What Greatness Dost Await Us On Opening Day?

The start of the 2007 Major League Baseball season is only about twenty minutes away – I’m sure the Mets are chomping at the bit to get a piece of Chris Carpenter; a win tonight would TOTALLY make up for last year’s NLCS – which is kind of like those moments right before the start of a marathon: sure, people are fairly good-natured now, maybe going over a few last-minute strategies or sharing a laugh with another runner, but by the halfway mark, all these good moments will be little more than a memory and all anyone will really want will be a nap.

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But for now, it’s a good feeling. Winter is (pretty much) over; spring is here. The only thing that bothers me is that I have to go to work tomorrow. At least I’m on my way home by 2:10, so I can keep up with the full slate of day games (seven 1:05 EST starts) if I so choose. Still, most people aren’t so lucky; if you’re one of them, feel free to head on over to Baseball Truth and sign the petition to make Opening Day a national holiday.

Anyhow, with the first pitch almost here, it seemed like as good a time and place as any to bust out something I’ve been hiding on my hard drive for a few weeks now: a list of the best Opening Day moments in baseball history (several of them came from the list on the Hall of Fame web site). With any luck, we’ll see something amazing in the next twenty-four hours; until then, check out my list after the jump.

Bob Feller’s no-hitter (April 16, 1940)
The only Opening Day no-no in baseball history, Feller’s feat was impressive considering his age (21), time since he had last pitched (two days), the weather (35 degrees), and the final score (1-0).

George Bell’s three-homer game (April 4, 1988)
The first of a trio of players to homer three times on the first day of the season, all of Bell’s blasts came against Royals right-hander Bret Saberhagen, including a two-run drive in the fourth that gave Toronto a 3-2 lead.

Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes’ three-homer game (April 4, 1994)
Rhodes started the season off with a bang, slapping Dwight Gooden around with three solo clouts, but finished the year with only eight homeruns. Six of them came in April, including five in two games: Opening Day and April 28.

Dmitri Young’s three-homer game (April 4, 2005)
Three players have enjoyed three-homerun games on Opening Day; only Young victimized more than one pitcher, hitting his first two off Jose Lima and the third off Mike MacDougal. Also, pay close attention to the date: apparently, if you want to go deep three times on Opening Day, it has to take place on April 4.

Hank Aaron’s 714th career homeruns (April 4, 1974)
Speaking of April 4…Aaron went into 1974 knowing that his next homerun would be the biggest of his career. He didn’t waste any time getting it, taking Reds pitcher Jack Billingham deep for the historic three-run shot in the top of the first inning.

Dwight Evans’ homerun on the first pitch of Opening Day (April 7, 1986)
Every player wants to get the season off to a good start; it’s hard to do better than Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans, who homered on the first pitch of the year from Tigers pitcher Jack Morris.

Frank Robinson’s homerun in his first game as the major league’s first African-American manager (April 8, 1974)
Lots of homeruns on this list. Robinson’s might have been the coolest not only because of the historical meaning but because he was totally pissed off when he hit it. I’m gonna let Robinson tell it: “[Yankees pitcher] Doc Medich got me 0-2, then threw a bastard slider that I barely fouled off…I thought, ‘This sonofabitch is trying to strike me out on three pitches on my day. He’s trying to embarrass me.’” Next thing you know – boom goes the dynamite.

The Tigers stage a miracle ninth-inning comeback (April 25, 1901)
Trailing 13-4 entering the ninth inning, the Tigers came roaring back with ten runs in the bottom half of the inning to win, 14-13.

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