Since the inception of the American League in 1901, fans of the Boston club have waited excitedly for the opening of the baseball season. The devotees of the Boston nine (whether called the Americans or the Red Sox) have waited for the arrival of that special day in April (and very occasionally March) when the diamond was dusted off and the grand game began again. With the 117th Red Sox Opening Day upon us, we continue to look back at the previous 116 editions of Red Sox opening day for fun facts, diverse digits, and curious chestnuts.
Opening Day Record: 57-61-1
Home Openers: 40
Most Consecutive Home Openers: Two! (1902-03 / 1913-14 / 1941-42 / 1947-48 / 1961-62 / 1966-67 / 1994-95 / 2009-10)
Road Openers: 76
Most Consecutive Road Openers: 7 (1927-33)
Second Most Consecutive Road Openers: 6 (1996-2001 / 2003-08 / 2011-16)
Extra Inning Games: 12 (Record: 3-9)
Double Headers: 3 (1903 / 1948 / 1982)
Longest Game: 13 innings (4/12/66 vs. Baltimore)
Earliest Opening Day: 3/25/08 (@ Oakland in Tokyo)
Earliest Opening Day (Non-Japan): 3/31 (2003 @ Tampa Bay and 2014 @ Baltimore)
Latest Opening Day: 4/26 (1901 @ Baltimore and 1995 vs. Minnesota)
Most Frequent Opponent: The New York Highlanders/Yankees – 29 times (31 if one includes the Baltimore Orioles of 1901 and 1902)
Most Consecutive Wins: 6 (1916-21)
Most Consecutive Losses: 6 (1922-27 and 1958-63)
Biggest Wins: 10 runs (1919 @ Yankees (10-0) / 1973 vs. Yankees (15-5))
Largest Loss: 9 runs (1960 @ Senators (1-10))
The Great Shellacking
The 1973 opener began ominously at Fenway Park, with the New York Yankees opening up on Luis Tiant for three runs in the first – thanks to a pair of doubles which bookended a trio of walks. However, Carl Yastrzemski would get one back in the bottom of the first with a roundtripper off Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre. In the bottom of the second, the Red Sox would pick up four more runs: Carlton Fisk tied the game at three with his first bomb of the season, and the Sox stole two more runs after a throwing error by Graig Nettles.
The Yankees would gain a run back in the top of the third as Nettles redeemed himself for the error with a home run off of El Tiante. But Stottlemyer continued his struggles in the bottom of the inning, with the Red Sox combining three singles and a Fisk double to score three runs. Lindy McDaniels fared no better against the Red Sox thunder in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases on a single (by Yaz), a double (by Reggie Smith), and an intentional walk (to Rico Petrocelli) – all of which culminated in four runs as Fisk pounded his second home run of the day out of Fenway Park. The Red Sox led 12-4 after four, and the rout was on.
Matty Alou would score the fifth Yankees run in the top of the fifth after doubling to begin the inning, but that would be it for the Bronx Bombers. Tenacious Tiant kept the basepaths fairly clean the rest of the way as he persevered to a complete game victory. However, the Red Sox offense had one more crooked inning in them.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox loaded the bases against Casey Cox with a pair of singles and a hit by pitch. The three runners would then score on an error, a single, and a sacrifice fly. The Red Sox had tripled up on the Yankees, winning the opener 15-5.
The Red Sox offense pounded out 20 hits, with Doug Griffin going 4-for-5, Rico Petrocelli going 3-for-4, Tommy Harper going 3-for-6, and Carlton Fisk going 3-for-4 with two bombs, a double, four runs scored, and six runs batted in.
A Grand Loss
The 1980 season for the Red Sox began in Milwaukee’s County Stadium against the Brewers. In a back and forth battle, the Red Sox scored the first three runs in the second and third innings, only to have the Brew Crew score three against starter Dennis Eckersley. Bud Selig’s men would put single runs on the board in the fifth and sixth innings, bringing the score to 5-3. And so it remained into the top of the ninth inning. However, Carl Yastrzemski led off and hammered a pitch from tiring starter Jim Slaton out of the park. After Tony Perez grounded out, Butch Hobson tied the game with the second solo shot of the frame, and ended Slaton’s day on a down note. Former Sox pitcher Reggie Cleveland came in from the pen to end the inning, getting Dwight Evans to ground out and Dave Rader to fly out.
However, the dejection of Brewers fans was only to last for a few moments. Sox manager Don Zimmer brought in Dick Drago out of the bullpen, and Milwaukee quickly went to work on winning the game. Paul Molitor singled to right field to start the bottom of the ninth and was quickly sacrificed to second by Cecil Cooper. After Dick Davis fouled out, Zimmer decided to put Ben Ogilvie on first intentionally to face Gorman Thomas. Alas, Drago lost his command and walked Thomas, loading the bases with two outs. Facing Sixto Lezcano with defeat or extra innings on the line, Drago lost the battle and the game as Lezcano lined a shot over the right field wall, giving 53,000 Milwaukee fans a Grand Walk-off to begin the season. Milwaukee would come back the next day still on a high, and wallop the shell-shocked Bostonians 18-1.
The Final Doubleheader
The 1982 season was originally set to begin on Tuesday, April 6, in Chicago against the White Sox. Unfortunately, low temperatures postponed the scheduled game on Tuesday, and snow postponed the second scheduled game on Thursday. So, the Red Sox travelled to Baltimore to begin their season, where snow postponed their season opener against the Orioles on Friday the 9th as well. With weather wreaking havoc on a schedule less than a week old, the two teams – the Red Sox, who had yet to begin the season, and Baltimore, who had played only a single game – decided to test the weather and schedule a pair on Saturday, the 10th.
The first game was a classic early-season tussle of pitching aces, with Dennis Eckersley for Boston and Scott McGregor of Baltimore each throwing complete game six-hitters. However, Eckersley scattered his six singles, allowing only Eddie Murray to reach third base (in the seventh inning) and no one to touch home plate. McGregor had a single rough inning (the third), where a pair of doubles (by Gary Allenson and Dwight Evans) – sandwiched around a fielder’s choice out at third – led to the only two runs of the game when Jim Rice singled to left-center field.
The second game saw the Red Sox score two quick runs against Dennis Martinez as Rick Miller walked to open the game and came all the way home on Carl Yastrzemski’s two-out tater. The Orioles would get one run back in the bottom of the inning on a pair of doubles, and would take the lead for good in the third as Bob Ojeda allowed a walk and two consecutive singles to tie the game, before a forceout at second brought the second run of the inning home. Baltimore would score single runs against the reliever Bob Stanley in the fifth and the sixth, while the Red Sox would score a run in the eighth on a passed ball to make the final 5-3, Orioles.
The Late Start
The 1994 season ended with a whimper as the players decided to walk off the job after games on August 11 due to a lack of progress on a new collective bargaining agreement. The tense battle between ownership and players did not come to a quick resolution, with the owners canceling the remainder of the 1994 season – including playoffs and World Series – on September 14. Negotiations for a new contract remained ongoing until the courts weighed in, with the strike officially ending on April 2, one day before the season was to begin with replacement players. The season start would be delayed an additional three weeks as the regular players got ready.
The late start would see the Red Sox pitted against the Minnesota Twins in a one-game series on Wednesday, April 26 at the Fens. The Red Sox would put the first run on the board against Scott Erickson in the second inning, as Mark Whiten led off the inning with an infield single, was moved to second via a passed ball, and would score on a Mike Greenwell line drive single to center. The Red Sox would score again in the fifth, as Luis Alicea singled with one out, went to second on a groundout, and, after a walk to Jose Canseco, scored on a loud single by Mo Vaughn to deep right-center.
The Red Sox would explode for seven runs with two outs in the sixth inning against the not-ready-for-prime-time pen of the Minnesotans. Carl Willis would face six Sox, and only get Tim Naehring out on a sacrifice bunt. Vince Horsman faced three batters, giving up a double to Vaughn, a single to Greenwell, and walking Whiten. Mo Sanford would get the final out of the inning, but not before hitting Mike McFarlane and allowing a single to Naehring.
Meanwhile, the Sox got five strong innings from starter Aaron Sele – who walked the first batter of the game and gave up a single to Kevin Maas in the fifth – and then scoreless frames from Frankie Rodriguez, Alejandro Pena, Jeff Pierce, and Ken Ryan to complete a 9-0 whitewash.
A Classic Loss (Before a Classic No-Hitter)
The Red Sox began the 2001 season on the road for the sixth consecutive season, but with a four-game Opening Day win streak on the line. And, the Opening Day pitching matchup at Camden Yards in Baltimore could not have been much better: Pedro Martinez (coming off a 1.74 ERA and second consecutive Cy Young Award in 2000) and Pat Hentgen (Cy Young winner in 1996).
Hentgen went 8 ⅔ innings, scattering six hits. However, one of those hits was a home run by Trot Nixon in the fourth, putting the Sox ahead 1-0. Pedro scattered six hits in his seven innings on the mound, but a double by Jerry Hairston to lead off the sixth and a Mike Bordick single with one out, gave the Orioles the run they needed to tie the game.
Rod Beck would follow Martinez in the eighth and ninth, allowing only a walk in his two innings of work. The Red Sox nearly scored a second run in a wild ninth inning, but with Chris Stynes at third and Jason Varitek at second with one out after a wild pitch by Hentgen, Darren Lewis grounded to shortstop Mike Bordick, who threw home to cut Stynes down. It would be the last pitch by Hentgen; he gave way to Buddy Groom, who got the final out in the ninth as well as the three outs in the 10th.
Derek Lowe would come into the game in the bottom of the 10th, and mow down Cal Ripken, Melvin Mora, and Brook Fordyce in quick order. In the top of the 11th, Baltimore sent Ryan Kohlmeier to the mound, where he quickly induced two fly ball outs before Trot Nixon drew a walk and Jason Varitek slapped a single to left. However, the Red Sox were let down by Darren Lewis once again – this time with a strikeout to end the inning. Lowe was less successful in the bottom of the 11th, giving up a double to Jerry Hairston, who was quickly driven home on a single by Brady Anderson, giving the Camden crowd a walk-off victory.
Two days later, Hideo Nomo made his Red Sox debut a special one, giving up three walks – two to Delino DeShields and one to Chris Richard – and zero hits in a 110-pitch performance and notching the second no-hitter of his career. There was one other Red Sox star that night, first baseman Brian Daubach, who accounted for all three Red Sox runs with a two-run bomb in the second inning and a solo shot in the eighth inning, both off Sidney Ponson.
To Foreign Lands
While the Red Sox’ trip to Tokyo to begin the 2008 season against the Oakland Athletics was not their first trip outside the United States to begin the season – Boston began the 1991 season with a 6-2 defeat of the Toronto Blue Jays at SkyDome – it was the first one outside of the North American continent and on a non-MLB field. It was also the Red Sox’ earliest start to begin a season, as they began their quest for back-to-back world championships on March 25.
The A’s would score twice in the bottom of the first against Daisuke Matsuzaka, as Mark Ellis homered with one out and then Dice-K loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit by pitch – with an inconsequential wild pitch in between – before a ground out by Bobby Crosby scored the second run. Matsuzaka would “settle down,” giving up a single and three more walks over the next two frames before erasing the final seven Oaklanders he faced in his five-inning stint.
The Red Sox would not score until the sixth inning, tying the game on a Manny Ramirez one-out double which scored Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. Ramirez would score on a two-out line drive single by Brandon Moss, putting the Sox ahead and Matsuzaka in line for the win. However, Kyle Snyder would quickly take that hope away from the Japanese crowd, as a lead-off single by Crosby was followed by a jack by Jack Hannahan, placing the A’s back up 4-3. Alan Embree and Keith Foulke would keep the Red Sox at bay in the seventh and eighth, leaving Oakland one run up entering the ninth, in which the Red Sox faced closer Huston Street.
Street would get Mike Lowell to fly out to begin the top of the frame, before facing Brandon Moss, who drove a dinger to deep right field to tie the game. Street would retire Jason Varitek and Jacoby Ellsbury to end the inning, but the classic at the Tokyo Dome would go to extras as Hideki Okajima would get the A’s out in the ninth, sandwiching a walk to Mike Sweeney between his three outs.
Street would continue on in the 10th for the A’s, and he quickly gave up a single to Julio Lugo to begin the frame. Lugo was sacrificed to second but remained there as Youkilis struck out. Street was ordered to walk David Ortiz – putting the force in play at second base – but Manny Ramirez laughed at the maneuver, doubling to deep center as Lugo and Ortiz both trotted home.
With the Red Sox up two and closer Jonathan Papelbon coming in to clean up, the Red Sox were seemingly assured victory. But Papelbon quickly got himself in trouble with a walk to Daric Barton before striking out Jack Cust for the first out of the inning. Emil Brown then doubled in Barton, but helped the struggling Papelbon out by attempting to stretch the double into a triple. Papelbon continued his struggles with two outs, giving up singles to Crosby and Hannahan before finally getting the final out as Kurt Suzuki grounded out to first, with Papelbon himself getting the putout on the toss from Youkilis. Boston won a classic matchup 6-5 in 10 innings, and Okajima picked up the win in his home country.
With the Houston Astros joining the American League in 2013, the possibility of opening the season against opposition from the opposite league went from nil to an absolute certainty for some teams each season. So it was for the Red Sox in 2015, who began their season in Philadelphia for the first time since 1954 (when they were vanquished by the Athletics 6-4).
The Philadelphia Phillies and Citizen’s Bank Park were the hosts for the Red Sox return to the city of Brotherly Love, and the Phillies certainly showed their guests a good time. The Phillies offense was dormant on this day, getting only a trio of hits and a pair of walks off of the trio of Red Sox pitchers – Clay Buchholz (7 innings), Junichi Tazawa, and Tommy Layne. Meanwhile, the Boston offense played bombs away. In the first inning, Dustin Pedroia lined a Cole Hamels pitch into the left field stands. Two innings later, it was Mookie Betts who greeted Hamels with a big fly to left. In the fifth, Pedroia knocked another one off of Hamels (this time to left-center) and two batters later, Hanley Ramirez ripped one to the same area of the stands.
The Sox offense would lie dormant until the top of the ninth, when Allen Craig singled off of Jake Diekman, who then walked Betts and Mike Napoli to load the bases with one out. Hanley Ramirez sensed an opportunity to quickly gain acceptance with Red Sox fans, and ripped a shot down the left field line for the grand slam and a grand debut – with two homers and five RBI. On the strength of five home runs, the Bostonians downed the Phillies 8-0.