Five most memorable Indians season openers
By Tony Lastoria
Special to FOX Sports Ohio
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The Indians kick off their 2013 season in a matter of hours.
As with every season there is always some excitement that comes with the first game of the season. That enthusiasm can quickly dissipate a few days or weeks into the season, but nonetheless, at least for one day at the start of the season optimism is at its’ height.
This season marks the 113th season opener in franchise history. The Indians are 57-55 all-time on opening day, have lost four straight season openers and eight of their last ten.
Over the years there have been some memorable – and some not so memorable – season openers. Here is a rundown of some of the most memorable:
Feller’s no-no: Few of us were alive to see it live or hear it on the radio, but on April 16, 1940 in a 1-0 win over the White Sox the great Bob Feller threw the only opening day no-hitter in the history of Major League Baseball. Feller finished the game with five walks and eight strikeouts, and had some great defense behind him that day, none other than a fantastic diving play by second baseman Ray Mack to record the final out in the game. Feller went on to have one of his best years of his 18-year career finishing with a 27-11 record, a career high in wins for him and tops in the majors that season. He also led the league in ERA (2.61), strikeouts (261), complete games (31), and innings pitched (320.1). While there was no Cy Young Award back then, he finished second in the MVP voting and won the Sporting News Player of the Year Award.
Robinson’s impact: On April 8, 1975 the Indians opened the season with a 5-3 win over the Yankees at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It was Frank Robinson’s debut season as a manager, one where he became the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history. He was a player-manager that season though did not play the field as he only served as the designated hitter for 49 games. In his first at bat as the Indians new player-manager he hit a solo homer in the bottom of the first inning off of Yankees pitcher Doc Medich. Robinson played three seasons for the Indians from 1974-1976 and in 100 games hit .226 with 14 homers and 39 RBI. He went 186-189 (.496) as a manager with the Indians from 1975-1977.
Hello, Jacobs Field: If you polled the fans, most would probably consider the 1994 season opener as the greatest ever. The Indians opened the season at home on April 4, 1994 against the Seattle Mariners, and sent everyone home happy with a thrilling come from behind 4-3 win in 11 innings. It was the inaugural game at the newly opened Jacobs Field, and the game served as but an appetizer to the fun that was to be had at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario for many games to come after that. The game featured President Bill Clinton throwing out the first pitch, Mariners lefty Randy Johnson no-hitting the Indians through seven innings, a big two-run double off the wall by Manny Ramirez in the eighth to tie the game at 2-2, an Omar Vizquel RBI in the tenth inning to tie the game at 3-3, and then Wayne Kirby coming up as the hero with a base hit down the left field line in the eleventh inning to seal the walkoff win.
The Snowout: The season opener itself was not exactly memorable as on April 2, 2007 the Indians came away with a convincing 12-5 win over the White Sox in Chicago. What made this game memorable is how things transpired shortly after it just four days later at the Indians home opener. Playing against the Mariners on April 6, 2007, the northeast Ohio area was pounded with a heavy amount of snow. Paul Byrd had a no-hitter going in the fifth inning, but with heavy snow falling, play was stopped even though the game was but one out from becoming “official”. The snow kept coming and the game was eventually cancelled, and the entire four-game set with the Mariners that weekend was snowed out. The weather was so bad that the Indians had to move their next home series with the Los Angeles Angels from April 10-12 out of town to Milwaukee’s Miller Park.
Longest opener ever: Just last season on April 5, 2012 the Indians were cruising along to what looked like an opening season and home opening win over the Blue Jays. Justin Masterson was masterful for eight innings allowing a run on two hits, one walk, and had ten strikeouts. With the Indians up 4-1 in the ninth closer Chris Perez was summoned to close out the win, but he struggled to find the strike zone and was hit hard and eventually blew the lead as the Blue Jays tied the score at 4-4. The score stayed that was for many more innings until J.P. Arencibia smacked a three-run homer in the 16th inning that propelled the Blue Jays to a 7-4 win. The game’s 16 innings bested the previous record of 15 innings for the longest season opening game in Major League Baseball history.
Others season openers of note:
April 14, 1925: The Indians scored 12 runs in the eighth and beat the Browns 21-14. It is the most total runs ever scored in an American League season opener.
April 17, 1951: The Indians score a run in the ninth to beat the Tigers 2-1 in Detroit. The game marked the debut of Al Lopez as the new skipper for the Indians, replacing the beloved Lou Boudreau. Lopez was the first Hispanic manager in baseball history.
April 10, 1968: Sonny Siebert throws a two-hit shutout in a 9-0 Indians win against the White Sox in Chicago. Catcher Duke Sims led the Indians offense as he smacked two homers.
April 7, 1977: Down 4-2 in the ninth inning against the Red Sox in Fenway, third baseman Buddy Bell smacked a two-run homer to tie it and the Indians eventually won 5-4 in eleven innings.
April 6, 1987: The season opener itself was not memorable as the Indians lost 7-3 to the Blue Jays in Toronto. But it was the now famous “Indians Uprising” year where they were supposed to compete for the World Series, yet went on to finish 61-101 and dead least in the division.