New Beginnings

Hall of Famers shine on Opening Day

March 18, 2010
Bob Feller threw the first Opening Day no-hitter on April 16, 1940. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Opening Day of baseball is one of the most anticipated days of the year. So it should come as no surprise that some of the best season-starting performances in history have come from players who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ted Williams is considered by many the best hitter of all-time – and he certainly supported that argument on Opening Day. He played in 14 Opening Day games, hitting .449 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. He had at least one hit in every Opening Day game he appeared in.

On the other side of the ball, only one no-hitter has been thrown on Opening Day in baseball history. Bob Feller tossed a 1-0 victory at Comiskey Park against the White Sox in 1940 to put his name in the record books. It remains the only game in history where the batting average of every member of one team was the same before and after a single game (the White Sox started April 16, 1940, with averages of .000 and ended the day with the same averages).

Walter Johnson may have been the most consistent pitcher on Opening Day. Johnson got the nod in 14 games with the Washington Senators and threw a record 12 complete games and seven shutouts – finishing with a 9-5 Opening Day record. One of those games included a 15-inning win over Philadelphia in 1926.

Tom Seaver started the most Opening Days games with 16 and Robin Roberts started the most consecutive Opening Day games with 12. Don Drysdale holds a different kind of record for pitchers – he hit two homers on Opening Day.

A more celebrated home run hitter, Babe Ruth, tossed a three-hitter pitching for the Red Sox against the Yankees for the win in 1917. That season he won a career-high 24 games, led the American League in complete games with 35 and struck out 170. By 1919, he was almost a full-time outfielder and hit 29 homers. In 1920, he was starring for the Yankees.

Hank Aaron tied Ruth with his 714th career home run on Opening Day in 1974. The historic three-run shot came at Riverfront Stadium on April 4. Just four days later, Aaron hit No. 715 in Atlanta for sole possession of the most hallowed record in sports.

Frank Robinson has hit eight Opening Day homers, which ties him with Ken Griffey Jr. for the most followed by Willie Mays and Eddie Matthews, who each hit seven. Mays hit one of his homers in the opener in 1971 and went on to homer in the next three games for a major league record.

Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem even made history in 1907 by calling the only forfeit in Opening Day history. Snow on the field at the Polo Grounds in New York forced the grounds crew to shovel snow drifts along the edges of stadium seating. When rowdy fans got upset when their Giants fell behind, they began throwing snowballs onto the field. Once Klem was hit, he called the game for the Phillies.

Early Wynn once summed up Opening Day by saying, “"An opener is not like any other game. There's that little extra excitement, a faster beating of the heart. You have that anxiety to get off to a good start, for yourself and for the team. You know that when you win the first one, you can't lose 'em all."

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum