Opening Day is always one of the best days of the year. These Opening Days were the best of the best.
Here are a dozen of the greatest Opening Day games in MLB history.
April 2, 2017: D-backs 6, Giants 5
This game looked like it would be a pitchers’ duel, pitting two aces against each other in Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke. At first, Bumgarner was the one who stole the show. He dazzled on the mound, racking up 11 strikeouts in seven innings and outlasting his counterpart Greinke. And Bumgarner had a historic day at the plate — he slugged two home runs, becoming the first pitcher ever to homer twice on Opening Day.
But the D-backs got the last laugh. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, they strung together a comeback against Giants closer Mark Melancon. With two outs and nobody on, Jeff Mathis doubled, and Daniel Descalso followed with the game-tying single. Two batters later, Chris Owings came through with a walk-off base hit.
April 6, 2012: Rays 7, Yankees 6
The Rays’ 2012 opener against the Yankees at The Trop wasn’t just a matchup of AL East foes. It was the clubs’ first meeting after their legendary Game 162 the previous season. From the last game of one season to the first game of the next, the two teams kept up the drama. Opening Day 2012 started with a first-inning grand slam by Carlos Pena off CC Sabathia, but the Yanks quickly came back to take the lead in the third on a three-run shot by Raul Ibanez off James Shields.
Down 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth, Tampa Bay faced Mariano Rivera … and came out on top. Ben Zobrist tied the score with an RBI triple off the Hall of Fame closer, and after the Yankees intentionally walked the bases loaded, the game fell on Pena’s shoulders. He delivered a long walk-off single to give the Rays the 7-6 win.
March 31, 2011: Dodgers 2, Giants 1
On Opening Day 2011, Clayton Kershaw was 23 years old, not yet an All-Star or Cy Young Award winner and stepping into a marquee matchup in his first Opening Day start. The Dodgers were facing the rival Giants, who had just won their first of three World Series in a five-year span, and opposite Kershaw was Tim Lincecum, who had already won two NL Cy Young Awards and had won both of his 2010 World Series starts.
Kershaw and Lincecum put on a show. Lincecum allowed just one run in seven innings, and it was unearned, scoring on a botched pickoff play. But Kershaw was untouchable. He spun seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball and struck out nine, outdueling Lincecum for the win. He went on to win pitching’s Triple Crown and take home his first Cy Young Award that year.
April 4, 2005: Rockies 12, Padres 10
There was no lack of offense or lead changes in this Opening Day affair at Coors Field in 2005. The Rockies jumped out to a 7-3 lead through five innings, but the Padres scored five in the top of the sixth to take an 8-7 lead. Colorado quickly tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on a base hit by Todd Helton, only for San Diego to retake the lead on a pair of solo homers in the top of the seventh. By that time, the two teams had combined for seven home runs in the game — and there were more fireworks to come.
The Padres held onto a 10-8 lead entering the bottom of the ninth, when they sent in Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman to try for the save. Hoffman got two outs, but the Rockies would not go down. Cory Sullivan pulled them to within one with an RBI double, and the next batter, Aaron Miles, tied the score with a single. Finally, Clint Barmes stepped in against Hoffman and launched a walk-off two-run homer to give Colorado a crazy win.
March 31, 1996: Mariners 3, White Sox 2
The Mariners’ season opener at the Kingdome in 1996 started with the dominant Randy Johnson on the mound. But the Big Unit was rudely greeted by the Big Hurt. Frank Thomas crushed a two-run homer off Johnson in the first inning to give Chicago an early lead.
Johnson dominated the rest of the way. Those runs were the only ones he allowed in seven innings, and he struck out 14, one of two career Opening Day starts in which he had 14 K’s (tied for second-most by any pitcher in a season opener). But the Mariners still trailed by a run entering the bottom of the ninth, until Edgar Martinez came through with the game-tying double. The score stayed tied until the 12th, when a 20-year-old Alex Rodriguez — just starting his first full Major League season — lined a walk-off single to give Seattle the win.
April 8, 1975: Mets 2, Phillies 1
This was a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel between two of the best to ever take the mound: Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. Tom Terrific made more Opening Day starts than any other pitcher in MLB history, 16, and this one at Shea Stadium was his best of the bunch. Seaver held the Phillies to one run in nine innings and struck out nine. But Carlton, who made 14 Opening Day starts himself, was just as good until the bottom of the ninth. The Mets finally got to him for the winning run, with Joe Torre the man who knocked it in.
This wasn’t the first time Seaver and Carlton squared off on Opening Day, and it wouldn’t be the last. The two Hall of Famers faced each other five times in season openers, and they never disappointed. In those five Opening Day games — in 1973, ’74, ’75, ’81 and ’83 — Seaver had a 1.19 ERA and Carlton had a 2.91 ERA. Seaver’s team won four of the five games.
April 4, 1974: Reds 7, Braves 6
This game was most memorable as the setting for a historic moment: Hank Aaron’s 714th career home run. Aaron entered the year just one shy of Babe Ruth’s all-time record, and he didn’t make baseball fans wait long. Hammerin’ Hank tied the Bambino with a first-inning drive at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium.
The rest of the game was exciting, too. The Braves held a 6-2 lead entering the eighth inning, but the Big Red Machine suddenly churned into high gear. Hall of Famer Tony Perez cracked a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Reds within a run, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Pete Rose roped a double to center field to tie the game. In the bottom of the 11th, Charlie Hustle doubled again, then scampered home with the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
April 15, 1947: Dodgers 5, Braves 3
Opening Day for the Dodgers in 1947 was one of the most important games in the history of the sport — it was the day Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut, breaking baseball’s color barrier.
With 26,623 on hand at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, many wearing “I’m for Jackie Robinson” buttons, the Dodgers rallied from a run down in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring three times and holding on for a 5-3 win. Robinson scored the go-ahead run.
April 16, 1940: Indians 1, White Sox 0
The fans in attendance at Comiskey Park on Opening Day in 1940 got to witness an historic game: The only no-hitter in MLB Opening Day history, thrown by Hall of Famer Bob Feller. He was sensational on an appropriately blustery day in the Windy City. Feller was just 21 years old at the time, and this was the first of three no-hitters he would throw in his career.
The game’s only run came on Rollie Hemsley’s two-out RBI triple in the fourth inning. With the tying run aboard in the ninth inning, Indians second baseman Ray Mack made a lunging stop for the game’s final out.
April 13, 1926: Senators 1, Athletics 0 (15 innings)
Walter Johnson wasn’t just one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, he was also one of the best ever on Opening Day. The Big Train started 14 season openers for Washington in his Hall of Fame career, and in those games, he tossed a Major League-record seven shutouts. His performance on Opening Day 1926, though, was simply mind-boggling.
At age 38, Johnson held the Athletics scoreless for 15 innings, allowing only six hits to a lineup that included Hall of Famers Al Simmons and Mickey Cochrane. But he was matched by Philadelphia starter Eddie Rommel, who kept the game scoreless into the 15th himself. Finally, in the bottom of the 15th, Hall of Famer Bucky Harris singled for Washington, Goose Goslin — another Hall of Famer — doubled him to third, and Joe Harris singled him home for the winning run.
April 14, 1925: Indians 21, Browns 14
The Indians became the highest-scoring team in an Opening Day game back in 1925. That April 14, the Tribe opened the season with a 21-14 win over the St. Louis Browns, and boy was the game wild. The score doesn’t even tell the tale.
This was no blowout win for Cleveland. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Indians jump out to a 7-1 lead, only for the Browns to rally to tie the game at 9 by the fifth inning. St. Louis scored four more times in the sixth to take a 13-9 lead … and then the fun really began. The Indians scored 12 runs in the top of the eighth, with the go-ahead blow a three-run homer off the bat of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker. But maybe the strangest part of the game? The Browns committed a whopping 10 errors — tying the Major League record for a single game — including five in the 12-run eighth. Eleven of those runs were unearned.
April 18, 1923: Yankees 4, Red Sox 1
In 1923, the Yankees won the first of their Major League-record 27 World Series championships. But the season was special from the beginning: Opening Day for the Yanks was also the grand opening of the original Yankee Stadium. The ballpark, of course, became known as “The House That Ruth Built.” And before the first game ever played there, the Babe said, “I’d give a year of my life if I could hit a home run on Opening Day of this great new park.”
The Yankees legend delivered. Ruth christened Yankee Stadium with a three-run homer that made the difference in the Bronx Bombers’ 4-1 win over the Red Sox.