For sports lovers, spring does not begin until baseball’s Opening Day. The crack of the ball against the bat and the cheers of the crowd are just as emblematic of the season as the smell of fresh-cut grass and the first hint of green on the trees. More than just an event, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is a tradition that true fans of the sport place among holidays and anniversaries. In examining the history of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, one can discern how it goes hand in hand with the glory of the game.
For most of MLB history, major Opening Day ceremonies were performed in Cincinnati, Ohio. As the organization’s first officially recognized team, the Reds were given the honor of throwing the first pitch of the season from 1876 to 1989. Cincinnati has further declared Opening Day to be a city holiday and hosted a series of events to celebrate the day, including parades and fireworks shows.
In terms of players, Opening Day stats often act as a guidepost for career achievements in the future. Pitcher Jimmy Key never lost a game on Opening Day, while Hall of Famers Ken Griffey, Jr., Frank and Robinson, and two-time All-Star player Adam Dunn all scored eight home runs on Opening Day, career records. For teams, Opening Day is not necessarily a sign of assured success. Despite hosting most of the league’s major Opening Day ceremonies, the Cincinnati Reds only boast a 50-52-1 average. Nevertheless, the Reds also hold the MLB’s longest Opening Day winning streak, having won all their openers from 1983 to 1991.
Outside of baseball, Opening Day has also been the setting of political demonstrations. Many presidents have attended Opening Day ceremonies and even thrown out the first pitch of the game. The tradition began in 1910 when baseball lover William Taft threw out the opening pitch of the Washington Senators’ first game of the season. Three years earlier, an Opening Day turned into a major social disturbance in New York.
Prior to the New York Giants’ opening game on April 11, 1907, a major snowstorm pelted the Big Apple. The situation was so bad that groundskeepers on Polo Grounds were forced to shovel some of the snow onto the foul area. When the Giants began losing to the visiting Phillies, fans showed their displeasure by hurling snowballs at Giants players. By the ninth inning, the game had turned into a full-on melee as thousands of fans swarmed the field flinging snowballs at one another. The situation deteriorated so quickly that umpire Bill Klem shut down the game, calling it a forfeit in favor of the Phillies.
Opening Day traditions continue into the present, with millions of eager fans waiting to see what each new year will bring to the already historic day.