Opening Day is a memorable day on the baseball calendar for obvious reasons. It’s the start of a new season. It’s the first time you get to see a meaningful baseball game in months.
However, most of the time, there’s nothing inherently memorable about the games themselves, other than that they’re the first of the year. There are exceptions, though. In honor of the beginning of the 2021 season, here’s a look back at some of the weirdest and wildest Opening Day games in Yankees history.
(Please note: this is strictly the first game of the season. Home openers that aren’t Opening Day don’t count, hence why the snow game against the Royals from 1996 and any other notable home opener isn’t here.)
The Yankees made a big splash in the offseason, making what would end up being the most famous acquisition of all time by purchasing Babe Ruth. That deal would end up working out quite well, but funnily enough, he didn’t give the best first impression.
The opener against the Athletics was tied at one in the eighth when future Yankee Joe Dugan came to the plate with two runners on. He popped one up to Ruth, who was playing center field. With two outs, it should’ve been the end of the inning. Instead, Ruth dropped it, two runs scored, and the Yankees lost 3-1. Thankfully, the rest of Ruth’s career as a Yankees slightly redeemed that Opening Day error.
Fifteen years later, the Yankees also lost a low-scoring Opening Day game, also because of an error (actually two this time), also made by two Hall of Famers.
In the sixth inning of a scoreless game against the Red Sox, Boston’s Billy Werber was on second with one out. Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez then had him picked off, only to make an error on the play, allowing Werber to advance to third.
Back at the plate, Gomez then struck out Carl Reynolds, but Bill Dickey dropped the third strike. He managed to throw to first to retire Reynolds, but at some point during the play, Lou Gehrig made an error of his own, allowing Werber to score. That would be the only run of the game.
Even weirder, a year later, the Yankees played the Senators on Opening Day. They again lost 1-0 in a game pitched by Gomez. And who was the Senators’ player who was at the plate for the play where the winning run scored? Carl Reynolds.
Yankees starter Allie Reynolds had a bad day to kick off the 1950 season, getting knocked out of the game by the Red Sox after three innings and seven runs. The team went into the eighth inning trailing 10-4, with just a 2 percent chance at victory according to win probability. They left the inning with an 89 percent chance of winning.
The Yankees scored nine runs off the Red Sox in the eighth, recording nine hits and three walks, with Boston also chipping in with a run-scoring wild pitch. Three different Yankees reached base multiple times in the fame, and the Red Sox used five pitchers during it. They added two more runs for a 15-10 win, and created this roller coaster of a win probability chart.
The Yankees lost their 1954 Opening Day game to the Senators on a walk-off. They would then face Washington in all of their next three season openers. It’s safe to say, they got their revenge.
The next year, they beat Washington 19-1, with only one starter failing to get a hit, and Whitey Ford recording 4 RBI. In 1956, they “only” won 10-4, highlighted by Yogi Berra going 4-for-4 with 5 RBI and getting three quarters of the way to a cycle. To complete their revenger, the team rallied from trailing 1-0 with a walk-off win in 1957.
That is a combined score across those three years of 31-6.
Just glancing at the box score, this game was seemingly not a crazy one. The Yankees lost 5-0 to the Brewers with Hank Aaron going 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBI in what would be his final Opening Day. However, it’s notable because the Yankees played the game under protest, for an... interesting reason.
Before the game, Yankees’ manager Billy Martin complained about the construction of the mound, saying it was flat and didn’t slope correctly. He requested that if it wasn’t going to be fixed that his pitchers be able to warm up on it before the game. Whether the mound was the reason or not, new signing Catfish Hunter didn’t have the best Yankees’ debut, allowing five runs in his seven innings.
When the protest got back to the AL offices after the game, they had the umpires check it. However by the time they did, it had already been fixed, ending any chance the Yankees had at winning the protest.
The Yankees’ Opening Day game in Cleveland in 1996 had to be delayed by a day for the very normal baseball reason: snow. On April 1st, seven inches of snow came down, causing the scheduled season opener to be postponed by a day.
When they finally did take the field on the 2nd, Derek Jeter would hit his first career home run, kicking off a Rookie of the Year-winning season and a Hall of Fame career.