitting for Lou Gehrig, because the bases are loaded, and it's Opening Day, Sixto Lezcano." 

We wanted to include a photo of Lezcano, but it seems his mother has them all and won't share. 

Foot Flattery

An obviously intelligent person at Wolff New Media, LLC, posted the following review of Bucketfoot on the internet" 

"You have to go back to the first issue to find out what Bucketfoot means. (It refers to the great, they tell us, Al "Bucketfoot" Simmons.) Two guys, neither one named Al, have created this cybernewsletter, which combines a funny, jazzy prose style with a passionate interest in all things baseball. The Bucketfoot newsletter's strength is its historical features, which shine a light on interesting footnotes and trivia. Although it does turn its uniquely opinionated point of view on current events, issues only come out once every few months, which results in considerable drag time." 


Bucketfoot Baseball Publications, 1998