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Remembering some of the best Yankees’ Opening Day performances

After a couple good ones on Thursday, let’s look back at some of the best

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

One of the more interesting stories coming into the season was whether Luke Voit could replicate what he did at the end of last year. At least through one game, he’s looking good.

In Thursday’s season opener, Voit reached base all four times he came to the plate. Besides his big three-run home run, he also drew two walks and was hit by a pitch. He and Masahiro Tanaka were the big stars in the Opening Day win over the Orioles.

As impressive as Voit’s season opener was, you would be hard pressed to put it on any list of best ever Opening Day performances. So let’s take a look at the ones you could.

The most notable thing about Voit’s day was that he reached base every time he came to the plate. Reaching four out of four times is really good, but it isn’t the Yankees’ Opening Day record.

The Yankees started the 2006 season in Oakland against the Athletics. The game was never in doubt after the second inning, thanks in part to Hideki Matsui’s big day. The Yankees left fielder led off the second inning with a walk, and then came home to score on a Bernie Williams single a couple batters later. The Yankees knocked out Barry Zito and ended up batting around in the inning, and Matsui reached again on a single.

In the fourth, he added a three-run home run, taking the Yankees’ lead to double-digit runs. Matsui recorded a fourth RBI in the fifth inning on a single. He ended his days with a single in the seventh and then a walk in the eighth as the Yankees won 15-2. That gave Matsui a final line of 4-for-4 with two walks and four RBI. Reaching base a perfect six times — without reaching on an error — is tied for the 27th best in baseball history, and three off the all-time record of nine. It’s tied for the best ever performance on Opening Day.

Only one Yankees has recorded more than four hits on Opening Day, and unsurprisingly, it’s Babe Ruth. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Ruth’s struggles to open the 1920 season, but he made sure the same would not happen the following year.

The then-Philadelphia Athletics arrived in New York to start the 1921 season, but they were also summarily dispatched by the Yankees that year. Ruth starred in the game, going 5-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI. Those five hits checked in at just two fewer than how many he had hit in all of April in the previous season.

Seven Yankees have hit two home runs on Opening Day, including Giancarlo Stanton last year. However, the most notable of those games belongs to Roger Maris in 1960.

Like Stanton in 2018, Opening Day 1960 was Maris’ first game as a Yankee. As mentioned, he likewise homered twice. Hitting in the top spot in the lineup, Maris also led off the game with a double, hit a separate RBI-double, and also walked. He finished with four RBI on the day, which handily was the exact difference in an 8-4 win over the Red Sox.

On the pitching side of things, Tanaka’s performance was pretty solid. He went just 5.2 innings, partly because he put some runners on in the sixth, but partly because it’s Opening Day. Knowing what we know now about injuries, it’s also good to not push it needlessly in the first game of the season. On the other end of that line of thinking is Slow Joe Doyle’s outing on Opening Day 1908.

The Philadelphia Athletics were in New York to take on the Highlanders to start the season, and the game turned into quite the pitchers’ duel. Doyle and Philadelphia starter Nick Carter exchanged scoreless frames for 11 innings. After Doyle threw a 12th scoreless inning, Harry Niles drove home Red Kleinow to give the Highlanders a walk-off win.

Unsurprisingly, that is one of the longest Opening Day outings ever. Only three of them in all of baseball history have been longer while still being scoreless, and two of them belong to Walter Johnson.

Another good pitching one was Mel Stottlemyre in 1968. The Yankees starter threw a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits. Impressively, he did all that while protecting a one-run lead, which the Yankees took way back in the second inning. Only one runner got into scoring position after the second inning.

There are plenty of others that weren’t mentioned that easily could have been. Feel free to talk about your favorites in the comment section!