Classic Performances from Baseball’s Opening Day

From the roof of the Metrodome imploding due to a force of snow, to people in New York City getting shut-in by a wall of snow for days at a time, the Winter of 2010 was, for many, the Winter from Hell.

Fortunately, now that the Snowpocalypse is over, many have already made way for Spring—but for just as many people, Spring does not officially begin until the first pitch of the baseball season.

So, to help kick off the 2011 baseball season, and in celebration of Opening Day, what follows is a look-back at some of the classic, individual performances from Opening Days throughout baseball’s fabled history:

Walter Johnson, Opening Day 1926

In the 1920’s, Walter Johnson (aka The Big Train) was considered by many of the day to be the best pitcher in baseball; and on the season’s Opening Day in 1926, he may have proved it—by pitching fifteen shutout innings.  Sadly, the pitch-count for this pitching-masterpiece is unavailable, but Johnson’s Washington Senators won the game 1-0 in the bottom of the 15th inning.  Over fifteen innings against the Philadelphia Athletics, the Big Train allowed only 6 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 9 batters.  Over a 21-year career, Walter Johnson would pitch in 14 Openings Days, winning 9 of them (and 7 of those wins were shutouts).  Johnson also holds a unique place in Opening Day history, in that he caught the first-ever Presidential, ceremonial first pitch—catching the ceremonial pitch for the Washington Senators, from William Howard Taft, on Opening Day in 1910.  In his career, the Big Train would amass a record of 417 victories and 279 losses, over 3,500 strikeouts, and was ranked the fourth greatest baseball player ever by The Sporting News.

Ted Williams, Opening Day 1942

Ted Williams, Teddy Ballgame, the Splendid Splinter, the last man to bat over .400 in a season, has also been dubbed by many as the greatest hitter to ever play the game.  Ted Williams played 19 seasons in the Major Leagues, hit 521 homers, drove in over 1,800 runs, and ended every season except one with a batting average above .300.  On Opening Day in 1942, the Red Sox beat the Philadelphia Athletics 8-3 at Fenway, but Teddy Ballgame ruled the day with his appropriately superior performance at the plate.  Williams tallied 3 hits in 4 plate appearances, one of which was a homerun, and drove in 5 of the team’s 8 runs as the Sox cruised to victory.  Although his pro career spanned two decades, the Splendid Splinter’s batting average on Opening Day stands at an incredible .449.

Bob Feller, Opening Day 1940

Bullet Bob Feller played 18 seasons in the MLB, all of them with the Cleveland Indians, his #19 jersey has since been retired by the Indians, and Feller was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.  But it may have been Opening Day in 1940 that punched Rapid Robert’s ticket to greatness, as Feller became the only pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day.  Feller struck-out 8 Chicago White Sox batters and allowed only 5 base-runners in the Indians victory.  In his career, Bob Feller totaled a 62% winning percentage, a 3.25 career ERA, and just under 2,600 strikeouts.

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