Since 1901, and the inception of the American League, fans of the Boston club have waited excitedly for the opening of the baseball season. Whether as the Red Sox or as the Americans, the devotees of the Boston nine have waited for the arrival of that special day in April (and twice in May) when either the Huntington Avenue Grounds or Fenway Park opened up for the season and the grand game began again. With the 117th Red Sox home opening day occurring yesterday, we look back at the previous 116 editions of Red Sox home openers for fun facts, diverse digits, and curious chestnuts.
Home Opening Day Record: 71-50
Extra Inning Games: 10 (Record: 2-8)
Double Headers: 5 (1903 / 1910 / 1940 / 1948 / 1953)
Longest Game: 13 innings (4/12/66 vs. Baltimore)
Earliest Opening Day: 4/1/2002 (vs. Toronto)
Latest Opening Day: 5/8/1901 (vs. Philadelphia)
Most Frequent Opponent: The New York Highlanders/Yankees – 28 times (29 if one includes the Baltimore Orioles of 1902)
Consecutive Wins: 9 (2005-2013)
Consecutive Losses: 5 (1924-28 and 1930-34)
Biggest Wins: 11 runs (2007 vs. Seattle (14-3))
Largest Loss: 7 runs (1968 vs. Detroit (2-9) and 2003 vs. Baltimore (6-13))
After an opening jaunt through Cleveland and Toronto, the 3-2 Red Sox came home to face the undefeated Baltimore Orioles for the Fenway Opener.
The Red Sox jumped on Baltimore starter Yovani Gallardo with four consecutive singles from Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ortiz, which scored two runs. Hanley Ramirez lifted a fly ball to center, and the Red Sox were up early 3-0.
The Orioles came back in the top of the third, as David Price got the first out of the inning before giving up a single to Caleb Joseph, a walk to Joey Rickard, and hitting Manny Machado to load the bases. Chris Davis would then single to score a pair of runs and Mark Trumbo would make the bases empty with a blast over the bullpens. All of a sudden, the O’s were up 5-3.
The Red Sox picked up two runs off of Gallardo in the fourth, with a walk by Brock Holt, a single by Blake Swihart, an automatic double by Jackie Bradley Jr., and a fielder’s choice by Mookie Betts; tying the game at five. The O’s picked up a run off of Matt Barnes in the top of the sixth with the Red Sox reciprocating off of T.J. McFarland in the bottom of the frame. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara kept the Orioles off the board in the seventh and eighth while Mychal Givens and Brad Brach did the same to Boston.
John Farrell brought new closer Craig Kimbrel out in the tie game in the ninth, where he got two outs, but walked two, before facing Chris Davis, who deposited a Kimbrel pitch into the centerfield bleachers for a Baltimore three-run lead. Trumbo struck out to end the inning, but the damage was done.
However, Mookie Betts led off the bottom of the ninth with a bomb over the Monster off Zach Britton to bring the deficit down to two, and after a Dustin Pedroia single and a Xander Bogaerts walk, the winning run came to the plate in the form of David Ortiz. Alas, the legend grounded into a double play and Hanley Ramirez struck out, and Baltimore had won its sixth consecutive to begin the 2016 season.
The First Home Game
While the first American League season began for the Boston Americans on April 26, 1901 when they traveled to Baltimore to meet up with the Orioles, Boston fans would have to wait nearly two weeks for the Americans to open up their home ballpark – the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. The last of the original eight American League clubs to begin their home slate, the Americans began the year with a three-city, ten-game road trip which took them to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington.
Coming into their home opener at 5-5 after the opening road slate, the Americans welcomed in Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, and greeted the home fanatics with a slaughter of the A’s. The Red Sox offense put up 12 runs to the Philadelphians four, winning their first home game by an eight-spot.
In 1912, the Red Sox were ready to debut their new grand palace of baseball, Fenway Park. After beginning their season on the road against New York and Philadelphia – accruing four wins against a single loss – Boston came home to debut their new park on Thursday, April 18.
Alas, rain pounded down on the Fens that day and canceled play. Friday was no better as the wet weather put another two postponements in the book. However, the weather cleared up enough for baseball to be played on Saturday, the 20th, and the Red Sox and the Highlanders delighted the crowd with a tight ballgame. The debut of Fenway saw the home side inch by the visitors from New York by the slim margin of a single run, 7-6.
The Losses Pile Up
In the 1920s and into the 1930s, the Boston Red Sox were the laughing stock of the American League. From 1925 through 1932, the Red Sox finished in the basement in seven of eight seasons, losing 90 or more games in all eight seasons while losing 100+ in five.
It is no surprise then that the Red Sox had a tough time winning their home openers during this stretch. Over the 11 seasons between 1924 and 1934, the Red Sox sandwiched a single win (a 4-2 victory over the 1929 Yankees) between two five-game losing streaks. But, there was at least some hope for victory from the Fenway faithful in these games. Half of the ten losses were decided by a single run with two losses coming with 11th inning runs for the opposition.
Breaking the Losing Streak
The Red Sox strode into Fenway Park with a 5-1 record as they opened up Fenway Park for the 1935 season. Their opposition, the New York Yankees with a 3-3 early season record. However, the starting pitching matchup was in the Bombers advantage, as they had Red Ruffing on the bump while the Sox brought out Fritz Ostermueller.
The Yankees brought home the first run in the second inning, as Ruffing doubled home Frankie Crosetti who scored all the way from first. However, the heavy hitting may have tweaked Red, as he had to leave the game with one out in the bottom of the third after facing the minimum seven men.
The Bostonians offense quickly awoke against reliever Johnny Murphy, scoring two quick runs on a walk and three singles in the third inning. The offense would score three more the next inning on a pair of walks, a pair of errors, a double, and a single.
The Yankees would chase Ostermueller in the top of the fifth, scoring two runs on a pair of singles and a trio of walks, but those runs would be all the New Yorkers would get as reliever Hank Johnson shut down the Bronx men over the final four innings.
The Red Sox would score twice more against Murphy. In the fifth, a double placed Rick Ferrell on second where he would score on a comebacker to Murphy by Moose Salters that whipped passed Lou Gehrig at first. In the sixth, a walk and a single put Max Bishop on third with a single out, and a long fly by Carl Reynolds brought Bishop in for the final run in a 7-3 victory.
An Opening Day Split
After beginning the 1940 season with a pair of wins against the Senators in Washington, The Red Sox hurried back to Boston for an Opening Day double dip on Friday, April 19, against the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Athletics started the scoring in the first game in the second inning with a pair of runs against Jack Wilson – as a Joe Cronin error and a single led to the first run, and three successive walks led to the second. The Red Sox would get one run back as Jimmie Foxx led off the fourth with a mighty blast off of A’s starter George Caster.
The Red Sox would score a pair of unearned runs in the fifth, with a sacrifice fly by Foxx being the only batted ball to leave the infield. The A’s would get both runs back in the top of the sixth off a tiring Wilson, who gave four singles, a walk, and a sacrifice fly before being lifted for Joe Heving. The Red Sox would regain the lead in the bottom of the frame as Dom Dimaggio doubled home Heving and Jim Tabor with two outs.
The score stood at 5-4 until the bottom of the eighth when Doc Cramer came up with two outs and the bases jammed, knocking in Bobby Doerr and Johnny Peacock to up the advantage to three. Faced with a three-run deficit with one turn at-bat, the A’s quickly pecked away. Wally Moses walked and, after a force out, Bob Johnson doubled. With runners on second and third, Dick Siebert brought the advantage back to one run with a single. Heving, however, was having no more. He induced Earle Brucker into a 6-4-3 double play to end the first game with the Red Sox third consecutive Opening Day victory.
In the second game, the A’s struck early off of Emerson Dickman. A walk, a single, and a comebacker to Dickman led to a run, and a throwing error by Bobby Doerr on the attempted double play led to a runner on second. Dickman quickly allowed that runner to score, serving up a pitch to Bob Johnson which was deposited over the outfield walls. That would be all the Philadelphians got off of Dickman – who settled down to go seven innings – and Herb Hash – who pitched the final two innings without incident, but it was all they would need.
The Red Sox were kept off-balance in game two by Johnny Babich, who pitched a complete game for the Athletics. The only blemish came in the fourth, when Joe Cronin tripled with one out, and scored on a Bobby Doerr grounder to short.
The ‘48 Double Defeat
The 1948 season will always be remembered by Red Sox fans for the inexplicable decision by manager Joe McCarthy to throw Denny Galehouse in game #155, a one-game, winner goes to the World Series matchup against the Cleveland Indians. However, any additional win by Boston during the regular season could have avoided the fate of the early October game. Two of the could-be-wins came on Opening Day.
The 1948 season began on Monday, April 19 with a scheduled doubleheader at Fenway Park against the Athletics of Philadelphia. In front of 22,000 fanatics, the A’s and Sox put together a classic opener.
The Red Sox were the first to put runs on the board, getting to Philadelphia starter Phil Marchildon for back-to-back-to-back home runs from Stan Spence, Vern Stephens, and Bobby Doerr to begin the second inning. However, Marchildon would settle down from the whiplash, setting down the Red Sox in inning after inning. The A’s would scratch for one run in the fifth when Sam Chapman – who had singled and stolen second to begin the inning – was doubled home by Pete Suder. In the eighth inning, Connie Mack’s men would tie the game at three, with a trio of doubles off of Red Sox starter Joe Dobson.
The game would remain tied into the 11th, with both starters continuing to hurl. The A’s would break the tie in the top of the frame, when Eddie Joost singled in Buddy Rosar with one out and end the day of Dobson. Don White would loft a sacrifice fly against reliever Earl Johnson to place the A’s up by two.
With starter Marchildon still in the game in the bottom of the 11th, Vern Stephens started the inning with a single. However, fly ball outs by Doerr and Sam Mele gave Boston only one out to play with. But, a fly ball to Barney McCoskey for the final out was muffed, putting runners on first and third. Wally Moses followed with a grounder to second baseman Pete Suder, but, that too was misplayed. Stephens would score from third to put the Red Sox down by one. Pinch runner Billy Hitchcock – off at the crack of the bat – attempted to tie the score on the infield error, but was put out at the plate to end the game with the Athletics winning 5-4.
In game two, Denny Galehouse faced off against Philadelphia’s Lou Brissie. Both teams would score single runs in the third – with Galehouse knocking in Sam Mele with a single – but the A’s would explode for three runs in the fourth. The inning began well for Galehouse with a flyball out, and then a grounder to Vern Stephens at short, but Stephens misplayed the ball for an error. Galehouse then gave up a double to Buddy Rosar and a walk to Pete Suder to load the bases. Brissie would help his own cause with a single to plate two and then Eddie Joost lifted a fly ball for the second out of the inning, scoring the A’s final run of the inning (and game).
Boston would score a second run in the sixth as Ted Williams knocked home Dom Dimaggio – who had doubled – with a two-out single. But, that was all the Bostonians were able to muster against Brissie, who gave up only four hits and a single walk in his complete game while striking out seven BoSox.
1953 Patriots’ Day
With the National League Braves moving to Milwaukee to begin the 1953 season, the tradition of baseball on Patriots’ Day belonged to the Red Sox alone. While the League would not schedule the Red Sox to be at home every Patriots’ Day until the 1959 season, they were able to squeeze the traditional doubleheader into the 1953 schedule.
However, it was a quirky fix. The Red Sox began the 1953 season with three games on the road, two against the Philadelphia Athletics and one against the Washington Senators. The Senators and Sox boarded the train to Boston after their Sunday afternoon tilt at Griffith Stadium. After the Patriots’ Day festivities on April 20, the Red Sox would board a train for the Bronx, where they met the Yankees on Tuesday; the Senators would ride the rails back to Washington to face the Athletics on the 21st.
The strange one-day opener was not a blockbuster for the gates, with only 5,300 fans in attendance for the first game. But Dick Gernert gave the home team the lead in the bottom of the second with a lead-off homerun over the Monster off of the Sen’s Connie Marrero. Milt Bolling’s and Billy Goodman’s doubles led to a pair of runs in the third inning, as a wild pitch sent one run in and a Jim Piersall single led to the second and a 3-0 lead. That was all the runs the pitching staff of Mel Parnell – who gave up two runs over 7 ⅔ innings – Ellis Kinder, and Bill Kennedy would need in a 4-2 victory.
The second game saw the arrival of a couple thousand stragglers, who watched a tight game through the first six and a half innings, with the home side clinging to a 4-2 lead. However, against the tiring Bob Porterfield, the first five Sox reached base (Double, single, fielder’s choice/error, walk, double) with four scoring. Sandy Consuegra was no relief for the Washingtonians, as he allowed two more singles and two more doubles to the first four batters he faced, scoring three more runs for the Sox. A tight two-run game had quickly become a laugher with Boston up by nine runs, 11-2. Ken Holcombe would give two runs back to Washington in the eighth, but Boston would go on to sweep the double dip with an 11-4 victory.
A Pause in Frequency
The Reader may be noticing a pattern in the opposition in the early years… and it is not your imagination. Between 1901 and 1961, the Red Sox faced opposition from only four franchises on their home opening day: The Baltimore Orioles (the originals of 1901-02 and the former St. Louis Browns in 1955-57), The New York Highlanders/Yankees (whose story begins with the 1901-02 Orioles), the Washington Senators (who would relocate to Minnesota), and the Philadelphia/Kansas City Athletics.
The first time the Red Sox faced a team other than the aforementioned four franchises was in 1962, when the Cleveland Indians traveled to Fenway Park and vanquished the home squad, 4-0.
Click here for part 1 of the Red Sox Opening Day series, and check back tomorrow for part 3.