Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is one of the most anticipated days of the year, with fans in cities all over the nation, and around the world, sitting on the edge of their seat in anticipation of spectacular exploits and amazing performances to come during the spanking new season. And no one delivered more excitement on Opening Day than the members of The 500 Home Run Club®.
Ted Williams Was Splendid On Opening Day
The “Splendid Splinter”
Ted Williams was considered by many to be the best pure hitter of all
time, and even more people consider him the best Opening Day hitter who
“Teddy Ballgame” dazzled crowds during 14 Opening Day
games, hitting .449 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. He delivered at
least one hit in every Opening Day game he appeared in. In addition to
three first-day dingers he tallied seven doubles, one triple, 14 RBIs
and nine runs scored.
While three 500 Home Run Club LLC members (Babe Ruth, Willie
Mays, and Eddie Mathews) each blasted seven Opening Day homers, no
batter ever hit as many home runs on Opening Day as their fellow club
member Frank Robinson. The Hall of Fame outfielder belted eight career
home runs on the first day of the season, three for Cincinnati, three
for Baltimore, one for California, and one for Cleveland.
Frank Robinson Was The King of Opening
addition to his record for most Opening Day homers, no other batter has
equaled Robinson's feat of hitting Opening Day homers for four different
teams. Robinson's final Opening Day homer, for Cleveland on April 8,
1975, came as a player/manager in his first at-bat in that role, as he
became the first African-American manager in major league history.
Mathews Hits Two in Opener – Twice
Eddie Mathews was one of
only two players have had two two-homer games in season openers – and he
achieved this feat on two separate occasions. Mathews hit two home
runs for Milwaukee when it opened the season at Cincinnati on April 13,
1954 and against Pittsburgh on April 15, 1958.
Jim Thome Comes
Up Big on Opening Day 2008
“Big” Jim Thome came up huge for the
White Sox on March 31, 2008, when he smashed two long balls off
Cleveland Indian’s Ace C.C. Sabathia, the reigning American League Cy
Young winner. Before Jim Thome's power surge, the last White Sox player
to hit two home runs on Opening Day was Sammy Sosa in 1991. (see 600
HRC Members Sizzled on Opening Day.)
Opening Day Quartet Mickey Mantle hit four opening day homers.
After hitting a game winning homer on Opening Day April 13, 1955,
Mickey started the following year with a bang by blasting two tremendous
Opening Day homers against the Washington Senators at Griffith Stadium
in Washington, DC. on April 17, 1956.
cheered Mickey from his seat behind the Senators dugout. Both homers are
searing line drives that go over 500 feet, each clearing the 31-foot
wall in centerfield. The first landed atop a house across from the park
and the second hit a clump of trees and rolled onto Fifth Street. Only
Babe Ruth had ever hit a ball into the trees outside Griffith Stadium.
10, 1962: Mickey hits his last Opening Day home run on April 10, 1962.
It flew some 425 feet into the right-centerfield bleachers at Yankee
Stadium and the Yankees nipped Baltimore 7-6.
Opening Day Walk-Off
On Opening Day 1974. with the Phillies
trailing 4-3 In the bottom of the ninth inning, 500 Home Run Club member
Mike Schmidt hit a walk-off home run to win the game against Tug McGraw
of the New York Mets. He only hit two more home runs in April, but
flirted with .300 all season, finishing at .282 with the first of three
consecutive home run championships.
Mel Ott Final Career Homer
Came on Opening Day The final home run of 500 HRC Club member
Mel Ott's career (511) came in an opening day game on April 6, 1946
against the Phillies at the Polo Grounds. Ott, the Giants'
player-manager, hit a first-inning homer in an 8-4 New York win. His 511
homers were a National League record for 20 years until Willie Mays
broke it in 1966.
Big Mac Attacks Opening Day
Home Run Club member Mark McGwire hit a grand slam against the Dodgers
to win the first game of the 1998 season, he became the first Cardinal
to hit a grand slam on opening day in the club's 107-year history.
McGwire then hit homers for four straight games as he began his attack
of the record books. He slugged 27 homers by the end of May and had 50
on August 20; to become the first player in baseball history to hit 50
in 3 straight years. He smashed all records as he hit an amazing 70 for
Yankees Honor Mantle and Maris at Home Opener, but
Jackson Steals the ShowIn what was supposed to be a day to honor
the return of 500 Home Run Club members Mickey Mantle and Roger
Maris—the M & M boys, the heroics of a rising Yankee star (and
eventual 500 Home Run Club member) Reggie Jackson and a certain candy
bar bearing his name – captured the headlines.
The good folks
at Standard Brands Confectionary came up with the idea of handing out
free REGGIE! Candy bars to fans attending the home opener of Reggie
Jackson’s second season with the Yankees. The candy itself wasn't half
bad; a 25-cent concoction of chocolate, peanuts and corn syrup, wrapped
in a square, orange little package with a picture of Jackson in
mid-swing on the front.
In the first inning, with two men on,
Jackson pumped a knuckleball that didn't knuckle over the fence in deep
right-center field. As soon as it was out of the park, while Reggie was
still making his way around the bases, the first bars began to come
down. They kept coming for the next five minutes; a rain of
orange-and-blue squares, covering the grass in right and left
fields—while the big crowd stood and roared, and chanted, ''Reggie!
Reggie!'' The grounds crew had it cleaned up in no time, and the Yanks
breezed to a 4-2.
Reggie, with his usual showman's eye, took it
all in stride. ''I figured they'd be coming out on the field,'' he said
after the game. ''I just appreciated it. It was a nice gesture.”