- The Tigers have a chance to make history on Thursday by winning their tenth straight Opening Day game. Can they pull it off?
- Can Felix Hernandez surpass Randy Johnson’s record for Opening Day strike outs?
- Can Albert Pujols inch closer to Pete Rose’s record for Opening Day hits?
The Major League Baseball season is 187 days long, but none of them are as important as Opening Day. Baseball’s annual kickoff is a day full of hope and promise when every player has a clean slate and every team has a shot at the pennant. For many fans, it’s the start of a lifelong love affair with the game, while for others it’s the renewal of an unwavering passion for America’s national pastime.
Opening Day may not be a holiday, but it’s certainly worth celebrating. We’re commemorating baseball’s eagerly anticipated return by sharing seven Opening Day records that will never be broken, and one that might be broken as early as Thursday. Play ball!
1. Highest Opening Day Attendance: Rockies (80,227)
An astounding 80,227 fans pushed through the turnstiles of Denver’s Mile High Stadium on April 9, 1993 to cheer on the hometown Rockies, and the club didn’t disappoint. Colorado defeated Montreal 11-4 that afternoon behind home runs from Eric Young and Charlie Hayes.
The Rockies would go on to attract 4,483,350 to their home games that season, and later became the first team in Major League history to draw more than three million fans in each of their first nine seasons.
Odds the Rockies’ Opening Day attendance record will be broken: 1,000/1
2. Most Opening Day Starts: Tom Seaver (16)
One of the many reasons Tom Seaver is enshrined in Cooperstown is his remarkable durability. The three-time Cy Young winner pitched in 656 games in 20 seasons and set a Major League record by making 16 Opening Day starts for three different clubs. Seaver’s final Opening Day assignment came in 1986 with the White Sox when the future Hall of Famer was 41-years-old.
Odds Tom Seaver’s record for most Opening Day starts will be broken: 25/1
3. Most Unbeatable Opening Day Starter: Jimmy Key (7-0)
Plenty of pitchers have perfect Opening Day records, but none are more impressive than Jimmy Key, who was undefeated in seven Opening Day starts with the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Orioles. Key’s final Opening Day victory came in 1997 when the 6’1″ southpaw gave up four hits in six innings in a 4-2 win over the Royals.
Odds Jimmy Key’s 7-0 Opening Day record will be broken: 10/1
4. Most Opening Day Strike Outs: Randy Johnson (107)
One of baseball’s most feared pitchers, Randy Johnson recorded 107 of his 4,875 career strikeouts on Opening Day. That’s 26 more than Tom Seaver, who’s next on the list, and 39 more than Felix Hernandez, who leads all active players with 68 K’s.
Hernandez will get to pad his total on Thursday when he becomes the seventh pitcher in MLB history to start ten consecutive Opening Day games. Don’t expect too much from the 31-year-old hurler, though, as King Felix is expected to be on an 85-pitch count after making just two starts in Spring Training.
Odds Randy Johnson’s record for Opening Day strike outs will be broken: 12/1
5. Oldest Opening Day Starter: Nolan Ryan (45)
Nolan Ryan was 45 years and 65 days old when he received his final Opening Day assignment for the Rangers in 1992. The ageless wonder gave up five hits and one earned run in 4.1 innings pitched and helped stake Texas to a 12-10 win against the Mariners. Ryan finished the season 5-9 with 157 strike outs and returned for one more year – and 13 more starts – in 1993.
Odds a pitcher will break Nolan Ryan’s record as the oldest Opening Day starter: 100/1
6. Most Opening Day Home Runs: Frank Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr, Adam Dunn (8)
Adam Dunn’s name may look like a misprint beside the two Hall of Famers listed above, but the all-or-nothing masher earned his spot fair and square thanks to the eight Opening Day homers he hit during his 14-year career. Dunn’s taters came mainly with the Reds, unlike Robinson, who clobbered eight Opening Day dingers for four different clubs. Robinson’s final Opening Day homer came in 1975 during his first at bat as a player/manager for the Cleveland Indians.
Joe Torre was another former skipper known for his Opening Day power displays. The Two-time Manager of the Year is the only player to hit two home runs in an opener in back-to-back seasons. Torre accomplished the rare feat in 1965 and 1966 with the Braves.
Odds a player will hit more than eight career Opening Day home runs: 2/1
7. Most Opening Day Hits: Pete Rose (31)
You may not find Pete Rose’s name in the Hall of Fame, but you will find it etched in the record books thanks to his 31 Opening Day hits with the Reds, Phillies, and Expos. Charlie Hustle recorded his final two Opening Day hits on April 8, 1985 when he had a single and double in a 4-1 victory over Montreal.
Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki lead all active players with 18 hits apiece, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever surpass Rose. Pujols has hinted he may retire next year and the 44-year-old Suzuki is nursing a calf injury and is doubtful for Thursday’s game against Cleveland.
Odds Pete Rose’s record for most Opening Day hits will be broken: 50/1
8. Most Consecutive Opening Day Team Wins: Reds and Tigers (9)
The Reds set the record for consecutive Opening Day wins in 1991 when the won their ninth straight opener thanks to a solid eight-inning outing from Tom Browning. However, they may not have the record for long. The Detroit Tigers have won every Opening Day game since 2009 and can surpass Cincinnati on March 29th when they host the Pirates.
Odds the record for most Opening Day team wins will be broken: 3/2