The 5 greatest Opening Day performances in MLB history

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

March 31st, 2021

Opening Day may just be one game out of a 162-game season, but it’s often the one that stands out the most during the regular season. A good start can be a catalyst for a terrific season for a ballplayer.

Here are the five greatest Opening Day performances in MLB history.

5. George Bell’s three-homer game (1988)

Fresh off an AL MVP victory in 1987, Toronto Blue Jays left fielder George Bell put his stamp on the MLB record book in 1988 by becoming the first batter to record three home runs in an Opening Day game.

Bell took Kansas City Royals legend Bret Saberhagen deep all three times, including a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the fourth that sealed the deal for Toronto in a 5-3 decision.

Bell would later be joined in the record book by Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005), but the former’s Chicago Cubs lost their Opening Day game to the New York Mets, while the latter’s Detroit Tigers decimated the Royals, 11-2.

4. Camilo Pascual’s 15-strikeout game (1960)

Washington Senators ace Camilo Pascual earned a complete-game, one-hit victory over the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day 1960, fanning a record 15 batters along the way. The Boston lineup included “The Splendid Splinter” himself, Ted Williams, as well as eight-time All-Star Frank Malzone and 1960 batting title winner Pete Runnels.

Pascual’s record has been approached, but has yet to be equaled, even in the strikeout-heavy modern game.

3. Sixto Lezcano’s walk-off grand slam (1980)

Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Sixto Lezcano hit an Opening Day grand slam in 1978, but it wasn’t in a clutch situation like this one.

The Brewers found themselves tied at five with the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth on Opening Day of the 1980 season. They managed to load the bases against Boston reliever Dick Drago, but there were two outs when Lezcano stepped up to the plate.

He would not allow the game to go to extra innings, smashing a pitch over the right field wall to give Milwaukee the walk-off win.

2. Walter Johnson’s 15-inning shutout (1926)

“The Big Train,” Walter Johnson, is arguably the greatest Opening Day pitcher of all time. He hurled seven shutouts while going 9-5 in 14 Game 1 starts for the Senators.

But it was his Opening Day start in 1926 in which he earned a unique MLB record – the largest Game Score in Opening Day history.

Johnson dueled through 15 scoreless innings with the Philadelphia A’s Eddie Rommel at Griffith Stadium. The latter blinked and allowed Washington to walk off 1-0 winners. Johnson scattered six hits and walked only three batters while striking out nine. The effort earned him an otherworldly 111 Game Score.

1. Bob Feller’s no-hitter (1940)

There have been over 300 no-hitters in MLB history, but only one of them occurred on Opening Day.

Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller didn’t have his Hall of Fame control on hand on April 16, 1940, as he walked five Chicago White Sox batters, but he struck out eight en route to his unique achievement.

The Tribe notched their only run off Eddie Smith in the top of the fourth, courtesy of a triple by All-Star catcher Rollie Hemsley.