Opening Day 2011 had a few noteworthy events, one of which I wrote about here. Another was Jason Heyward’s homerific first day. Heyward became just the second person in history to hit a home run in his first at-bat of each of his first two seasons. He made more of a splash last year when he homered in his first career at-bat as a much-heralded prospect, but this is the one that put him in the record book. He’s now there right behind the man well-known for hitting home runs to start each of his first three seasons: Kazuo Matsui, of course! I heard a little bit about that on various broadcasts. Also, as I switched between broadcasts of 4 different games, I heard each team have a trivia question about who is their franchise leader in Opening Day home runs. One franchise, the Reds, had both of the all-time Opening Day home run leaders on their team: Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Robinson are tied at 8. However, that got me thinking, who holds some of the other career records for Opening Day stats?
- Hits (31)- The hit leader is, well, the Hit Leader himself, Pete Rose. Not surprising, considering his skill, career length, and leadoff spot.
- Doubles (8)- Frank Thomas and Todd Helton are tied for this lead, but Helton has the tiebreaker in that it took him 3 fewer games to do it.
- RBIs (20)- None other than Babe Ruth.
- Walks (19)- A three-way tie between some legendary names: Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson… and Buddy Myer. Myer played for the Senators during the 1930s and posted some pretty impressive numbers, with a career OPS+ 108.
- Strikeouts (19)- This ignoble title belongs to Mr. October, Reggie Jackson, who apparently wasn’t Mr. April.
- Intentional Walks (6)- I don’t think I’ve mentioned Barry Bonds enough in this article yet.
- Average (.467)- A Hall of Famer, Gabby Hartnett, and a should-be future Hall of Famer, Jeff Kent share this mark. Kent did it over 60 at-bats, while Hartnett did it over 45.
- On-Base Percentage (.550)- Ted Williams makes his first appearance on this particular leaderboard, although he is among the leaders in most of the categories.
- Slugging Percentage(.964)- Babe Ruth is the definition of a slugger, so his presence here is appropriate.
For the most part, the Opening Day leaderboards aren’t a big surprise. The all-time great hitters stand near or at the top of the hitting categories, the most patient guys took the most free passes, and the whiffers took the most empty strolls back to the dugout. While it might be surprising at first, I’m guessing that the all-time June 14th leaders include Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, etc. The fact is, these guys were the best most days.