Top Moments in Yankees Opening Day history

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Anthony McCarron
·5 min read
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Gerrit Cole pitches on Opening Night
Gerrit Cole pitches on Opening Night

With all the lore and big moments in Yankee annals, you know they’ve got some Opening Day highlights. For instance, maybe you heard about the time a big Yankee star blasted the first homer ever in the ballpark that was (nick)named for him?

The Yankees, who are working on a three-game opener winning streak, start the 2021 season on Thursday, April 1 when the Blue Jays visit Yankee Stadium. To pregame for that anticipated event, we’re looking back at some of the top moments in Yankees Opening Day history.

Some go so far back that the team wasn’t even called the Yankees yet. But some are so recent you can still hear the echo of a Giancarlo Stanton home run landing at Nationals Park.

What’ll we add to this list this time next year?

April 14, 1908

Stump your friends: What pitcher threw 12 shutout innings for the Highlanders (the Yankees’ former name) on this Opening Day? Slow Joe Doyle, that’s who! He allowed only six hits in a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics. You’re welcome.

April 18, 1923

What, you thought Wally Schang was going to hit the first home run at brand-new Yankee Stadium? In the first-ever game at this baseball palace, aka The House That Ruth Built, Babe Ruth smashed a three-run shot in the third inning, delighting a crowd listed at 74,200 strong. More fans milled around outside, unable to get in to see the show. Bet they were happy, too.

April 12, 1932

Ruth was in his age-37 season, but still lethal. He was 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBI in the Yankees’ 12-6 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics. Samuel Byrd homered twice and Lou Gehrig homered and tripled in the rout.

April 17, 1951

There was a lot going on when 44,860 folks crowded into Yankee Stadium for this Opening Day. Mickey Mantle, wearing the No. 6 jersey he was initially assigned, was starting his career. Joe DiMaggio was playing in his final opener. A new public address announcer, who’d stick around for quite awhile, was making his debut. The first batter that Bob Sheppard announced? Joe’s brother, Dom DiMaggio, the center fielder for the Boston Red Sox. In the only opener in which Joe DiMaggio and Mantle played in the same outfield, both went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Vic Raschi threw a six-hit shutout in the Yanks’ 5-0 victory.

April 13, 1955

Bob Cerv and Mantle had four RBI apiece as the Yankees hammered the Washington Senators, 19-1, in front of 11,251 at Yankee Stadium.

April 19, 1960

Please allow Roger Maris to introduce himself: In a remarkable debut, Maris, acquired in a big trade with the Kansas City Athletics, batted leadoff and went 4-for-5 with two homers, a double and four RBI. Quite a kickoff event for his first two seasons in pinstripes, which brought consecutive AL MVP Awards and an assault on the single-season home run record.

April 6, 1973

This 15-5 loss at Fenway Park was mostly forgettable, except for this: In the top of the first inning, Ron Blomberg of the Yankees became the first designated hitter in baseball history when he drew a bases-loaded walk against Luis Tiant.

April 6, 1974

Yankee Stadium was being refurbished, so the Yankees played at Shea Stadium. Mel Stottlemyre threw a complete game, allowing one run and seven hits, to beat Gaylord Perry and the Indians, 6-1, in front of 20,744 fans.

April 9, 1981

The Yankees kicked off a World Series season with an opener made memorable by Bobby Murcer’s pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning.

April 2, 1996

Everyone knew Derek Jeter was an uber-prospect, but doubt swirled over whether he was ready, mainly in the owner’s box. This was the Steinbrenner Era Yankees, after all, and at one point The Boss wanted to swap a skinny pitcher named Mariano Rivera to Seattle for shortstop insurance in the form of Felix Fermin. Luckily, no one listened to that ranting. Jeter swatted away all the nonsense with a star turn on Opening Day, homering off Dennis Martinez and making a great catch to steal a hit from Omar Vizquel in a 7-1 victory in Cleveland. Oh, and it was Joe Torre’s first game as Yankee manager, too. It all worked out OK after that, didn’t it?

April 3, 2006

In a 15-2 blowout in Oakland, Álex Rodríguez was 3-for-5 with a homer and five RBI and Hideki Matsui was 4-for-4 with a home run and four RBI.

April 1, 2008

In a hello-goodbye kind of day, Joe Girardi made his debut as Yankee manager in the final opener at the old Yankee Stadium. Chien-Ming Wang made it a happy occasion, allowing only two runs in seven innings to beat Hall of Famer Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays, 3-2.

March 29, 2018

Giancarlo Stanton turned his first game as a Yankee into a power show, blasting two homers and a double in a 6-1 victory in Toronto.

July 23, 2020

The Cole Train and the Hype Train ran on parallel tracks last year as big-money free agent Gerrit Cole made his first start as a Yankee amid all the fanfare over his $324-million contract and his vapor-trail fastball. He delivered. Cole allowed one hit in a five-inning complete game in a 4-1 victory over the Nationals in Washington, D.C. Stanton homered in this one, too, a mammoth 459-foot blast off Nats ace Max Scherzer.